Sunday, January 02, 2011

One night in Kaikoura is plenty if you are not into extreme sports like dropping from the sky with a parachute and some stranger strapped to your back. They call it tandem skydiving, I call it putting my life in the hands of a stranger. There is also whale watching, seal viewing, and albatross sighting. There is no way I am going to pay NZ$65 per person to look at birds that refuse to come into land. The last albatross that ever needed my attention was in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. After that, I have no regrets that the albatross is no longer hanging from my neck. Whale watching would have been fun, but they return too late and again at NZ$85 per person, do I really need to do this? When I was a kid, whales used to wash up on the shore where we lived. Sure, they were dead, but heck, we did get to see whales up close and personal. Once we had a live seal come to shore too. They never knew how he got that far off course.

With hours to kill, we walked. One of us was in search of caffeine, the other in search of seals. Setting out in a different direction from town, the coffee search was doomed to failure from the start. Passing a restaurant and a hotel, both were refusing service until noon. Walk, walk, walk, lovely view of the ocean, but we found a bench to sit taking in the view. Suddenly, a woman’s voice behind us said “Great view isn’t it?” Just as the response was forming on my lips, I turned to look at the person I was going to address. It was Maggie and her husband. This is the same couple we had dinner with in Rotorua, ran into in Napier, and stumbled into in Wellington before sniffing us out here. All of us were only going to be in town for 24 hours and then on to Christ Church. Small world!

We were not certain if we were taking the bus or the train from here. This causes quite a commotion. Ron had booked the NakedBus, but they don’t stop here. He wasn’t sure if they used another bus company or if we were to get the train again. If it were the latter, we had no tickets; they have not ticket office or train employees at the station. The tourism office said that NakedBus uses Atomic buses, but the hostel said they use the train. Calling NakedBus takes an act of parliament and they charge $1.90 AUS a minute for answering questions that are not clear on their website. Our answers were not on the website. Best to try both options. The train comes at 3:28pm. If we cannot get on, run to the bus which leaves at 4:05pm. YHA called the overprices shuttle for us; he was to arrive at 3pm. By 3:10, we were nervous he was not there, but the YHA office was closed with the shuttle phone number hidden somewhere. Ron went next door to the motel to beg them to call. As he was chatting, the shuttle arrived. It turns out that one of the motel guests that just arrived is from Livermore, CA, not far from where we used to live and the husband of the pair is Hungarian-American.

Yes, we had seats of the train. Yes, there is an overgrown Kiwi sitting in mine. She tells me it does not matter; though they give you assigned seats, you can sit anywhere. Sure fine, but what was wrong with her assigned seat? She and her equally girth challenged friend were sitting next to each other. Across from them was a young person. In the beginning, gender was questionable. This person sat where there was only a single seat. A hooded sweatshirt pulled partially around the face with long hair covering the rest of it. For the most part, the head was hanging down in a shameful pose, but with certainty there was no shame associated with it. The jeans and sneakers did not provide clues to identity. My guess was that the two ladies had this person in tow, but it turned out to be a wrong assumption. They never gave a bit of attention in that direction.

Nicknaming these two DorrISS and Madge was quite easy, because listening to them was like a comedy routine. Madge who was sitting closer to me had on black lycra stretch pants with diamonds cut out down the leg. She had sandals on, but her feet were either extremely swollen or permanently melon sized. They flowed over the sandals like a fountain of flesh colored jello. On top, she had a red and white flowered blouse that was tent size, giving plenty of room to move, but over that she had one of those chiffon type see through, what is the purpose of these covers over it. Madge says to DorrISS, (no these are not spelling mistakes, they are NZ English accents) “Rally, I didn’t want to stat this strip like this. This time I wantd to enjoy’t, not be so teerd.” DorISS grunts acknowledgement and responds with “The dining car’s op’n.” It takes 8 minutes, but they manage to get out of their seats; part of this is the rock and rolling of the train. As soon as they leave the coach, the young person flings legs up and onto the table. Tempting as it was to admonish, I bit my tongue. It still smarts. When the dainty-less duo returned, they both have quiches, coffee, and two pieces of cake each. There is quiet from there corner for ten minutes. After the snack, the soothing motions of the train lull them to slumber land. Everyone thinks the engineer has blown the train whistle, but it is DorISS letting out a snore. Madge seems to be sound asleep when suddenly and without warning, she pops straight up in her seat like a supposedly dead person who has just discovered they are going to be embalmed. Now wide awake, she announces “DorISS, I need to get a gift for Maevis. Sh’is watching the kids while I am gon. Don’t know what to buy’er. No clue, I don’t.” Seconds after this proclamation, Madge is back greeting the dream weaver. This show continued on and off the entire trip.

On stage 2 directly behind us, on one side we have Americans – husband and wife, who are sharing the foursome seating with 2 Aussies. Directly across from them are 4 other Aussies. The American man takes out an iPad like devise, though I could not see the actual brand. He was perusing his photos on it, which made me wonder since iPads don’t have a USB port. These toys aroused the curiosity of the Aussies who wanted to see what the American was doing. As things evolved, a competition was brewing. One of the Aussies had to show off his pictures, but without accompaniments he could only use his camera. As the Americans showed exemplary appreciation of his skills, the US hubby would in turn show one of his pictures, to which the Aussie contingency remained silent. Then the Aussie showed another photo and the crowd cheered, the cheerleaders went into a routine, and the audience did the wave. For the American’s turn, again there was silence. He however, was not at all visibly perturbed by this reaction. BUT, there is nothing like a woman scorned. His wife was seething; she was so hot if I were still smoking, I could have lit a cigarette on her. She grabbed her husband’s iPad thingy and zipped through his pictures choosing those she thought should be Best in Show. Shoving the iPad under the Aussie’s nose, she would say “So what do you think about this one, Dave? Fabulous isn’t it? Don’t you think this is a fabulous shot?” Dave responded with a similar scene he had taken on his camera without ever responding to her questions. After this continued for 3 more pictures, she slumped over, hair covering her face and played possum. Her husband who was not being goaded by the interplay, just said “She has that gift where she can close her eyes and fall asleep immediately.” I really wanted to give her an Oscar, an Emmy, or a Ryan for her performance. I could barely have done better myself.

Our B and B host, Bruce Morrison was at the train station to greet us. His home is incredibly lovely. There is not one piece of wall art or décor that is not of impeccable taste. He only has 2 rooms to rent out, but each is perfectly appointed to make guests feel welcomed. There are 2 other guests here, Barry and Jim. They are from Australia, have been together for twenty-five years, and both were teachers. Jim is now a principal and Barry teaches part-time. After chatting for hours, the four of us went to dinner having a delightful conversation all evening. Perfect fun! They agree with us that restaurants and other things in NZ are overpriced. It is not just us.
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