Finally, on an adventure again! I spent the last three weeks in Wellington, but today I hit the road. And with style, for I was driving this time! I bought a small van, a Toyota Estima, which will allow me more freedom than when I was hitch-hiking. I can cook and sleep in it, and so I can be wherever I want for sunrise or sunset.
From Wellington, I drove north along the Hutt River, over the Wairarapa Range, and walked in wetlands by Lake Wairarapa. It started to rain as I cooked, first a light drizzle that increased in intensity as I made my way on the scenic road to Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island.
Apart from the scenery, breath-taking, the main attraction there is the fur seal colony. I found them right, sleeping under the downpour. In the evening, I felt a bit miserable, but as rain eased and I settled in Ngawi, my mood improved. The makeshift bed inside the van is comfortable, I have two duvets to keep me warm and neither wind nor rain can get me. I’ll need some time to be completely at ease in this new life, but it now feels possible.
After misery, joy. Today was a stunning day; it started with a beautiful sunrise at Cape Palliser, among the seals, then continued with a walk among the Putangira Pinnacles, a place where a scene from the Lord of the Rings movies was filmed.
I rested in my van as the sun performed its trek across the sky, but couldn’t get the stove to boil any water. I’m worried, I believe it might be dysfunctional. If that’s so, either I buy something new (but that means more money to spend), or I cook when I stop in a hostel and eat cold the rest of the time. I’ve started to imagine all kinds of scenarios, but I’m in a remote place so there’s nothing I can do at the moment.
In the evening, I drove back to Cape Palliser, to spend some more time with the seals. I slept there.
Sunrise was not very exciting, but later, I climbed above the lighthouse to make some long exposure shots. After that, I drove back to Lake Ferry, where I checked in at a holiday park and had a well-deserved shower. As clouds made themselves more threatening, I drove to the sea. In a small lagoon, Royal spoonbills (Platalea regia) offered a remarkable show; usually they are extremely skittish, but this time they walked just in front of me as I laid in the mud. Too bad it was so dark, but I like the pictures anyway.
On the beach, I met John, a local fisherman. Generous like a kiwi, he offered me a freshly-caught filet of I-didn’t-get-the-name-of.that-fish. Later, as I was cooking it in egg and flour, rain started.
I had a slow morning, as it rained until 10.30. I was ready to stay at the holiday park, but there was a power cut. No electricity, no wifi, I decided to go to the library, in Martinborough. There, it was warm and quiet… until the earthquake struck. First, I thought it was a train coming in, but the walls were vibrating really strongly. It stopped, then it started again. People in the room nearby realized it was an earthquake, and when they sent the kids under the tables, as is the normal procedure, I was taken out of my lethargy, and down I went too. First I had thought of going out, but the sight of shelves full of books shaking left and right made me reconsider. Didn’t want to be knocked down by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Each quake lasted only a few seconds, but afterwards, as I kept working on my computer, I couldn’t help but wonder: is it shaking again, or is it just my imagination? I was a bit shaken by the experience; my last earthquake had been in Istanbul, when I lived there, in another life.
Today was crossing day! I drove over the mountains again, said hi to some friends at the hostel in Wellington, and took the ferry to Picton, on the South Island. I had never been on a smelly ferry, but as they transported sheep, the stink there was constant for the whole crossing, even in the wind, on the sun deck. On the watch for seabirds, I saw my first albatrosses, at least 10 Salvin’s albatrosses (Thalassarche salvini)! I slept in a hostel, in Picton.
Hello November! Such a windy day it was, and the road from Picton to Kaikoura was a constant battle against the elements. Once there, the sun appeared, and I basked in it. I booked a morning tour with the famous Albatross Encounter, to go at sea and meet the giants. Originally, I wanted to have my first sight of albatrosses in the southern seas, but as I had seen them in the Cook Strait the day before, I thought I might as well have a go now, in Kaikoura. In the evening, I had a walk at the tip of the Kaikoura Peninsula, where lies the largest colony of Silver gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) of the South Island.
Oh, and I found the problem with my stove: the gas bottle was almost empty…
It was a beautiful idea to book this albatross tour, for the weather was absolutely perfect, with just a 1-meter swell and no cloud. Along petrels and shearwaters, the great albatrosses, some with a wingspan around 3.5 meters, stole the show. It’s difficult to put the emotion into words… there are so HUGE!
After that, I did nothing of my day but review pictures and relive this magical morning.
A big day of driving, from Kaikoura to Oamaru (7 hours, all included). After Christchurch, it got very windy, and I even crossed a “dust bowl”, as dirt from a wide riverbed was picked up and thrown up in the air. In Oamaru, I was treated with a beautiful sunset in an empty city and ticked the Otago shag (Leucocarbo chalconotus). At night, Little penguins (Eudyptula minor) roamed the streets like the penguin gang in the Madagascar animated movies 😀
I really wanted to, but I didn’t manage to wake up for sunrise. Instead, I went to the Moeraki boulders around midday, before driving down to Dunedin. I am now in another holiday park, writing before heading to the Otago Peninsula for the evening. A howling wind is shaking the house.
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