Saturday, 22 August 2015

Northbound along the Pacific Coast

An update post on our whereabouts; we’re moving quite quickly up the east coast heading for the top of the South Island at the moment.

Can you believe it? I didn’t take any photos while we were parked for 5 nights at Weedons in Christchurch. Probably because other than the day we arrived it was cold and wet for most of the time. I also spent alot of time catching up on photos and blog posts and didn’t want to add to the pile!
Typical Murphy’s Law though, the weather cleared as we hitched up to head out of Christchurch.We thought we might head to the NZMCA Park at Parnassus but it looked a little lonely & forlorn as we drove by, so we carried on, heading for Kaikoura.

Here’s us parked at the NZMCA Park which is beside the Kaikoura racecourse, it’s not the most photogenic site at ground level surrounded by loose boxes and open stalls but take the stairway up behind and the views are fabulous out over South Bay. The walkway crosses farmland behind and ends up in town, not on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway as I found out the last time we stopped here (there are plenty of links to click on in this post- they are the posts from our last visits)

We left the van hitched to the ute for the night, we often do that if we’re just staying overnight, it saves a little time in the morning. That was until I decided I should nip around the corner and out to Kean Point to check out the seals and especially the seal pups. There’s always adult or teenage seals at the point, lounging about in the carpark and over the boardwalk…

…and at this time of the year there are plenty of super cute seal pups wandering about or sleeping under the bushes. This slick little wet guy was keen to check me out and waddled along the bottom of the wall until he came to the steps which he then bounded up. He then decided to explore a puddle in the carpark and when I moved in to take a photo he mock charged me. He then charged a few others that approached him, he was having fun, he’d follow people along the road and when they stopped to say hello he’d charge them. Little tyke.

Then he decided to follow me up another stairway to where his playmates were sleeping under the bushes on a bank. He climbed over the concrete wall beside the steps, they are quite agile considering how awkward they look moving about and then made a nuisance of himself by clambering over the sleeping beauties. They didn’t seem to mind and either rolled over or curled back up to continue sleeping. Doesn’t the pup on the left look odd with it’s neck resting on a branch, he’s obviously had some good meals from Mum.

Other seals from the colony rested on the rock stacks beside the car park with the snow covered Kaikoura Range as a backdrop.

As I was driving back home I noticed the setting sun was causing some dark rays reaching down to the horizon out at sea. At first I thought it might have been my eyes and the angle I was looking through the glass of the car window. I pulled over to take some photos. These are called crepuscular rays, rays that stream through gaps in the clouds that are columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud-shadowed regions. So in fact the darker lines aren’t the rays, they’re the cloud shadow, the lighter areas beside them are the rays.

The next day we stopped at a number of places of interest north of Kaikoura, the first was to check a rocky point where I’d seen dozens of Spotted Shags/Parekareka nesting the last time we passed by. There were just half a dozen early birds (cool- double entendre ;)) preparing their nests in the best spots; the deepest ledge on the vertical rock face.

I wonder how many chicks tumble over the edge and into the ocean below each season, last time I was here there were nests tucked into some very precarious spots on the wall above this prized ledge.

And of course the next stop had to be at Ohau Point to see the seal pup nursery at the waterfall. The last time we called here there were 50-60 pups clambering up the stream to the waterfall and swimming in the pool at the foot of the falls but it’s getting late in the season now and while there were dozens of bigger pups sunning themselves and sleeping on the rocks beside the sea there were only half a dozen smaller pups up near the waterfall and just one lone little guy swirling and flipping under the falls. This pair were keeping each other company near the stream, the one on the left wasn’t worried about me but his friend kept a wary eye(or two) on my movements.

So that’s what they mean about having eyes in the back of your head! And as you can see, they have HUGE eyes.

There’s a freedom camping area on the seaward side of the main highway at Paparoa Point, there’s also a seal colony nearby that ponged to high heaven and masses of tiny flies that had settled over the back of this caravan whose owners were certainly going to get a shock when they came home from exploring.

Our next stop over is at one our favourite places along the Marlborough/Canterbury coastline; the rugged and windswept Ward Beach. The camping area is part of a farm and is beside the Ward Reserve. An area has been cleared and fenced right above the beach and as long as you’re CSC (certified self-contained) and pay a donation to the farm owners, you’re welcome to stay.

There’s a garden of painted stones from visitors past and a pile of sturdy walking sticks at the gate. You’ll need a stick if you go for a walk, the beach is deep gravel and takes a bit of energy to walk over.

But its well worth a walk up the beach towards Cape Campbell where there are some huge limestone rock formations and a seal colony. We didn’t venture up there this time, I took this photo back in February….roll on summer!

I’ve been half-heartedly trying to catch the Aurora Australis (aka the Southern Lights) while we’ve been travelling the south but I either miss the night they play with spectacular colours for all to see with the naked eye or I forget to look to see what the prediction is when we are in a good viewing area. A couple of times I’ve found out too late or we’ve been parked in town or behind a hill or it’s way too cold or there’s no water for a reflection. Now that we’re moving north it’s getting harder to find the right area, I kicked myself last Saturday night (well actually Sunday morning) when we were parked at Kakanui on the cliff edge with a perfect view south and the lights put on a fantastic show…..while I slept on. I forgot all about it.

So I thought I might pick up a little of the lights from Ward beach if the call went out that the solar activity was increasing. So I set up the camera and waited….and waited. My activity alerts headed in the wrong direction, it was all quite on the southern front. I did get a few shots of the Milky Way and a little colour from around the edge of the huge hill in front of me but I’m thinking they are the light glare from Christchurch.

Now I’ll just have to wait until we’re back in down South to try again. I did do a shoot while we were in Winton, I drove around to the sports field on the edge of town where it was nice and dark, set my gear up and waited in the freezing cold with snow all around me. I didn’t last long, the first shots showed me that I had a two bloody power lines straight through the centre of the photo. Memo to ones self- check the view out before it gets dark.

Finally, after numerous visits to Ward Beach, we got to see the bulldozer launch the crayfishing boat off the beach. Every other stop the sea has been too rough. So when I heard a loud rumble early this morning I shot out of bed, threw on some clothes and grabbed my camera. The boats are stored in shed back up the road and the bulldozers are kept near where we’re parked.

Now you can see how loose the gravel is, and how hard the bulldozer has to work to tow the boat through.

The boat is backed into the water on the quiet side of the small bay and released from the cradle, it great to see it’s a cat (catamaran), perfect for the rough seas and a stable platform while they’re lifting and setting the cray pots (Ok Shellie, you’re not selling boats now)…

…the skipper then waits for the driver to park the ‘dozer….

…and board before they roar off up the coast.

We left before they returned and, not that they would have showed us, but I wonder what their catch was like. We stopped at one of the crayfish stalls on the main road north of Kaikoura the other day just to see how much they were charging. I nearly fell over, $78, SEVENTY EIGHT DOLLARS for the tiniest of crays a cray that looked more like a large prawn than a crayfish. And with two rental motorhomes and around six tourists eating a pile of crayfish on the table beside the stall they obviously have no trouble selling them.

We're now parked at another favourite of ours on the coast; the DOC Camp at Marfells Beach, just south of Seddon and beside the Grassmere Salt Lakes. Oh, it's a tough life...

Back to the Maniototo posts soon….

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