Over to the South Island. The Cook Straight can be a fierce stretch of water so actually it’s more of a ship than a ferry, despite the short hop.
Snubbelrisk. Your guess is as good as mine. Hobbit?
Tree palms mixed in with both deciduous and conifer
Huge tree palms with the conifers again
I got a cold, my third or fourth of the ride and hunkered down here to recover, then we were off to Hamner Springs
Each day it seemed to get colder. When we left again there was a decent frost and the roads were dicey
If I haven’t said it’s peaceful yet, it’s peaceful
Lunch stop. Pastries are the thing here. Everywhere.
These mountains are maybe 5 or 6000 feet.
Another beautiful river valley
Hamner Spring is as still as a tomb
And that was as far south as we got. There were icy patches in the shadows of the trees. Our next destination was Tekapo and it just wasn’t going to warm up. The last thing we needed was to go for a slide
So we headed north up the coast to Kaikoura
This is the first time on the east coast and I look for differences
I only include this bull because it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. Maybe 3′ high at the shoulder on the ground here. Massive
It looks like a small island in the southern Ocean here
Massive kelp. My boot for reference, at least a foot across
Although it’s hard to see here but this species of gull is short and fat
Then back to Picton, but there’s a treat in store for us
We’re headed up the coast road along this
Then we get to this creek we’re told about. There’s a small gravel parking lot and we miss it the first time. Without spoiling the surprise too much, large sea mammals crawl out of the sea here
We walk up this beside the creek
A typical mountain creek. Pools, boulders, small sluices. A difficult climb for any animal
Then, ten minutes of climbing up through the forest, up the side of this mountain, there’s a seal by the path
A few minutes later we’re at this waterfall with a deep pool maybe 20′ across at the base.
And it’s stuffed with baby seals. They’re diving, jumping and playing with each other with as much joy as you’ve ever see. Pure animal bliss. Click and enlarge the video to the left.
Maybe hundreds, or thousands, of years ago a mother seal came up the creek and had her pup here. Now hundreds do. The adults come up to feed them periodically, and when the pups are grown they return to the sea. There are no adults here today, just maybe 100 pups.
An almost perfect ride up the coast from there
Then into Picton. So not so much of the famed South Island
We’ve been trying to see the Southern Cross using our StarWalk app on the iPad but it’s parked in the middle of the Milky Way, so hasn’t been clear. The constellation’s name is Crux and you can vaguely see it here.