Posted by: Talie Morrison | February 1, 2009

Kaikoura Coast

Yanqui Girl and I are out and about again. We drove up to Kaikoura from Christchurch and I have been exploring this beautiful area. The first hike I wanted to do is called “Sawcut Gorge”.     I was a bit late getting my preparations done in the town of Kaikoura – and then it took me a while to find the turnoff from the main road – so when I did find the turnoff, it was already 3:30.   A bit late to start a 12 km dirt road drive and then a hike, so I decided to camp next to a beach instead.  

     Yanqui Girl is a great little van, however she is not 4 wheel drive  – oops!   I went a little too far and, even though I didn’t get “dug in”, we got stuck in some soft sand.   I probably could have gotten her out with a little picking of branches, etc.;  however,  there were a couple of Kiwis close by with a 4 wheel drive – Oh, hooray!   So Bob and Owen were nice enough to give me a little tug with their vehicle and we got Yanqui Girl back on the solid sand.    I offered them a beer for their trouble and we sat and had snacks and a couple of beers as we listened to the surf and watched the sun getting low in the sky.   We also watched while another couple of Kiwi’s, Phil and Darren, put their boat into the surf and went out to check their crayfish pots.    This part of the New Zealand Coast is pretty famous for it’s crayfish – yum.   Now these aren’t the same as crayfish in New Orleans, these are lobsters without the large front claws.   And they taste as good as any lobster I’ve ever had!   


    So Phil and Darren got their boat back up on it’s trailer – coming in with the surf which is a “fine art” in itself (isn’t that right Tim?)   And they came by to share some of their catch with us!    My little backpacking stove and tiny pot (“billy” it’s called down here) were not at all big enough to cook these crayfish.   So here was Owen to my rescue again!   He cooked them up with salt water, a little vinegar, and a little mustard powder!   And we kept them cool and let them drain overnight.  


     The next morning, while I was having my tea and museli for breakfast, Phil and Darren came by again with their boat and invited me to go out with them to check their crayfish pots.   Well, that took me about 5 seconds to say “I’d love to!”.    Because we were putting the boat into the water through the surf (there is a great potential of a wave filling it up, or coming over the bow, and lots of water…), I decided to leave my camera rather than chance getting it wet.    So we put the boat in to the surf – it went very smooth and I could have taken my camera after all (bummer).   Out we went to pull up the lobster pots (I really want to call them “lobster pots” because that’s what they look like!)    Phil had about 5 of them scattered out around some rocks about 100 meters off the shore.   Darren (who is in the 10th grade)  would drive the boat close to the little round boey, Phil would grab it and pull up the large wire “pot” emptying the crayfish into the boat before re-baiting it and tossing it back.   After all the pots were emptied, we measured the crayfish, throwing back any that were too small, and saving the big ones.   


Crayfish straight from the ocean!

   Now, while all this process was going on, we were surrounded by little Hector Dolphins!   Oh, did I ever want my camera then!    They would swim right up next to the boat and all around us.   It was great!   I was loving this special chance to be out on the ocean – dolphins and crayfish – calm seas and beautiful beaches – and all because I got stuck in the sand!   Pretty funny how things work!   🙂   Life is good!   

      So after my beach adventure, now I am off to Sawcut Gorge (with two cooked lobsters in my “chili bin” 🙂 )  Now we all know how Talie feels about “high places” – and this road (which wasn’t anywhere near 4 wheel) was cut out of the side of hills that made me grip the wheel and pray that I didn’t meet anyone coming the other way.     I parked at the farmhouse at the end of the road and chatted with the lady who lives there.   They are awesome to let people park in their front yard, sign a visitor’s book on the verandah, and send you off in the right direction.   These Kiwis are special people!   


    The hike is following the river up, up, up till it gets to a great little canyon which is cut out of the rocks.   Of course “following the river” means that you have to cross it about 40 times – definitely a wet boot trip (shades of Moerangi, eh Don, Be, and Lou!).   But all the way, I kept thinking how much it seemed like a little bit of Utah here in New Zealand.  

It really does look like a "sawcut"


 Beautiful rocks and some lovely swimming holes along the way!  A lobster lunch in a special place – wow, it doesn’t get much better than this!  


 There is a hut about an hour on past the gorge, but I had decided to just do the trip as a day hike – so I went up about an hour through the gorge and then came back.   It was a lovely day and the water was wonderful (yes, I did pop into one of those swimming holes at the end! 🙂 )

          So another night camping by another beach along this beautiful coast – where I had my second crayfish for dinner.   I love waking up with the sun coming up over the ocean – stunning!   


          The second hike I wanted to do in this area is to climb Mt Fyffe.   It sits and looks down over Kaikoura and this beautiful coastline.


  I knew it would be UP and it was!   From sea level to 1610 meters (that’s about 4800 feet).   And it was also a really hot day and a lot of the hike was in full sunlight.   I met one girl who was on her way down because it was too hot for her.   I took my time and took lots of little rest stops in any little bit of shade I could find


Luckily there is a hut at a little over 1000 meters and I was able to refill my water bottle and douse my head with water! I sure could have used one of yesterday’s swimming holes!   Of course I pushed on, but I have to admit that there were many times when I really thought about turning around.  









 The view from the top was fabulous and I was so glad I had pushed on!   And, of course, the rest of the way was all downhill back to Yanqui Girl.    





     After all these adventures, it was time for a hot shower and a cold beer – so I came back into Kaikoura and paid to stay at a “real” campground!    It also comes with laundry facilities (well needed) and internet connection (even if you have to pay extra).    Today, Sunday there is a little bit of a front coming through – so it is a good day to make a rest day!  And that’s why I am having so much time to put this blog entry together!    But the weather is supposed to be good again on Tuesday, so I’ll be back on the trail by then, I hope!


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