Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Overnighting in Kaikoura, New Zealand

 Rejoining our journey in the South Island of New Zealand...(see post of May 26) we packed up and drove out of wet Christchurch and headed north on state highway 1. City and suburbs were soon behind us and we began to enjoy the rural scenes. Our destination for the night was Kaikoura. This was the town cutoff from road and rail access by the earthquake of November 14, 2016.
 Once we got closer to Kaikoura and were driving along the shoreline we could see both the rugged beauty of the area but also the lingering effects of the earthquake. I am not sure if all of this rocky area was always above water for instance. The bird-life, particularly the seagulls, is abundant. There were quick glimpses of seals on the rocks but the road is such that you cannot always stop and pull over to take a closer look or a photograph.
 Despite the cold, windy and damp conditions, there were treats such as this wonderful sea coloration to enjoy.
 Stopping off at the tourist information stop before Kaikoura I could hear unfamiliar bird noises. In the creek behind the building I found all these birds and went back inside to ask what they were. The answer I was given was that they are South Island Shags.
We went inside this, the "craypot" portion of the Kaikoura Civic Building to find a treasure of a museum. For those unfamiliar with the recent history of the area there is a compelling exhibit titled "The New Normal" which features reminisces of the earthquake and the impact on the people. Amazingly the museum opened only nine days after the earthquake.
The main street of town. Many of the buildings on the left are empty and pending likely demolition.

That night we ate at the Pier Hotel and this was the outlook from the front windows. The variety of rock around here is amazing. Note the snow level because overnight, it changed. This first week of our trip the South Island was experiencing very unseasonably early cold temperatures and snow in what was essentially still mid autumn.
 The next morning we were up early and able to get out and enjoy the wonderful colors of the morning sunrise.
 Seagulls seemed to feature quite frequently in photographs taken on this trip. We went back down to the bay area in the morning to see if we could see any of the fur seals. This gull is striking quite the pose for the camera by balancing on one leg. You might note that the snow was a little thicker than the previous day.
 Roaming round on the rocky foreshore we could not at first find any of the expected fur seals. Chatting with other people there I heard that there were several sightings the evening before but none so far that morning. But persistence and a careful eye paid off when I noticed movement at the top of this rocky outcrop. It was quite some distance away (thankfully I had the telephoto lens with me) but eventually I was able to see that there were a couple of seals up there and this one in particular seemed to be putting on quite the show. If you can't see it click on the photo and that will maybe make it bigger and you can see the seal in the middle.

The shags were out and about too. Unlike yesterday though these ones all seemed to be by themselves. This morning I tried my friend google to see what I could find out. For starters there is no entry for a South Island shag but I am wondering if this might be a pied shag. There are a number of different types of shags and they are all part of the cormorant family.
 In our careful exploration of the foreshore we came across this which looked similar to what, in New Zealand, is called "silver beet" but here in the USA is called "swiss chard". I am going to call it wild silver beet but someone might know it as New Zealand spinach. Let's see if there are any comments about it.
 We really needed to get on the road if we were to get to our next destination, Blenheim, during daylight. This photographer clearly had more time than I did but I have to say I took this shot mostly because of the fascinating rock-form.
 Now heading north we made a quick stop at this local landmark. 20 km north of Kaikoura is this roadside caravan apparently selling crayfish and other local straight from the ocean items (green lipped mussels, battered fish etc) and wonderful chips (aka french fries). In this spot since the mid 1970's  it was sadly not open on this day. I guess the weather had kept the fishing boats tied up. If you look carefully in the beached dinghy you can see a crayfish pot which is what the Kaikoura Museum building is modeled on.
The road to the north and the south of Kaikoura is still under repair because of the extensive damage caused by the 2016 earthquake. You may recall seeing the images on the news where entire portions of the highway literally broke off and fell into the ocean or were crushed by rockslides. The road is passable once more but there are frequent spots where traffic is one way and you have to stop and wait whihc might be for 20 minutes or more. This is an example.

We had a great time on our South Island trip and looking back on it there were some places that we seemed to linger in and enjoy more than the others. Kaikoura was a favorite which is why I could not edit this post down to fewer photos.

Coming soon, our next stopover in Blenheim.