A short walk in Kaikoura
I love walking.
I can walk for miles without realising I’ve been doing so and it’s only when I stop, either when I’m back at my room or during a chocolate break that my feet finally decide to tell my brain that they hurt.
I had been walking for about two hours from the centre of Kaikoura when I found myself wandering along the coast. It was about three in the afternoon and there wasn’t a soul anywhere. The only living things nearby were the seagulls around me, either sitting on the rocks or flying and dipping just a few feet above my head. This is ‘The Birds’ in real life, I thought. This is the nightmare Alfred Hitchcock had in mind.
But Kaikoura, which sits on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is hardly nightmarish. The coast is rough and craggy, lined with rocks and with little sand to walk on. The landscape is dramatic, with the zig-zagging outline of the rocks clashing against the blue of the sky and sea. This is not a beach to lie down on and waste time and do nothing. This is a beach to take notice of and sketch and paint.
My feet were starting to ache, so I sat down on one of the rocks. It was winter, but it was very pleasant, and I had come to this spot on the planet for only one reason- to see some whales.
When I was a child, my parents, who had met in New Zealand, bundled my brothers and I on a nostalgic road trip through this country.
We drove everywhere. We rented a yellow Mazda and my dad drove up and down the entire length of the two islands, instantly making him the coolest father alive. When we reached Wellington, landmarks were pointed out to us. Where my father used to hang out, familiar streets, the university where my parents met.
We stopped in towns we had never heard of: New Plymouth, Rotorua, Nelson. And then we reached Kaikoura.
This time we didn’t stop, we only passed through. I would have forgotten that day if I hadn’t caught a glimpse of a mural somewhere along the main street. There was nothing outstanding about the artwork. It was only a painting of a whale, but the image stuck in my mind. If someone had painted a whale, there had to be whales somewhere close by. Right?
The memory of that image stayed with me for a long time, so when I was old enough to travel on my own I decided to go back to New Zealand to see those whales.
That was how I ended up in Kaikoura. All because of a painting on a wall.
“Are you lost?”
I hadn’t noticed the smiling young woman in hiking boots who was standing near my rock.
“No, I’m good, just sitting here for a while. Been walking.”
“Oh. Where did you walk from?” she looked around.
“From town,” I gestured to somewhere over my shoulder.
The woman laughed. “Well, you’ve been walking for quite a bit,” she said as she turned to go.
And then it hit me that I had seen what I had come to see. I saw three whales earlier that day, and I needed the walk to bring me back to earth.
“That happens sometimes.”
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