Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fraureisehaus, Christchurch, NZ

I’m at a loss of things to do until my 3pm bus to Oamaru (oma-ROO), so onward and upward.

This is actually my third stop in Christchurch. The first I didn’t think I’d stick around, but at 6:20pm I was browsing the internet for local swing dances and found a big workshop happening that night, starting at 6:30. I checked my watch, booked it upstairs to get my shoes, and took off into the night.

Two lindy hop workshops later I learned there were more workshops and a dance the next night, so I decided to stick around. Budgetary concerns kept me from the next workshops ($20 each adds up, even when hostel living is relatively inexpensive), so I just went to the dance. It’s a small scene, but generally friendly (for the uninitiated, it’s much easier to get into a dance scene if you’re relatively competent at the relevant style of dance).

J told me that I had to go to Cave Stream while I was around. I had no idea what it was, but apparently it was one of the coolest things to do. Unfortunately, and naturally, you can’t get there without a car, and it’s a fair bit of trouble getting there by bus as you’d have to ask especially to get dropped off nearby, and then walk. But! He might be taking the lindy teacher who was there for the workshops next Tuesday, so if they went and I was around I could tag along. That, combined with my offer and acceptance to teach a workshop for the Charleston Stroll at the classes the next week, and my interest in seeing Akaroa, led to me heading to the Information building the next morning.

I got there, bags in tow, at 10:05am, and asked for a ticket to Akaroa. The woman’s face fell – the last bus had left at 10am. Superb. I bought a ticket for the next day instead, and hauled my things back to Fraureisehaus. A whole day now at my disposal I checked my email, and learned that the leaders of the local swing dance couldn’t make my workshop happen, and so they were sorry but they had to cancel. Things were going my way!

(The view down to Akaroa)

The bus ride to Akaroa went off without a hitch and I settled myself into Chez La Mer backpackers. I booked myself for a Swimming With Dolphins tour for the following morning and wandered up and down the one main road in Akaroa. J sent me a text and said Cave Stream was on for the following Tuesday if I was interested.


Swimming With Dolphins was cancelled in the morning due to bad weather (just as well since it was freezing cold and cloudy), so I rebooked and went back to bed for another two and a half hours.

It was sunny and warm the next afternoon when I got suited up for dolphin-related adventures. The company takes a picture of you in your wetsuit before you head out, and takes another picture of the boat heading out. It was far more successful than my last venture. They managed to find two Hector’s dolphins who seemed interested, and they dumped us in the water, and we bobbed around as the dolphins wove in between us.

Hector's Dolphins

A tip, should you ever go swimming with Hector’s dolphins (unlikely, since they’re only found off the coast of New Zealand, but just in case) – bring along two small rocks to clack together under water. They think it’s the most fascinating thing. They also seem to like bright colors which does no one any good since you’re likely going to be wearing the tour’s black wetsuits. Different species like different things. Dusky dolphins (which are found in Kaikoura, which I almost got to swim with) like it when you squeak and hum and generally make a ruckus into your snorkel. Bottlenose dolphins like quiet. Who knew?

Hector's Dolphins

On the ride back in I chatted with a fellow scuba diver (he’d brought his own suit with bright green on the sleeves – he was very popular with the dolphins) who told me I absolutely had to dive the Poor Knight’s Islands, which north of the north island. Suddenly I’m thinking three months isn’t enough time. And we saw a penguin. It was cute.


There was little other excitement in Akaroa – it’s just quiet and calm and lovely there. Monday I went back to Christchurch and to Fraureisehaus. I asked J what to wear for the trip, and he said shorts and a t-shirt would be fine. Shorts. Great. I didn’t have shorts. Well, I did, but they weren’t terribly flattering. So Tuesday morning I raced around Christchurch trying to find a not-awful pair of shorts that didn’t cost $100. Not as easy as it sounds.

(Outside of the cave)

At noon I met up with J, and we picked up S before heading off to Cave Stream. Cave Stream, it seems, is an underground cave with a stream and a series of waterfalls running through it. You start at the exit (really) and climb through the water, up the waterfalls (1-1.5 meter high) before climbing a ladder and emerging at the other end. Seems backwards to me, but what did I know? I read the sign outside that said you should wear a long sleeved shirt – I didn’t have one – and a hat – didn’t have one of those either – and recommended closed shoes with thick socks – I was wearing sandals and feeling woefully unprepared.

The entrance of Cave Stream

We pranced down a steep hill to the mouth of the cave. It should be noted that it’s a mountain stream, and with the warm weather the snow on top was melting. And heading into the stream. T-shirt and shorts. What a splendid idea.

The first pool is the deepest, and where you gauge everyone’s comfort (according to the sign) and the feasibility of the tramp (slosh?). Normally the pool is waist deep. When we were there it came up to J’s armpits. J is not a short man. I’m short. We aborted the walk.

Instead we walked to the other end to see how going was from that direction. At the entrance is a waterfall maybe 3 meters high with a ladder at the side for clambering purposes.


J made it all the way down the ladder before deciding that the force of the water was too much, so we wiggled back out again.



A quick clothing change later and we went to Castle Hill where they filmed parts of Narnia and wandered through the surprisingly big stones. People climb them apparently. Know why? Because they’re crazy.



Jeff trying to climb the rocks
(J trying to climb the rocks)

The next night I went to another swing dance in Christchurch. It wasn’t thrilling. It was Halloween and apparently a memo had gone out that costumes were encouraged, and they could choose from 1. devil, or 2. angel. There were also two lions and two witches. Someone should’ve gone as a wardrobe. HAR!

I took off Thursday for Akaroa again and didn’t end up doing any of the tours I was thinking about doing (or hit the walks as much as I’d intended), but got a lot of sun. My poor nose is peeling away, and if this keeps up I’ll end up with one similar to the nouveau Michael Jackson.

I’m tan, though, which is very exciting. I mentioned this to P, a chap I met in Akaroa. He noted I was still pretty pale. “Pale!” I squealed, ever graceful under pressure, "I have tan lines," I yelled, pulling up my sleeve and wielding a bare shoulder at him. “Look at me! I’m the tannest I’ve been in years! I’m like toast I’m so brown!“

He didn’t buy it.

Now I’m back in Christchurch for the third time, a place that I hadn’t even intended to spend three days. And today I’m leaving, thank you.

1 comment:

grace said...

Sounds like you suffer from being white and not very tan-able, so even when you're tan, you're really just a darker shade of white. :D

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