Friday, February 27, 2009

2/18/2009 - Some Seriously Rocky Coastline

I snooze a bit this morning. It is another clear day, and as I look out my curtained window to see why it is so bright, I get this:

IMGP1848.JPG It's either some sort of miracle occurring or the sun has just come over the horizon and is also reflecting off of the lake at the same time. I see this spot for the next 15 minutes until my eyes recover.

Breakfast is down by the lake, basking in the slowly-developing warmth as I wake up.

IMGP1850.JPGMorning over Lake Tekapo. I feel pretty sure that, if there were a road over that mountain, I would not be biking it.

IMGP1852.JPGThis is the kind of half-awake state where coffee would be the only perfect cure. Alas, I left my stove back in Masterton, so unless I take my coffee cold with random microbes and amoeba, I will just tough it out.

Soon enough, I am off again. It feels like a lazy day, and I find a left turn leading to the Mt. John Observatory. It has just opened (as it is 9:00). Why not? Might as well test out Zod this morning. The narrow paved road heads steeply and picturesquely around Mt John (not much of a mountain, really, more of a big lump) until I've gained just over 1,000 feet. At that point, I can see the curious domes of several telescopes arranged around the summit. There is a parking lot, as well as a cafe. Who knew? I am the second one there.

IMGP1854.JPGZod, in an aggressive stance on the top of Mt. John. Pretend not to notice the giant dents in the side and the peeling stickers.

The cafe is very pleasant. Two guys staff it and are nice even beyond the usual for New Zealand. I do find out, however, that one is selling collected albums of his photos of the region, which may explain some of this. I sit in the sun and read Bill Bryson's "A Brief History of Everything" (I think I have the title right) which is laying on a table here. I only get through a chapter or two, but will have to get the whole thing. I crack up once or twice to the worried looks of other people.

I head out as more and more people make their way into the cafe. It is becoming quite busy. The view from up here is religious, though, and I can't go without a panorama.

IMGP1855.JPGThis is what happens when you allow the camera to automatically stitch pictures together. Not bad, though.

As I pass the town of Lake Tekapo, driving mode sets in. My first goal today is Christchurch, just to get a feel for the place.

The road back through toward Christchurch is similar to the way in, though with more tiny hamlets sprinkled in. The area is rugged as grassland gives way to forest and then farmland again.

It takes a few hours before I notice that the traffic is really picking up. By this point, the area is flat, and Zod is not needing to work nearly as hard as usual. Skyscrapers loom as I stop to get my bearings.

Christchurch is, I think, the third largest city in New Zealand (can't be bothered to actually check, as being third versus fourth best just isn't that interesting a figure to know). It is on the coast and the city and area around it is flat as a pancake. This eventually gives way to the mountains I have just traveled through, though. It is big on bicycling around here due to the flats.

I mostly find it to be just busy. The buildings are older and most are kept up well, though. There is lots of culture, arts, and other things that I could probably care less about. I find a park and, with the help of the GPS, manage to pass by it several times before discovering a place to park.

A note about this: Parking spots appear to be similar to small, defenseless countries, and every driver seems to be 1939 Germany. Everything is well-occupied. I put lots of Zod-related hydrocarbons in the air driving around looking for a spot just to pull over at one point. I finally found my area in a dedicated parking lot deep in the park.

This was good, as it let me see what the planners of this city did with all the parking spots: Turned it into some prime park. It really is nice, with sort of a Central P{ark vibe to it. Lots of little walkways, lakes, ducks, and people sleeping in the sun (probably a significantly smaller percentage doing this permanently than in Central Park by their clothes). I sit down and do a bit of blogging and lunch at a picnic table.

IMGP1856.JPGThis is all of Christchurch you are going to see in this blog. Just wasn't that impressed overall, but then I GUESS there could be more to see than random driving for an hour followed by 20 minutes sitting in the park. In the background is my solar panel charging my extra battery that I use to keep my camera, ipod, and computer up charged up.

As nothing seemed to grip me about this city, I decided to move on to Kaikoura, and shortly find the motorway. This roughly follows the coast, but is mostly flat. As it gets more rural and I get closer to Kaikoura, the coastline becomes more and more jagged both in its overall outline and the details of its surface. Rocks are black and sharp, and the each ocean wave explodes like a slow-motion water balloon on them. Not only that but occasionally the sea lions make themselves seen. This does not seem to be on purpose. As a matter of fact, they do their utmost to appear to be big rocks on the beach, usually only moving to slowly flap a fin. What a life!

IMGP1857.JPGTaken right off of the highway. Rock silhouettes frame rocky beaches looking over islands of rocks. The Flintstones would settle in just fine here.

IMGP1858.JPGMore rugged-y coastline, getting closer to Kaikoura. The beaches are empty.

Finally roll into Kaikoura toward late afternoon. Do a bit of internetting before settling down in one of the caravan parks. It is crowded but quiet, with most of the people being older and more relaxed. Plus the view from there is fantastic.

IMGP1859.JPGIt's a little dark, but the flash in my digital camera just wouldn't illuminate the mountains well.

I had picked up a really thick twin-sized air mattress in Christchurch, so am looking forward to a real sleeping experience tonight despite the mattress only reaching to my calves.

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