Kaikoura, New Zealand
A day of two parts, and two runs. As the room lightened – my tiny three person dorm has window along one whole side, and we’d only partly drawn the curtains – it was overcast, even grey, and after my fragrant roommates had departed to go whale watching, it even rained. I sat in the office, with the free internet, fully rested after my early start the day before. What a difference a night in a dorm with two young German girls, non smelling and non snoring, unlike the old men at Paraparaumu YHA, makes.
But after 10, the cloud lifted, the sun shone and it was hot. Not such a great idea to delay, then, getting out on the run. Still, I had reasoned that if I ran the Kaikoura walkway, out round the peninsula, great views guaranteed, then I’d see everything but also wouldn’t feel I had to walk it later in the day. The peninsula is just north of the town, but came closer quickly as I ran along the seafront. Kaikoura isn’t large; the pink cinema was the only building to really attract my attention away from the sea and pebbled beach.
After a couple of miles I passed a slightly busier car park. NZ provides plenty of free parking and even allows those with self-contained camper vans to stop there overnight. This one was near a seal colony, though I didn’t spot any. There was a short track down to the beach, with a sign warning that there were no maintained paths after this point, and to beware of the sea coming in. With bored tourists’ heads craning away from the absent seals to watch, I had to take the beach path. It was rocky, slowing me to a walk in places, but there was no tide to slow me. Rounding a headland I was sure I spotted a walker up ahead, which convinced me there was a path once I got off the rocks, but I never actually found them-the ghost of walkers past, there to wave me through. Lonely planet had suggested picking up a map or just ‘following your nose’, and the path was as intuitive as that. Soon enough I was passing another warning sign, so I was back on maintained paths and climbing steeply to the top of the cliffs. I found some walkers now, and the breath to say good morning, now on an undulating path at the top of the cliffs. There are several lookout spots at the top, mostly populated, and by people who I like to think were mightily impressed as I powered past. The track started to drop, and then I was on a paved section which sloped steeply away. I was prevented from racing down partly by having to allow for walkers’ reaction times, the usual lack of awareness followed by moving into the path of whoever is coming the opposite way. Uncanny. But caution was also urged by section of path that twisted sharply to the right, no railings, looking out over a precipitous drop. Yikes. I hugged the wall and took it easy.
Before I knew it, I was at a map. No ‘you are here’, but the walking times listed made it clear I had rounded the headland and just had an inland hop to get back to town. I was just getting into it, but not so fresh I fancied the whole thing again, so followed signs I could see, to take the South Bay route back, taking a wrong turn where there was an option and ending with a longer, if less scenic, route by road.
It was only midday by the time I was done, and I had an afternoon of reading and eating in place of the walk I would have done. I wandered to the library to read about McCullum’s 300 from the day before, feeling a slight twinge that I hadn’t been there, though it wouldn’t have been a great use of my time, which is short enough on the South Island. All the towns seem to have a library, pretty well stocked and those with wifi (most, but not at Kaikoura) therefore popular for offering it free in a country that has slow and (often) expensive wifi until a fibre rollout next year. Maybe there is pressure, but it’s not evident and I can’t understand how a country of 4.5 million people, spread over an area similar to England (or is it the uk?), so no taxation-revenue density, and with many similar problems (housing, for instance – the next time someone claims UK house price rises are down to the availability of land, please do point out that, oh yeah, that must be why the same problems exist in the crowded USA, Australia and NZ) is able to support so many libraries when back home they are being closed. It really does shame us totally. But then, whilst I’ve been gone the Royal Mail has been sold and the NHS further privatised and yet no one has been murdered to pay for those outrages, so I will have to get used to looking overseas for any sort of inspiration.
I was slightly listless and feeling I should be active, not used to getting my exercise in a short burst rather than over several hours, so decided at 5.30 that it wasn’t quite so boiling hot and that I would go and see if the 5k I’d found some evidence of was actually on. Searching for it brought up lots of different pages, but none were conclusive, offering info on 2011 or 2012’s events, until I found a local sporting events page on which the dates matched up. Starting on Tues 4th feb-that’s definitely this year. And I’d spotted the Lobster Pot Inn on my wanderings, so knew the start point. At least, I thought I did-right outside the hostel. Oh no it isn’t, nor could I see it. 300m down the road-far enough to be out of sight.
Gold coin entry fee, family friendly, walkers off at 6, runners 6.15. Which meant three of us at the later time, everyone else was on for an earlier start to get in the pool earlier. I tucked in behind an older bloke so as not to get lost and we had a merry run, very fast first 2k inland followed by slowing up the teeny hill and along the seaside boardwalk before he let me go ahead to get in first. Lovely. Like a parkrun, really, with a dip in the pool and a sausage from the barbie for everyone.
It was still hot on the odd moment the sun caught hold, but otherwise cooling fast. My evening disappeared in talking with my German roommates and a book, glowing from having had an active day. Injuries not fixed, but the physio has at least got me out there again for now.