January 29, 2013
Today’s adventure is a tour on the Fox II, a wooden fishing boat from the 1930’s. The ship’s captain, Roy, a native New Yorker who moved here ten years ago with his wife and three year old twins, ferries tourists around the bay to see the world’s smallest dolphins. He loves living here and says it’s a safe, wonderful place to raise children; his son sails and his daughter rides horses, hobbies that would have been off the charts in New York. The family returns to the US for occasional visits, but will never move back because they prefer the relaxed, southern hemisphere lifestyle. Roy works seven out of twelve months a year. The tourist industry has an on-season, during which he’s on non-stop, seven-days-a week for seven months, and an off-season so quiet it’s not worth opening the shop.
A group of nine or ten people climb aboard the Fox II, a tour our hostel mother insisted we take to see Hector’s dolphins, which are so rare that only 55 of them still exist. The boat has three masts and stunning red sails that a crew of three teenagers hoist whenever the captain cuts the motor. As we sail soundlessly across the water, Roy puts on classical music to lure the dolphins towards us.
Almost immediately 11 of them appear, playfully following the boat and swimming around in what looks like perfectly choreographed patterns. They swim back and forth, disappearing under its hull and reappearing on the other side as though we were playing a game of hide and seek. Every time they surface they make funny ‘pshuh’ sounds as they clear the air from their blowholes. Roy says that not even the most melodious music can pull them towards the boat, if they’re ‘not in the mood’. Today was a lucky day.
Two cheerful German women are helping to make a friend’s life-long dream of celebrating her 60th birthday in New Zealand come true. Because the birthday girl’s husband, who is six foot five and has to travel for work, didn’t want to take a twenty-four-hour-flight, she is touring with two ladies from her Nordic Walking Group. Her husband calls them the Nordic Talking Group.
Christof, thrilled to have met up with some friendly, open Germans, repeatedly says,
– See how friendly they are? Not all Germans are stiff and reserved!
In the bay Roy points out fur seals and colonies of shags living amongst the cliffs. We’re sailing in the middle of a collapsed volcano; the high hills surrounding us were once its rim.
In Christchurch we stop at a two story bike shop in a mall located on an busy four lane strip, and five minutes later, two undamaged cartons are stowed in the back of the car.
Continuing on to Lyttelton, the harbor just outside of Christchurch, we’ll be spending the next two nights with a friend of a friend. Inge’s house, a large, high-ceilinged room with two small bedrooms and a ladder leading up to another loft bedroom, is nestled amongst the hillside cliffs and has a splendid view of Diamond Harbor. The sunlight coming through the open door of a balcony overlooking the water floods the room.
Christof and Inge both come from the same part of Germany and are exactly the same age. She never would have rented a house in this posh neighborhood – thinking it was outside her budget- if the earthquake hadn’t destroyed her house. Desperate for a new place to live, she followed every lead, discovering that a house with a view was within her.
Inge describes the earthquake of February 2011, the anxiety of having the ground move and shift underfoot, the fear of getting caught and crushed under crumbling rubble, the heartbreaking tragedy that 185 lives were lost, the sorrow that the center of Christchurch was entirely demolished and it will take years to rebuild it. The worst part, though, was not knowing if family members had survived the disaster. The nerve jangling hours, the roads were blocked and modern communication impossible, of waiting to hear that her three boys had come through the disaster unharmed.
Picturing a white- haired, purple-clad Anthroposophist (a group of confirmed teetotalers) we had bought her, instead of wine, a Linzertorte, baked in a café by its Swiss owners, neither of whom are confectioners. Seeing Inge preparing a meal, and quickly catching the fact that she has nothing against enjoying life, we regret not having brought wine along, and run down to the village to get some.
During the evening we spend hours at the table chatting. Life writes stories so bizarre that no writer could possibly dream up the type of experiences Inge has had in New Zealand during the past 15 years.