Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Seal Pups of Ohau Stream

Winter has now well & truly arrived, there’s a good coating of snow on the mountains behind Kaikoura as we packed up and headed north along the Kaikoura coastline.

We stop at both the well known & iconic crayfish (rock lobster) caravans that sell the expensive delicacy on the side of the road just north of Kaikoura. Cays Crays might be more well known for being the main player & inspiration behind one of Fat Freddy Drops' song “Cay’s Crays” (a well known New Zealand band from Wellington)

Do I question my loyalties?
Do I try to work it out?
Well you're the part of my memories
That I never wanna live without
So long I've been gone
So many things have changed
But I know where I belong and
I know when I reach that place
I know when I reach that place

Starts in my heart when I reach that place
Home again where I belong
Starts in my heart when I reach that place
Have I been away too long?

Unfortunately it would seem that not everybody appreciates the significance of this little piece of Kiwiana. The back window has been smashed and broken glass lay over the table & floor of the caravan. It looks like the caravan hasn’t been used for quite some time to sell crayfish. It’s a pity that the owners or locals haven’t cleaned up the vandalism as it will likely attract more.

Nins Bin was just a little further north and had it been open we would have treated ourselves to one of those expensive crays (I believe they are going for around $90 at the moment), there’s no hope of us ever catching a cray ourselves and it would have been a nice treat to finish off David’s birthday celebrations with. And afterall what better place to eat a cray than in Kaikoura-  'Kai' means eat and 'koura' means crayfish. But it wasn’t to be so we’ll just have to wait until we pass through another time.

And finally we get to Ohau Point & the reason we are travelling this stretch of SH1 again, the seal pups of Ohau Stream. It is here, for about five months every year, that dozens of seal pups gather and play while their mothers are away at sea, for 2-3 days at a time, feeding. We missed them on our way down back in November, they had already weaned and gone to sea.

A short walking track follows the rocky Ohau stream inland for about 500 metres to where a small pool has formed beneath the Ohau waterfall. The seal pups make their way up the stream clambering over rocks and swimming up the stream until they reach the pool where they hang out & play with their mates. A seal crèche without grownups.

You do have to look carefully as you walk up the stream as the pups are quite hard to spot against the rocks and they can swim very fast through the deeper sections. I followed four pups up the stream that I had spotted under the road bridge at the beginning of the walk, they moved very well over the rocks, sometimes giving each other a bit of encouragement over rocks by pushing & biting each other as they went. Once they got to the big pool they launched themselves into the melee; diving, jumping, swirling & floating about in the turbulent water under the falls. 

There were a number of resting spots for the pups in the area with the main one on a rocky ledge above the pool. There was a constant stream of pups arriving and leaving the ledge (and leaving and arriving in the pool from the coast) Some pups slept while other had little tussles with each other, others tried to avoid the bullies by climbing vertically up the steeper sections of the rocks.

There was also a constant stream of visitors arriving to see the pups in the pool. The children were fascinated with the pups & some of the pups were quite inquisitive too, climbing out on the rocks at our feet to check us out. There are times when this pool is packed with seal pups, and the rocks at the front are covered with them too.

Flying pig? See if you can make the head out from the tail…because I had trouble. Some of the pups were very funny swimming in the pool, quite a few did headstands leaving their tiny little back flippers sticking up in the air for ages like peace signs. I wonder what they were looking for on the pool floor.

This little guy was keen to model for quite awhile, he came right in close and settled on a rock watching us watching him.

There was a large rock at the end of the track & at the entrance to the pool. Another pup decided he would climb up on top and scare the living daylights out of anybody he decided he didn’t like. He let some people through with no problems but with others he’d launch a mock attack on them. Of course he made an ideal prop & at the right height for people doing “selfies”. I watched him for quite awhile then managed to grab David’s attention to get him to take a photo of me beside the pup. You can see one of the results after the pup decided he’d give me a scare!

I did take a few videos of the pups but I’m unable to upload them because of my data limitations but I found a good You Tube video of them that you might like to watch. It’s gives a much better indication of the noise and movement going on around the pool. Here is the link-

Once again I could have stayed all day watching the pups but we had a plan in mind to get to Ward before the late afternoon chill set in so we set off up the highway stopping not too far on at a rest area to have a late lunch.

There are some large seal colonies along this coast and in fact we saw some of the sleeping seals spilling out onto the grass verge beside the road. It’s the first time I’ve seen a road sign advising to watch out for seals on the road. Our neighbours the night before had told us that on their way through they saw a seal that had been hit by a vehicle lying dead on road with blood everywhere. Not a pretty sight and I bet the vehicle that hit it wasn’t either.

At least the seals at the rest area were safe and sound and oblivious to the dangers just down the road.

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