Escape to the cape

Austin, with whom I hiked in Tongariro, had been adamant: while near Wellington, I had to go to Cape Palliser.

Seals, a picturesque lighthouse and an isolated peninsula: sounds like my thing!

Before jumping over to the South Island, I took a few days to explore this part of the country, just east of the capital. I didn’t really have plans, except taking pictures, but I had one thing for sure: time.

The weather was not very welcoming when I arrived. Light rain quickly turned into not-so-light rain, but after climbing to the lighthouse for the view, I geared up for humid weather and went to the beach to meet the fur seals (Australasian fur seal, Arctocephalus forsteri).

Australasian fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri)

They have a colony there, where life seems to be quite relaxed. They sleep, they quarrel a bit, they sleep, they play, they swim, and they sleep a bit more. What I learnt later is that they can stay several days at sea to fish; therefore, it makes sense for them to rest when they come back to land.

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

I tried to approach them without scaring them away. The good thing is that they are rather big, compared to my usual targets, so I could get nice close up shots without even cropping my original images.

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Males are bigger than female, with this characteristic bubble of fat around the neck and shoulder; they can weigh up to 160 kilograms. Imagine moving that on ground, when you don’t have legs anymore! Fortunately, their flippers are still more functional than those of earless seals, and they can still walk and climb, though awkwardly.

Silver gull (Chroicocephalus novahollandiae)

Silver gull

When darkness came, I drove back to Ngawi and slept there inside my van. At 5 in the morning, the sky was clear, and I drove back to the cape.

When the sun emerged, it bathed the whole scenery in a delightful warm light, making it look completely different from the day before. I spent some more time with the seals, trying to work the light in creative manners. When I was done, I drove north for the short hike to the Putangira pinnacles.

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus)

The South Island!

Australasian fur seal

This place got famous when it featured for a short scene in the last Lord of the Rings movie. The pinnacles (in French we would say fairy chimneys) were formed by erosion: while part of the soil was taken away by water, rocks and agglomerated gravel formed protective structures that hid what was beneath, forming these vertical towers of rock and sand that withstood the ravages of time.

There are two tracks: I started by going to the viewpoint, before climbing up the riverbed to stand at the base of the pinnacles, and walk among them. In the black and white photos below, I tried to emphasize the shapes, in both rock and light.

I relaxed for most of the afternoon, and then went back to Cape Palliser. On the way, I stopped in Ngawi to take pictures of the bulldozers lined up on the beach, which are used to take fishing boats in and out of the sea.

Sunrise on the morrow was not super exciting, but I enjoyed climbing above the lighthouse to take pictures with a higher viewpoint. I used my brand new Neutral Density (ND) filters to create some long exposure shots.

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Australasian fur seal

Then I drove back to the Wairarapa plain. To be continued…

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BIRD INVENTORY

6 thoughts on “Escape to the cape

  1. Your adventurous spirit gets you some great shots. I have been to Cape Palliser to walk up to the lighthouse and to see the fur seals. Yes, they sleep a lot. It’s on my bucket list to go back and visit the pinnacles. I have been reading your blog for a short time now. I enjoy reading about your adventures. Keep up your good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed your post immensely, Samuel!!
    I saw Silver Herons for the first time in my life at Gurre Sø.
    We were surprised that there were seagulls in the trees 🙂 🙂
    All the best from Denmark,
    Hanna
    PS The seals are very stately!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hanna, I’m happy you like it here, and I’m also happy you can find wonders around where you live. There’s no need to travel far to discover new things… but I know you know this 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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