July 09, 2007

The First Week of the Year (The Poor Week)

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1st-8th January – Kaikoura

A dodgy student loan payment schedule (i.e. with the English term dates rather than with the NZ dates) left me facing the new year with not a lot of money at all. My money would go through on the 7th, which would end up being the 8th here by the time it came to the UK. Until then, I had to make do with whatever entertainment I could get.

Me and Ellie fought through the new year’s hangover to try and catch the first sunrise of the year, but it turned out to be overcast. So instead that morning I decide to take it upon myself to acquaint myself with my mechanical companion for the coming week, the mountain bike. It was still pretty gloomy though for the first two days, so I just scouted out the distance of shops, the seal colony, the pub, the beach… etc. A reconnaissance mission if you will.

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By the third, the weather had decided to get it’s arse in gear and be gorgeously hot. It was great cycling, feeling like I’m ten years old, trying to remember if I could still cycle none-handed (how good did that feel the first time?). I made it back to the seal colony for a coastal walk and had my first encounter with one of the little buggers. One thing you should know about seals is that usually you smell ‘em before you can see ‘em. This first time however, I was completely oblivious to anything, and before I know it, this seals pops its head up beside me and burps in my face. A lesson I doubt I’ll ever forget.

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Another thing about the coastal walk was the bird population. Some more warning signs for you, if an oyster-catcher (that’s the little black one with an orange beak) starts bleating and walking away from you, you should probably follow it instead of walking away. It’s actually leading you away from its nest. If not, it will proceed to take flight and divebomb you repeatedly until you take the hint. I can tell you that these ‘hints’ were taken quite a lot on this first walk. And when a large gull starts doing it, just hide behind a rock or something, they are seriously dangerous…

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Despite these naturally disturbing encounters, it was an extremely pleasant and diverse walk, as all the pictures show. The one above was from taking the cliff-top route back and the mountains in the background looked to be simply floating on the cloud strip (as well as being covered in snow!). A fantastic view.

The next few days I went inland, towards these mountains, in particular Mt. Fyffe. Unfortunately, I had neither money to get a lift, nor energy to cycle up to the summit walk, which would have been ideal. I did instead manage to cycle up a bloody great hill for some fantastic views of the peninsula, and enjoy a cycle (or roll) down the Roman-esque straight roads that lead back down the mountain, feeling the bigger rush from huge lorries that have to share the same tiny road as the rest of us.

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The good weather didn’t last all week, on the seventh it was back to the relative gloom for a day, and my cycle up to the lookout was a bit fruitless compared to the previous days’ efforts. However, on the 8th the heat returned, and decided to take a trek on foot over the top where I went previously on two wheels. Amusingly, Sam took this exact moment to get trapped in a field of cows, and I got several distressed mobile calls halfway down one side of the hill. By the time I had got my bike and found where Sam was, she had thrown a bike over an electric fence, been electrocuted climbing that electric fence, and ‘chased’ by angry butch lesbian cows. Apparently. She was distracted five minutes later by a rock (she’s a geologist) so I assume it can’t have been that bad…

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That afternoon I decided would be spent on the beach, giving my skin a bit of ‘sun time’ and photographing birds (in this case, the Shag) drying out (or showing off) their wings. In the morning, I had booked a dolphin swim with my imminent inflow of cash, so rest was essential…

It was at five in the morning…

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