The kids have burnt off only a fraction of their excess energy after the seal-walk that wasn’t… so we assure them that it’s not too far to Kairoura and that we will make a decent stop in the town.
It’s practically impossible to miss that Kaikoura is famous for Whale Watching and for Lobsters… like many things, when I was a kid it was a loosely kept secret, there were no queues, no mass tourism per se and if you “knew someone who knew someone” who had a big enough boat then there was a good chance you could catch a whale watching trip of your own.
I did, several times in my early twenties, and both time braved some pretty bad sea-sickness to try and catch a sight of a whale up close. I do have to admit that on the first trip out the sea was millpond calm and yes, I was still sea-sick.
On the second trip it started off calm enough but after being out for some hours it started to come up choppy so we were forced to race at a rather breakneck speed to shore as the swells around us got bigger and bigger.
I didn’t feel so self conscious on that trip because there was only one’of the half a dozen passengers on the boat who wasn’t sick, but by the looks of him that was only due to the steeliest determination I have ever seen, before or since.
I remember marvelling at how clamped shut his jaw was and how his face remained set in one stony facial expression the entire trip back. Upon reflection as I write this down, I now wonder how many days it might have taken before he could move his face again.
On both of these trips the skippers had put underwater microphones into the water as we bobbed out over the deep water so that we could listen for whale calls. We could hear them there were kind of clicking noises as the sounds were picked up (technology is sure to have advanced massively these days) and there had been sightings in both spots earlier in the day but sometime the whales take on air, make a very deep dive and stay submerged for hours.
Like most things connected to natural events it’s largely a matter of luck, and on both occasions we didn’t have any.
These days Whale Watching is the biggest commercial earner for this small town, I hear that the boats used these days are far bigger and that booking is essential in the summer high season. We find path that leads to a board-walk along this part of the beach.
Little Mr is the first to spot the whale watching helicopter (I’ve been on that too in the past, but that’s another blog post) and to come running up the beach as fast as his legs could carry him (not easy running on all these loose stones) to breathlessly demand that I take photographs please.
I obliged his request and then sat and sweated on the board-walk for the safety of my DSLR when Kiwi Daughter took her first few photos of the surf breaking on the shore. ( This stony beach and crutches being completely incompatible).
Himself and the kids collect a few stones from the beach to add to our “beach archive collection” and mindful of the impending excess baggage charges we would invariably incur if no action was taken, Himself spent the next 15 minutes sneakily removing a sizeable quantity of very decent sized stones that Little Mr thought to be the most excellent specimens on the beach, and replacing them with their far tinier cousins.
The joke is that when I pulled the tiny plastic bag of stones out of the suitcase in The Netherlands, Little Mr proudly pointed out “his” stones, completely oblivious to the fact that the ones he pointed to were a tenth or a twenthieth of the size of the ones he chose on this Kaikoura beach.
One day when he’s older he will read this blog and realise he’s been hoodwinked all the while. I might have to tell him that I decided to clean them and that they shrank in the wash. Do you think he will buy that?
More squeals of excitement erupt when the kids spot a “shark” in the water… err no kids, it’s not a shark, it’s a seal and I do my best to grab a photo but it keep diving and moving further away. Eventually the kids grow tired enough to realise that their stomachs are rumbling and our next task is to look for a very special and even (gasp) world famous eatery.
This isn’t the eatery we are looking for, but when they boast that the lobsters from Kaikoura are huge… they weren’t joking!