This morning it is completely overcast, so I stay in bed for a while. After getting up I start a trip via de Lewis Pass to Kaikoura on the east coast. The first stop is an old coal mine, the Brunner Mine, where well over 100 years ago an accident happened, whereby 65 miners were killed. One hour before the explosion, ponies didn’t want to go into the mine. They panicked when they came close and ran back to the stables. A few tries later the men succeeded by putting jackets over their heads. These animals already have felt something was wrong in there. People that entered the mine directly after the explosion to help, suffocated already at the entrance due to carbon monoxide.
The coals were burned into cokes in large furnaces. Parts of the furnaces are still here today. To the left of these remnants very close to the river, is an opening to an old mine shaft. I just have to go there. I can’t resist to have a look inside. The opening has a rectanglular shape with a height of 1.5 meters and a horizontal shaft where water is flowing into the river. Everything smells like sulphur here. Some 6 meters inside is a wooden construction. Of course I am not going inside. I am not stupid. But it is kind of fun to have a look. I can not think about having to work somewhere deep in there.
Yesterday was the first time I noticed I am back on the south island. A lot of these small stinging flies are here: sand flies. Very irritating. They really take their time, tickling around over your skin for a while, before they sting. Here at the coal mine are a lot of them as well. I am curious how many of them I will encounter along the south west coast close to the fjords. The last time I visited, it was very bad overthere.
The road over the pass is very beautiful. Really annoying though are three tourbuses driving here, painted vividly in purple and yellow. They eject a lot of carbon dust and drive slower than 60 kilometers an hour. The only way to overtake them is to drive very close behind and await your chance. Al this time your view is limited by this big purple thing in front of you. Once I have passed these busses, driving is easy with lots of viewing around, but every time I stop somewhere the nasty game starts again. The solution is to take a longer stop. They really drove me close to madness.
More inland there are beautiful deciduous forests, looking like our forests on one hand but completely different on the other. I take the relatively short Waterfall Nature Walk through these forests to Five Mile Creek Falls, narrow but cute waterfall.
Zooming in on the wider part, reveals the nice rock and stream details.
Zoomed out a bit, shows a nice S curve.
Focusing on the top and with the fastest shutter speed possible, provides for a sprinkle of little droplets. These are always difficult though, because the high contrast difference warps the background in shadows.
After walking a while here, I suddenly notice the difference with our forests. The trees here have very small leaves but in large quantities. Often they have the same size as a fingernail but some are smaller even (around 4x10mm). It is just like bonzai but then at normal size.
Here, I see also familiar plants that one can buy at home to keep in the house.
On the way back I stop to make some photographs and am surprised by a small bird that comes really close. He is very interested in my tripod and the bag. While I hold very still, he approaches me to less than half a meter. I shoot a few photographs of him.
I really want to shoot him using a wide angle lens. If I lay it on the ground, I might be able to shoot from very close by. But that cunning plan is eliminated very quickly. Some other people arrive and the bird is gone. I end up with a shot of one of the branches of this giant bonzai tree.
Further to the east, the forests disappear completely. Here there are barren slopes, covered by dry gras. Such a contrast with the west coast and the center.
Along the coast near Kaikoura I notice a pinguin (most probably a Blue Penguin) standing on a rock and brushing up himself. The difficulty here is that I am driving on a highway. After a couple of U-turns I find a parking spot closeby. Once back on the spot I don’t see a penguin anymore. Most probably it has already found cover under the rocks.
I do find an under jaw with teeth in it. It has approximately the size of my hand. No clue, what kind of animal it belongs to.
I shoot a couple of other photographs of kelp on the beach.
Vertically there is some more depth in it, but photographing in the middle of the day it is very difficult to shoot a good one.
I return to the car and continue. Somewhat further down the road I notice a seal sitting on the rocks. After finding another parking spot, I follow the rocks on foot and see another one even closer. A man is already photographing this one and he comes a bit to close. The seal opens it’s mouth en growls. Then he moves away to another rock, closer to the water.After a while the man leaves and I can start shooting some. Using 400mm I am able to shoot from farther away, keeping the seal at peace.
I have been standing here for a while now, and I notice that the seal is moving constantly: stretching, turning around, rubbing and scratching.
I hear some coughing and growling. So there are more of these here. A bit further, one is sleeping completely stretched out.
And here is another one.
More and more seals I see and I really have to be careful not to approach them too close. If they are lying still, you barely see them. Here, I surprise one on accident.
I find myself in the middle of a colony. Some are sleeping while others are watching, like this one.
By standing completely still, I am able to photograph him a couple of times.
But then he hears the sound of the camera and sees me.
There are dozens of them here and it stinks really bad. There are pools with red shit everywhere. This would be a place for Mike of Dirty Jobs to clean up(-; By moving very carefully and slowly I can continue along the colony.
But the place is full with sun dried kelp, that cracks awefully under food and then I am being caught once again.
A bit further, some are quarreling. They try to bite one after the other.
They all want to have the best spot and do not want to give it up for nothing.
Damn this kelp. I receive a growl and see some teeth immediately.
It is slowly getting time to move on. Despite cautious moving, I sometimes cause agitation and these seals need their rest. Some can barely open their eyes, so much sleep they have. I shoot another one from farther away, that is snoring close to sea.
I continue to Kaikoura and find a motel overthere. Finally a day that I am a bit on time around 17:00. Then I book a whale watching trip for tomorrow and get a nice green curry chicken from the Thay. I take a seat in front of my studio and relax some time in the sun.
The last days some snow has fallen. Especially at night it can be chilly out here. On top of the Kaikoura mountains is still some snow. The rest has molten off today.
Hereafter, I drive a couple of kilometers to the sea at Kaikoura. Here is another seal colony. I do recognise it from 10 years ago. A major part of this area is dry during low tide but you have to walk at least 100 meters into the sea to get in the neighborhood of the seals, maybe even more. The previous time I was here I had just done that and was so busy shooting photographs that I had missed to see the water rising. Suddenly I was standing in the middle of the sea! Had to wade through a meter deep water with al my gear to get back to dry land.
In the far distance I do see a couple of them, but it is nog worth the efford. I have seen it and return to the seals of this afternoon. These are much more easy to get to.
Arriving at the colony I see a couple wearing wetsuits. They play with the seals in the water between the kelp. Somewhat later I talk to them and they tell me that the seals are very curious and playful in the water. They come very close and blow bubbles. Here on land this is completely different. Here they get easily agitated and can become very agressive if you come to close or find yourself between them and the safe water.
The light is much more pleasant now and shooting is easy. Photo’s follow without comments.
As soon as it is getting too dark, I return to my motel.
Here on the south island, they are much more commercial with internet. Everywhere you have to pay extra or buy cards.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file gpx file here.