Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand

On the scale of desirable places:

Sea, sand, surf – yes
Sexy Cities – yes
A recent earthquake disaster zone? Oh…. 

I find myself here accidentally. You have to change buses on the East coast route down South. Fine. No, NOT fine, when the connection doesn’t leave until 8.30am. Hence me spending the night here. The last aftershock tremor was this morning apparently. Eek!

The buses run to a main street called Bealey Avenue, North of central Christchurch. It’s here I find Scooby Doo Hostel Mark II. Since the last one was in Uruguay, I know I’ve had a pretty good run, it had end sometime. In the February quake the city lost over 1000 backpacker beds, meaning that those left are pretty packed out, meaning beggars – that turn up with nowhere booked (me) – cannot be choosers.  Old man Smithers opens the door of this creepy little pensioners bungalow. He asks me to wait in an odd little living room, with lots of cats. He offers me some slippers. I was 30 seconds from bolting till his lovely wife (possibly mail order, she’s a LOT younger than him) comes and gives me the grand tour. It’s very OAP but kind of sweet. There’s me and 20 Japanese/Korean students here. They are also lovely, however one just started a sentence with “This one time at Science Camp…..” Mega Lols.

I’d heard you can walk around the perimeter of the fenced off military patrolled ‘Red Zone’ in the city centre. However to do this alone at 7pm at night was probably not one of my brightest. The word is SPOOKY. Absolutely surreal .It’s a whole abandoned city, whole side faces of buildings torn off, cracks and ruptures in the pavements. Most unnerving are the rows and rows of houses, windowless and blacked out, yet you can see straight into the rooms like a doll house. Your eyes play tricks that someone is waiting to jump out of the shadows. I don’t seen another soul however, it’s like the end of the world. I give it 20 minutes and 5 or 6 blocks and then bottle it. I run off back to Bealey Ave feeling exactly like Will Smith in I am Legend.

Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand

A coastal ‘town,’ (i.e. one street) Kaikoura’s main/only attraction is off-shore. In 1842 to 1922 Europeans established a whaling station here. Some years later a group of four families founded Whale Watch, clever kiwis, and an industry was born. Ever the sceptic I was prepared to be slightly underwhelmed. Those crafty Goa and Amazon dolphins have out witted me both time’s I’ve seen them in the wild. Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of the little buggers. You can hear them laughing at you. However some marketing genius at Whale Watch came up with the idea to offer 80% refunds – No whales no fee, almost. Plus it’s not complete nautical hide and seek, they use sonar so have a 95% success rate. Sold.

 Twenty minutes in and another boat radios in a sighting 7 miles off the coast, it’s a male sperm whale that’s come to the area to feed. Now, here comes the science. Apparently sperm whales only come to the surface for about 10 – 15 minutes, which is all they need to top up their oxygen supplies. After that they have enough air for up to 2 hours. You can tell when they are about to dive as this is when they do the snorting of spray and the graceful slow motion role of the tail just on the surface, right before they disappear under.

We are on the water for two hours and see 3 sperm whales and two humpbacks (the HUGE ones, normally very elusive.) Plus dolphins, albatrosses, and seal mummies and their pups.

But back to the whales. Seeing them close up is absolutely stunning. Yes, they look like a small black blob in the photos, but hopefully the couple of videos (to follow on FB) will do them justice. I’ve replayed the tail flip one at least 100 times, its whale gold dust. : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

July 2011

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