When it is time for dinner in Kaikoura, we walk down the single street and locate the pub. It’s “Toss the Boss” night. Choose heads or tails, flip a coin and if you are right you get your drinks for free. We are lucky twice, and we get a cider and a beer for free. I am highly amused by the idea that I am “tossing” the Queen of England in this game of heads or tails.
The place is thick with locals, all trying to win their drink on the house. A round, cheerful man in a green checkered flannel shirt, carhart pants and rubber gumboots sits next to Andrew with his Rugby betting card. “F-e-c-k-y” his thick hands hold a stubby little pencil as he draws out his name. A couple of his friends razz him over his choices.
Andrew peers over his shoulder to look at the card, “are you winning?”
Fecky looks back at Andrew and explains he gets two cards - one for his wife (his back-up bet) and one for him (the one he really thinks will win). Seems like a good strategy. “My name is Figgy,” He tells us, shaking each of our hands. Figgy? Fecky/Figgy is apparently much like Fish/Fush or Chips/Chups.*
Pretty soon, Andrew and Figgy/Fecky are thick in a conversation about boats. Figgy is retired now and spends his days fishing for delicious ocean fish and “Crayfish” nearby. He asks Andrew if we have taken any fishing tours, and Andrew says no. Andrew explains we fish from our boat quite frequently so we have been enjoying the mountain biking and hiking New Zealand has to offer instead. Pretty soon, Figgy has fished out our full story and he is amazed to learn we sailed to Tonga from California in our little sailboat.
“Want to come fishing with me tomorrow morning? Yes? Good. We will go sometime between 7:30 and 8.” Fecky collects his things and waves goodnight.
Andrew and I enjoy our dinner, then head out to find a campsite. The closest camp is a half hour away, and it is already getting dark. It is a Red Stag hunting lodge, with some grassy space to park cars on. The scenery is beautiful as we drive, but as we make our turn and head up a dirt road, we find we are trapped by a flowing river with a gravelly, loose rock bottom.
“Sister Mary can do it.” Andrew says. “Just give it a little speed.” I doubt this. I’m from flash flood country. I envision Sister being picked up in the river and floated away.
Sister Mary Francis and I grumble as I push the gas pedal and submerge her front tires. “Go! Go! Go!” Andrew says. Water splashes up and over her hood, rocks fling beneath her tires, and I squawk with fear. As we climb out the other side, dust and dirt flying, my heart races. We don’t baby the poor girl, do we? We arrive at camp for the night in the center of several fields of teenaged red stag, just weaned and separated from their mothers. The deer are “blurping and bleeting.” It’s a strange sound.
The campground host takes us on a “wee” tour of her land as darkness swallows the hillside. We meet a group of black sheep (each named after All Blacks Rugby Players), the explore the sheering barn and a giant pile of wool. If you rub it, the oil coats your hands. “Smell it,” our host says, so I do. Lanolin. Of course.
We meet Tinkerbell, the baby goat with fierce and pointy baby-goat horns. She lives in a wine barrel. It was so dark and all these animals moved so fast I didn’t get good pictures (sorry), but we did pet Tinkerbell and her fluffy course fur was very soft.
Then we head to bed; we have a very early morning, to get ready and drive to meet Fecky/Figgy. The alarm (Yes, I set an alarm!) buzzes at 5:45 a.m., then again at 5:55 a.m. It’s grey and drizzly, but we get to work unlocking the bikes from Sister Mary Francis’s bumper and employing the usual teamwork to slide them on top of our bed. We get on the road without coffee or breakfast.
We arrive at the marina at 7:20 a.m. As instructed, we look for the boat with the red cover, no one. Is that him? Are we in the right spot? Hm, what about over there? No… Pretty soon we see Fecky and his wife floating onto a trailer, on the boat ramp — already finished for the morning! It’s 8:10 a.m. We wander over to say hello. “Where were you!?” Fecky laughs. “Well no matter, come over and get a Crayfish.”
I don’t know whether we heard him wrong about the time or if in his the style of crazy old men he got started earlier than he intended, but that’s ok. He pulls out one live Crayfish and sends us on our way.
We buzz off to the Craigburn area, leaving Kaikoura behind. We stop along the way at Sheffields world famous pie shop. While eating my steak and mushroom pie, a giant blue tractor pulls along side the pie shop, parks and the driver gets out. He zips in for a pie, then out again, to climb back up the tractor steps and carry on down the road. This amuses me.
We stop at an honesty box where school kids are selling corn on the cob to “save their teacher”. The kids at recess run over to watch us choose our bag of corn.
Then, the terrain turns dry and rocky, the canyons looking like we could be anywhere along the highway in Southern Nevada. We find a remote campsite without any crowds, a mountain bike ride leading straight from our camp, and a perfect place to make dinner.
We boil up our Teacher-Saving-Corn-on-the-Cob, beets with olive oil, salt and pepper, and the CRAYFISH!
We poured the unusual “orange wine” we bought from Black Barn Vineyards a few thousand kilometers ago...
Dinner is served. Delish! Can you imagine how disappointed a Kiwi might be if he ordered “Crayfish” In the US?
P.S. *The Kiwis spell “fish” and “chips” just like the rest of us in English speaking countries, but for some reason, they pronounced Fush and Chups. I asked a Kiwi sailor to explain this oddity to me, and he actually did have an explanation.
“How do you make the sound ‘ch’?” He asked, as he chops the air with two hands the international sign for “let me explain.”
I think for a minute, cluck the sound “chuuhh” with teeth, air and lips, then smile. “YES! There is a “u” sound in there.”
There you go, he says as he folds his arms in front of him, leans back in his chair and looks superior. “(Chu)ips. It’s the Queen’s English.”
“Yeah but….” I press my top teeth against my bottom lip and make the sound of an “fffffff.” “Where do you get the ‘u’ sound in ‘fush’?” We all had a good chuckle, as he waves the back side of one hand in the air and shakes his head to brush this particular concern aside.