Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kaikoura, New Zealand -- A Visit to a Seal Colony

After our tramp, Violet and I spent a few days just hanging out and cleaning our clothes in Nelson, New Zealand. It was sunny, and we mostly walked around town and visited shops. After leaving Nelson, we headed back to the town of Picton, where we caught a train down the east side of the South Island. A three-hour train journey brought us to the town of Kaikoura.

Kaikoura looked a lot like the towns of the Pacific Northwest in the US -- grayish skies, pine trees along bluffs, and surf. While Kaikoura is well known for whale-watching, we opted not to do that. We had heard from an Irish woman that you pay $100 a person, after which they take you out on a boat that is sonar-equipped for a few hours trying to find whales. During that time, you may only see a whale’s tail or catch a glimpse. As budget travelers, that was more than we could spend for a few hours’ excursion during which we might not get our money’s worth. Instead, we decided to do a hike that included a visit to a seal colony. It was too late to do it that night, so instead we went and ate some delicious chowder (plus a beer for me) at a little cafĂ© in town. We also decided that if we ever open a backpacker hostel, it will be called Bronwie’s Flophouse and that there will be a lice check on every guest. I don’t want to offend any Kiwis, because NZ is beautiful and its people are wonderful, but we came to the conclusion that there must be a lice epidemic there, because every shop we went in carried six to eight different brands of lice shampoo. I went in a drugstore that didn’t have _soap_. But it _did_ have multiple kinds of lice shampoo. I got to where I began purposely checking out the lice shampoo stock, just out of curiosity. Further confirming our suspicion, when Violet developed a sunburn on her scalp and sought out some dandruff shampoo, the woman assisting her began their discussion by asking Violet if she was “sure [she] didn’t have any gremlins,” while giving a point to her head and a little scratch. For the record, both Violet and I left New Zealand without any lice infestation striking us.

So, after an evening (lice free) at a backpacker hostel that was built in a local landmark (a renovated 1800s post office), we got up early to hike to the seals. It was incredible! The scenery was beautiful and there were many seals. We learned later (in Milford Sound) that seals are nocturnal, so they mostly sleep during the day. Here are some photos of the Kaikoura scenery and of some of the seals in the colony. Also you will see photos from the hike after the sea colony, which took us up a huge bluff and through some pasture land.  Sorry for the pictures not following the story, but it's tremendously hired on a wireless connection with a teeny computer to make this look purty.

  See how close Violet is to the seals? 

Here is a picture of part of the colony, so you can get an idea how many seals there were.  This is just one section.  The seals are the black skinny splotches.
There were also sea gulls.  And huge pieces of kelp.