Thursday, September 9, 2010


Kaikoura; a quaint little seaside town named by the Maori after crayfish. My decision to head there was made with some trepidation - after all, should I really be spending my decidedly limited funds traveling to a place when I probably couldn't even afford to eat its namesake?

The 2.5 hour drive there from Christchurch was winding and boring - only barren hills and brush to be seen, compared to the alpine passes towards Hanmer Springs and the West Coast which were full of snow-covered mountains, gorges, and riverbeds. The coastline from Oaro to Kaikoura, however, was pretty spectacular, and Kaikoura itself was something out of a dream. Never had I imagined that it was actually possible to view alpine peaks, rocky beaches and rolling waves... all in one scene. Dayum.

The large brown blobs you see on the rocks below aren't bags of soil; they're NZ fur seals, which inhabit the top end of the Kaikoura peninsula. B joked that you'd need to observe a sample size of 20 for 5 minutes to see ONE of them move. Wikipedia claimed that they're most active during early mornings and near dusk, but the best time to view them is really during low tide.

Pictures are mostly taken from a distance because we were warned that despite their oh-so-innocent demeanour, they can be aggressive and thus we should stay 10 metres away from them. I obeyed simply because I don't much fancy having the following conversation:

Friend: How'd your trip go?
Me: Not good. Spent half of it in the ED. 20 stitches.
Friend: Oh mai gawd. Did you get involved in a diving accident? Kayak overturned? Heliski crashed???
Me: Uh, no. I was mauled by a seal.
Friend: ....Oh. Did he bounce you on his nose, too?! HAHAHAHAHHAH.

For huge creatures with only two flippers, they can sure move a long way inland. This fellow lumbered all the way up the beach, past the carpark, and towards the road leading up the hill, just to sit there and point his nose at the sky:

Or even further back.

And another, in the customary pose:

They do sorta grow on you after a while, although the noises they make resemble old men with pneumonia more than the adorable 'honk honk' that cartoons lead us to believe.

Aww, isn't he cute?

Kaikoura is situated on a shallow, rocky shelf that extends for a bit before it dips sharply out to sea. So when the tide recedes, you can stroll out a looooong way on the peninsula. Like, loooooooooong. The entire area of land below was covered with water when we arrived. And that's not even half of it.

Moss, seaweed, kelp, and all sorts of underwater plants (okay, I fudged that, I have absolutely no idea what sort of underwater plants these are) can be seen on the surface of the shelf. VERY slippery.

Huge-ass brownish leaves that feel like leather.

Clam colonies can be seen clinging for dear life to virtually every spot imaginable - on top of rocks, beside rocks, under rocks... you get the idea. They do a remarkably good job of it, too - you can't get them off without some sort of wedge. I tried.

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