Slow rev­o­lu­tions

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

From Page 1 dol­phins as they ex­plode from the wa­ter, turn som­er­saults, leap four abreast from the wa­ter and ride our bow wave.

We’ve seen a video back at Dol­phin En­counter re­cep­tion, so we know what to ex­pect, but it’s a pale shadow of the real thing. Ac­cord­ing to our on-board nat­u­ral­ist, there are about 500 dol­phins in this sin­gle pod.

De­spite the 12C wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, my daugh­ter Is­abelle has to be re­strained from leap­ing in be­fore the boat has stopped. Vis­i­bil­ity in the wa­ter is no more than a few me­tres and the dol­phins ma­te­ri­alise sud­denly from be­low and be­hind, give us the once-over from lit­tle more than an arm’s length away, then are gone. We dis­cover you can pro­long the en­counter if you make in­ter­est­ing noises, and so from our snorkel tubes comes a weird cho­rus of honks, chirps and moans.

Within 10 min­utes the first ses­sion is over. The boat sounds its horn and we clam­ber back on board and set off to in­ter­cept the dol­phins again. Four more times we re­peat the process. It’s a class act, from Dol­phin En­counter as well as the dol­phins.

When we peel off our wet­suits, there’s a warm wa­ter hose-down, and on the way back to the dock we pass a fur seal whip­ping a large fish from side to side to break it up and, hov­er­ing above, an al­ba­tross, gulls and an Aus­tralian gan­net com­pet­ing for the crumbs.

The next morn­ing, we are booked for an ex­cur­sion with Maori Tours Kaik­oura. The rich marine re­sources of the coast sup­ported a pop­u­la­tion of sev­eral hun­dred Ngai Tahu, as the lo­cal tribe is known. Dur­ing the past 15 years, the Ngai Tahu peo­ple have used a land claims set­tle­ment from the NZ Gov­ern­ment to es­tab­lish the Ngai Tahu Hold­ings Group, a multi-faceted op­er­a­tion that re­turned a net sur­plus of more than $NZ80 mil­lion ($72.6 mil­lion) dur­ing the 2006-07 fi­nan­cial year.

Mau­rice Manawatu and Alisha Thomas, his young rel­a­tive, pick us up in a van from the park­ing lot of the lo­cal tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tre. Manawatu can trace his Ngai Tahu an­ces­try back 22 gen­er­a­tions, a lin­eage that takes him back when his an­ces­tors ar­rived in NZ.

We spi­ral high above Kaik­oura to visit the re­mains of a pa, a Maori for­ti­fied hill­top, one of sev­eral in the area. Thomas must sing a karanga, a Maori women’s song of in­tro­duc­tion, be­fore we can en­ter the pa. We seal the in­tro­duc­tion with a hangi, the press­ing of noses, and we are given Maori names. Maori is an oral cul­ture and or­a­tor­i­cal skill places you sev­eral rungs up the sta­tus lad­der.

Tak­ing turns, we in­tro­duce our­selves by de­scrib­ing the ge­og­ra­phy of our birth­place and our fam­ily, the linch­pins that give us iden­tity in the Maori world.

We stroll through a for­est and learn about the kawakawa, source of a medic­i­nal tea; the to­tara, the ca­noe tree; and the ponga, the sil­ver tree fern. Un­der Thomas’s tute­lage, we weave flax, the Maori’s multi-pur­pose fab­ric and con­struc­tion ma­te­rial. We also sing. Maori have won­der­ful voices that make them nat­u­rals for the church choir. In such a choir in my youth, I was told just to keep quiet and move my lips. The Maori song that Manawatu teaches us may be man­gled, but we sing it with feel­ing.

It is time to head south; a lit­tle more than an hour from Kaik­oura and we are among the vine­yards of the Waipara wine­grow­ing dis­trict. Sep­a­rated from the ocean by the Te­viot­dale Hills, the Y-shaped Waipara Val­ley turns out ex­cep­tional pinot noir and ries­ling. There are those who say that Waipara is where the ac­tion is in the world of NZ pinot noir, and we are just in time to stop at Pe­ga­sus Bay and load up with bot­tles.

Good day?’’ asks the cel­lar­man, and I amtempted to make a crack about wine, women and song, but even I know bet­ter than that. Michael Ge­bicki was a guest of Alpine Pa­cific Tourism.


Three of the South Is­land’s most pop­u­lar recre­ational des­ti­na­tions, Han­mer Springs, the Waipara Val­ley wine re­gion and Kaik­oura, are linked by the Alpine Pa­cific Tri­an­gle tour­ing route, which is well sign­posted and can be com­bined eas­ily with other des­ti­na­tions on a self-drive itin­er­ary. The route cov­ers 370km and starts, at its south­ern end, a 45-minute drive from Christchurch and at its north­ern end from Kaik­oura. More: www.alpinepaci­fic­ For ac­com­mo­da­tion on the route: in Han­mer Springs, the best in town is the spank­ing-new Brae­mar Lodge & Spa;­lec­tho­ In Kaik­oura, Ha­puku Lodge is a stylish coun­try re­treat lo­cated on a deer and olive farm to the north of town; www.ha­puku­­oura. Sur­rounded by vine­yards in the Waipara wine dis­trict, the Old Glen­mark Vicarage has op­u­lent ac­com­mo­da­tion in full-blown Vic­to­rian style in the home­stead or rus­tic, self­con­tained lodg­ings in a con­verted barn; www.glen­­ www.han­mer­ www.rovin­gad­ven­ www.dol­ www.maori­­ga­sus­

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