Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Kaikoura - lobster-lover's heaven
Kaikoura, population 2,112, is a pleasant surprise. Born out of the whaling industry and now known as a tourist town, it is surprisingly pure. Yes, there is a downtown drag with the obligatory souvenir traps, but it is more. There is a heart here, made of roughneck locals and a stunning location that is beyond commercial tainting.
It is, in short, a place with its soul intact. You only have to hang out at the local drinkeries to get a feel for the place. Here they have clocks set to the times around the world - New York, Bangkok Sydney, London, etc. The local clock at The Adelphi Bar, however, has no hands. The bar has a sign above the liquor bottles that says, "Doubles will be served unless otherwise requested." That's alright by me. A place this beautiful has to have self-confidence. And it does, in an Alaskan sort of way.
Still, even in a place as lovely as this, folks suffer from the "grass is greener" syndrome. I spoke to an old Merchant Navy guy, who said he'd been all over the world - except to all the places I asked him about - and was selling his house so that he could leave here and "see the world."
He told me he'd put his house up for sale, so that he could travel the world and go and see Canada. He struck me as the kind of guy with a terminal illness - he told me four times that he'd had a good life and that if it all ended soon, he'd be OK with that. Trying to be respectful of his crisis, but not indulgent of his fantasies, I told him that Canada was Ok three, maybe four, months a year, but it certainly wasn't any Kaikoura. How do you tell a sad guy thinking he's dying that he's living in paradise? And that he won't live any longer away from home?
Finally he admitted that Kaikoura, and even New Zealand, was OK, but that he just needed to move. Staying still, at his age, he said, was like giving up. So it doesn't matter how nice the place you're in, when you're at a certain age, it's just time to hit the road. He was a funny guy, with good stories, but he made me sad.
For those of us who've just arrived, Kaikoura doesn't seem like the sort of place you need to leave in a hurry. So I said farewell to my old friend, and chilled.
In Maori lore, the peninsula on which Kaikoura is set was the place where Maui braced his foot when he fished up the North Island and it was named Te taumanu O te waka a maui; the thwart of Maui’s canoe.
The name Kaikoura means the meal of crayfish, which is the local genus of lobster. All the way into town were little shacks and caravans where the locals sold crayfish.
But just because they can slink out the back door, snorkel into the ocean and pick out a few crayfish, doesn't make them cheap. This little baby here, photo below, would set you back $64 kiwi.