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Kaikoura Kaikoura Trench

1st January 2012

A Day Exploring the Kaikoura Peninsula

Inland View from Kaikoura Peninsula      (please use scroll bar)

Fyffe House
Pou Tangaroa
    The farmer boys with their big UTE and tents beside me kept their partying going on until around 6am. The silence did not last long, rain returned which I can usually ignore when sleeping in the car. However, I had to park under trees, and when the rain had worked its way through the canopy, there was an incessant crescendo of quiet and loud, single and rapid drips. For some reason my mind latches onto such sounds trying to analyse patterns, and it was pointless trying to sleep.
    I arose, stepped out into the mud, cursed as I nearly slid onto my bum, and gingerly picked my way across to the washrooms. The farmer boys tents were surrounded by ducks sifting their way through crisp packets and discarded loaves of bread.
    I ate my cereal sheltering under the rear door of the hatchback, and exchanged greetings with the Scottish guy I had met in the kitchen yesterday. He was taking his small dog for a walk. Fortunately the dog was out of sorts, otherwise he would have been yapping at me all the time. Two girls emerged from two of the tents, exchanged grunts with the occupants, and made their way back to town, carefully adjusting their clothing as they went. How that worked out with two guys per tent I'll never know, perhaps best if I don't.
A Collection of Whale Bones
    I didn't want another night of drunken partying, so I packed up and moved on to a different campsite. When I checked in, I said to the woman on the desk, "I'd like space for one car please, preferably nowhere near a group of drunken idiots." She and the other customer laughed, "I'm afraid you'd get that sorry state of affairs everywhere last night. I'll put you in this section over here," she said pointing on a map, "There are only a couple of families staying on that patch." The patch seemed reasonable, but the families were nowhere to be seen.
    I felt more comfortable with this campsite, and since the rain had abated, immediately set off to explore Kaikoura, a special place of lush pastures and towering, snow-capped Kaikoura Range peaks, a branch of the Southern Alps that come nearly to the sea at this point. The small town was well placed in the lee of the Kaikoura Peninsula.
    Long, long ago a Maori explored the area, and stopped to eat the crayfish which so impressed him that he named the place Kaikoura which translates as "meal of crayfish" ("kai"- food/meal, "koura" - crayfish). A whaling station was established here in 1842, and farmers soon followed.
    I drove up to the lookout on the peninsula to get my bearings and also gain a good overall view of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges. Mount Manaku towered above the surrounding peaks, with snow still visible on its upper flanks. Mount Fyffe, named after the first family to settle in Kaikoura, sat at the base of the peninsula. It was all quite magical, real Lord of the Rings material.
    For a culture shot, I headed down to Fyffe House, the town's oldest remaining house built in 1842 by Robert Fyffe. Rose pink in colour (a mixture of white and red lead, the only options available at the time), and resting on whale vertebrae foundations, Fyffe House is a rare survivor of New Zealand's early whaling industry. It began life as part of the Waiopuka whaling station in what is now Fyffe Cove, founded in 1842 by Robert Fyffe. Originally a two-roomed cooper's cottage, it was extended around 1860 to accommodate a growing family. The building contained relics of the whaling industry and detailed snapshots of the way generations had lived here since the 1840s. Today, it is girdled by a charming cottage garden and its grounds are used for a variety of community activities. Robert's cousin, George Fyffe, came out to join him, and when Robert was drowned while transporting whale oil to Wellington, George took over the business. However, it wasn't that long afterwards when George came to a nasty end, supposedly being of an unsound mind, and his wife died months afterwards.
Whalers Bay on Kaikoura Peninsula      (please use scroll bar)

Fur Seals on Kaikoura Peninsula
    The area around Fyffe House is rich in archaeological artefacts and evidence suggests that the site has been inhabited for up to 850 years. Surrounding the house are the remains of extensive Maori settlements. The area readily supported a burgeoning population. There was fresh water from the stream, good soli for kumara (sweet potato) and a protected beach from which they could launch their waka (canoes). The Kaikoura Peninsula first attracted Europeans as a convenient spot from which to sight and catch whales. The whaling industry ceased in 1922, replaced by fishing, particularly crayfish.
Various Birds on Kaikoura Peninsula
    Outside the house on a grassy hill stood Pou Tangaroa, a marker that told the story of the place. People have lived here since this island was first inhabited. A burial was found nearby and with the body the largest moa egg so far discovered. Overseeing is Tangartoa, god of the sea and below at the bottom of the pou is a whale (tohora). Kaikoura is famous for its whales and Kati Kuri (the local tribe) descends from Paikea who is said to have come to Aotearoa on the back of a whale. Next is the moa egg, which was rediscovered in 1857 by George Fyffe. It is believed that during excavations to build it was uncovered by whalers. Above the egg is a moa, a large bird that was an important food source of the early Maori who lived here. The figure above this is a stylised human form that represents the person that was buried here. It does not have a head as the knowledge of who this person was has been lost.
Crayfish on the Kaikoura Peninsula
    Needing to stretch my legs, I drove out along the peninsula to the car park at the end, and after watching the Fur Seals on the rocks, hiked along the cliff tops across the tip of the peninsula. Way down below me in the limestone coves, an assortment of sea birds could be heard shrieking their ugly calls, whereas up here of the cliff tops I had the sweet song of a skylark to accompany me as I strode out. The fields were full of calves contentedly munching away, fluttering their big eyes at me. Not far past Whalers Bay, a path allowed me to drop down the cliffs and retrace my steps over the gleaming white limestone pebbles. Beds of a pretty blue flower abounded everywhere.
    This lower route gave me an excellent vantage point to see basking seals and nesting birds in close up. It was possible to get within 4m of the seals before they raised their heads and grunted their disapproval. Vast fields of Bull Kelp floated on the sea, this particular kelp being so large and thick that it seemed almost possible to walk across it. Families with kids were out on the large flat beds of limestone, searching for crabs and small fish in the numerous rock pools.
    With the combination of huge mountains running right down to the sea, with abundant wildlife, the Kaikoura Peninsula was a real gem. I headed back to town to buy a ticket for a whale watch tomorrow, and popped into one of the stands on the peninsula coast road to buy a crayfish and taste how good they were for myself. Normally I'm not keen on picking food out of shells or off bones, but this was absolutely delicious; cooked to order.

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Kaikoura Kaikoura Trench

Uploaded from Top 10 campsite, Kaikoura on 2nd January at 18:15

Last updated 2.1.2012