This has nothing to do with the weather. On Saturday night, our favourite sons, the Hurricanes, were trounced by Otago’s Highlanders in the final of the Super 15 Rugby competition. Our boys were odds on favourites, in front of a home crowd, Somehow the Southerners snatched it away. Congratulations to them. A house on Breaker bay captured the local mood.
Now that I think of it, the mood carried over into meteorology. Wellington was overcast, but across the Strait, the sun was shining.
I go my tripod out, got down low and pulled things a little closer. Yes, the sun was shining over there, while in Wellington our hearts were leaden. In the words of the Sufi poets, this too shall pass.
In fact, the blazing sky as seen from our back door last evening promised better things to come.
Of course I loved every moment of the visit to the South Island and the precious time with family. All five of our children were there to celebrate Andrew’s 40th birthday, and I like to think it says something that they all came. But that was last week, and now it was time for the journey home. I decided that the inland scenic route (SH72) from Windwhistle to Amberley, and then up SH1 through Kaikoura to Picton was the best way to get to the ferry for a mid-day check-in time. So for the second time in recent weeks, I rediscovered 6 am. We were staying at the Mt Hutt Lodge in Windwhistle, and it is beautifully situated overlooking the Rakaia Gorge. The snow was even more spectacular against the flawless sky at dawn.
Looking downstream for one last shot before we got on the road, first light on the bluffs across the river was worth recording. Then it was on the road driving straight into the blinding light of the new day.
About half an hour later, a little North West of Sheffield, the landscape demanded a serious attempt at a panorama. Click to enlarge (as for all of the images I post).
A little North of Cheviot, Mary said “there’s a wetland, do you want to go in?”. I dithered, she was driving, we went in. The first bird I saw was a New Zealand Shoveler. I have a real soft spot for these ducks with their seemingly disproportionate beaks. They have real character.
The lagoon itself is a thing of exquisite beauty though we didn’t have enough time to linger, so a few shots of the reflections, and we were off again.
Coming down the long hill beside the Conway River towards the Kaikoura coast, I was struck by the prolific and vivid flowing of broom over the steep hills. We paused for morning tea at the excellent Albatross discovery cafe in Kaikoura, and then I resumed driving duties.
By now I was getting anxious about getting to the ferry before check-ins closed, so I passed up opportunities on the magnificent Kaikoura coast, and we did in fact get there with about 40 minutes to spare. The marshalling yard is a dull place, so my final shot of our “overseas adventure” is a nostalgic look back towards Kaikoura from the upper deck of the Kaitaki as it emerged from the Tory Channel into the Cook Strait.
And now we are home.
*A Scottish Soldier by A Murray “and fair as these green foreign hills may be, they are not the hills of home”
The one I chose was the albatross encounter at Kaikoura. We waited outside the convention centre in Blenheim from about 6:30 for a 6:45 departure. The moon and Venus were spectacular in the starry sky overhead. A large comfortable tour bus took us down the coast road and soon we were in Kaikoura where the sun was shining, and the sea appeared to be flat calm. Since I am a notoriously poor sailor on small boats, this was a huge relief.
The sea lied. Within minutes of leaving the little bay on the South side of the peninsula, I noticed that other boats nearby kept disappearing into holes in this supposedly flat sea. Happily, I had taken “Sea Legs” and I was lucky to avoid “mal de mer”
Almost as soon as we left the jetty there were birds following us in ones and twos
Before very long we were a few kilometres offshore and a bag full of bait was dragged behind the boat. I am not a hundred percent comfortable with the ethics of this from a pure animal welfare perspective, but the birds weren’t complaining and it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity.
Every so often the skipper would give a little thrust ahead with his engines and suddenly all the birds would have to engage in the comical walking on water routine, running after the boat with their bizarre feet slapping at the water trying to keep up with the food source.
We saw a great variety of albatrosses and kindred birds. The Royal albatross, the white-capped albatross, the wandering albatross, Buller’s mollymawk, as well as various petrels and shearwaters, and the most common of all were the Cape petrels.
We were at times surrounded by birds and the knowledgeable young lady who was assisting the skipper of our launch was keeping us informed of the various birds coming and going.
At times the birds would squabble though there was a definite pecking order, mostly related to size. The exception was the giant petrel which seemed undaunted by the bigger albatrosses.