New Zealand: Kaikoura, one of the most beautiful places you’re ever likely to visit in the solar system, so protect it from the aliens

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Without a grain of exaggeration Kaikoura in New Zealand is the most beautiful place I have visited on Earth. I mean think of something really pretty, like a curvaceous busty Dutch woman in a low-cut tank top who has just emerged out crystal blue water, her hair dripping, a lovely cheesy Dutch smile on her face, and then times that feeling by 12 and a half and it’ll add up to something like the feeling you get strolling around the Kaikoura cliffs looking at seals and stuff.

I don’t want to go on about how pretty the place is, but, if aliens came down and captured me and tied me up and said, “right we’re going to destroy some pretty stuff around the place but you alone have the power in the world to save some of it. What we are going to do is give you three choices of stuff we are going to destroy and you have to blink if you don’t want it destroyed (I have to blink because they’ve taped up my mouth). Ha,ha, ha, ha (evil laugh). The thing is, you only get to save one of the three things. Ha, ha, ha (more evil laughter).

And then I, sweating and shaking, go, “okay” in a mumbled through the gaffer tape sort of way.

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And then they bring out: a box full of famous artworks containing the Mona Lisa, a few Picassos and an Andy Warhol soup can; a baby deer; and a picture of Kaikoura (which they bring along to represent the actual place of Kaikoura), and then they say, “we are going to blow up two out of three of these beautiful things, ha, ha, ha and still more evil laughter)”.

Without too much thought for the Mona Lisa (look it’s overrated and they don’t even have the real one on display anymore as people take too many flash photographs of it) and soup tin (look at the end of the day it’s just a soup tin), but some tears for the Picassos (of course depending on which ones they had), that wouldn’t be on my blink list, neither, sadly for the poor little deer, would the deer – even though the first film I ever saw was Bambi at the drive in theatre on the Gold Coast. I mean it is a rather diabolical choice but I’d really have to go with Kaikoura.

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With that written, I might tell you of the day we spent at Kaikoura recently. It was a late December day, it was meant to be cool and raining, so our little family set off for a walk along the Kaikoura cliffs in jeans and, for me, a long sleeved t-shirt. Before we got there I realised it was going to be sunny and warmish, and not wanting to head back the 15 minutes to the cabin with a view of the famous Hobbit ‘Misty Mountains’ of the Southern Alps, which were covered by fog for our whole stay, I bought a New Zealand map t-shirt from the information centre. It was of the style that might get you the comment “you look like a dork” if you happened to be in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction.

Anyway I was in my dorky green New Zealand map t-shirt, and we headed along the coast road to one of the places where you start the Kaikoura cliff walk.

A little walking tip: take some water. I thought, given it was only in the low twenties we could just have a big drink and then not have to lug around the heavy bottles. The cliff walk is not just a little stroll. If you don’t know much about cliffs, they are tallish and steep things. If you want to venture down to the bottom of them you’re likely to want to go back up them again and you usually want a drink along the way to help you out. A bottle of wine and picnic lunch wouldn’t go astray either.

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Waterless and wineless, we ventured down the cliff using the path. There is a point where it looks tempting to just go straight down the cliff (pictured above) but the descent bordered a little close to kamikaze for my liking. Which didn’t stop a group of Japanese tourists who followed us taking this route.

I’ve recently read Roald Dhal advised fans who wrote to him seeking tips on writing to do away with all the useless adjectives. I’m sure he’d forgive one for constantly repeating this is f*cking amazing as they walk around this area. Cause frankly it is f*cking amazingly fantastical awesome pretty breathtaking out of this earth yet on it and really rather blue. Even the weedy looking plants sprouting out from the grass, which are blueish, make you feel like frolicking about like a Spanish pixie with a jug of sangria (sorry Roald you probably also disapprove of crappy smilies like these – if it’s too much just keep rolling over).  I feel the blueness shows up well in these photos, if you want the full additive experience you better just go there yourself.

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Blueness aside, there are animals down the bottom of the cliff. No, they didn’t fall off, even though the one pictured below has a chunk out of its back, they swam there so they could lay about on the warm rocks in between lobster meals. I’m guessing the mark on this ones back was made by an orca, or great white shark, or the propellor of a boat load of tourists bobbing off the coast. We may have been such a bunch of tourists if we weren’t a family of land-lubbing pukers.

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Our Lonely Planet guide warns us that the seals could attack at any moment, so I keep my distance at first, then inch my way in just to try my luck. Then all of a sudden one went for my leg, it was going to bite it off, I jump back and scramble over the rocks and dive behind a log. Then I realise its just yawning. They’re all just chillin’ after a night out on the weed beds. The Japanese dudes who plunged down the pathless face of the cliff show no regard for the vicious blood-thirsty furry critters and just walk straight up to them laughing and practically hugging them as they take photos. 

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We continue to walk along the rocky beach occasionally stumbling across other sea creatures. Like this stingray and a jellyfish.

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We keep walking, by now having to pace ourselves to avoid dehydration. I’m convinced that if we keep walking back along the beach that we’ll be able to make it back to the car park. Which would be plausible if it wasn’t high tide, a point I wished we’d realised before we’d walked that last few kilometres without water. So we turn and head back the way we came, conscious not to die of thirst, distracted again by the seals and Larry the stingray who follows us like a dog up and down the beach, and the blue.

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