Sometimes life gives you lemons and sometimes they are very small. Today we received a small lemon by way of the weather. Pull up a chair, relax, and let me pour you some lemonade. One of our longest day drives was going to be the most beautiful drive on the Haast Highway as we were heading up the west coast to our next stop at Kina Beach Vineyards. The coastal roads wind and twist among the dark sand beaches and towering rocks. You drive next to dangerous cliffs, hugging the walls of dense, rainforest growth. The sea is a deep aquamarine, teeming with life as the waves crash below you. The mountains are high, looking down over your progress as you cross one-lane bridges over blue-watered rivers. All of which we did not see.
The clouds were hanging so low we were driving through them. We did see the beaches and the tall rocks, but the ocean was as gray as the day. Our first driving break was at a place called Pancake Rocks. How could we resist the allure of pancakes? This is a big tour bus stop and the rain pouring down did not stop anyone from walking around. It is a short walk to the rocks and I admit, they were pretty cool. The blowholes gave off soft airy thuds every time a wave came through but since it was low tide, we did not see any dramatic shooting of water. The path is well laid out and the views of the rocks were dramatic. The scientists are not sure why the rocks were formed this way but we do enjoy the fact that they are taking care of them. Acid rain, erosion, and all that good stuff are eroding the rocks. They are very unique to this area and protection is probably a good idea. They have signs telling you not to go near them and really, the cliffs are rather high up.
Our next destination was Lake Matheson for a quick stop. We were so hopeful as this is a nice walk/hike to a lake that, when the wind is calm and the skies are clear, there is a perfect reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the water. With a hole in the cloud, we were able to see a Mountain but there was a slight breeze so no reflection. Well, you cannot win them all. The walk through the forest was a nice break with some mushrooms along the way.
Driving north through even more rain and clouds, we find ourselves further inland and in the valley. We reach a turnoff on our left, the sign claiming a seal lookout point. What the heck-let’s go for it. It is time for another break and we can’t see much here.
We drove down a long and straight road through sheep/goat stations, and we see in the distance nothing but haze. We follow the signs to find our parking area and pull in. There is a huge beach and we see some people walking out in the rain, enjoying the weather. We follow the signs up onto a cliff where promises of seals await.
The smell of low tide circles around us while the heavy cloying scent of burning coal dances around our noses. I am not too hopeful for seals at this point, but I am grateful to be standing and walking. At the first lookout, we enjoy the view of these amazing rocks that just appear to shoot out of the ocean. They are very tall and we are amazed at the fact that there are plants growing on them. How can that be? The winds are supposed to be so wicked here that there are trees that are crippled like an old man, bent away from the ocean in a permanent crouch. Onward and upward.
We arrive at the official SEAL LOOKOUT. We are the only ones there and the mists are hovering, ready to drop their sacks full of raindrops. We look over the edge and at first, all we see are rocks and rocks and rocks and…seals! They blend into the rocks so well they are very hard to see. Once we adjusted our eyesight, we saw so many! And here is our lemonade for today-baby seals. A dozen at least and they were on the move. There was a small pool where they were frolicking, fighting, and having fun and we could have watched them all day. One seal, in particular, kept yelling, seemingly calling all the other baby seals over to play. When you looked closely, you could see them coming out of the ocean. Just too darn cute! The parents just lay around and ignored them, occasionally rolling over or lifting their heads. The rain held off enough that we could take some pictures and a few came out ok. We were really far away but we could hear them so well. The rocks created a great viewing and listening venue.
Heading back to the car we saw this very strange bird walking around the car. Then another one. By George, they were Kiwi’s! Our very first siting and they were very close. They appeared to live in the bushes and come out to eat the crumbs people left behind. I would have not felt complete visiting New Zealand and not seeing a Kiwi! Well, guess what. We did NOT see a Kiwi bird but a Western Weka. Still a cool bird but what a letdown.
After spending too much time with the seals, we circled back out the long road and back on the main highway, drove through some more mountains, and suddenly, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. The mountains block a lot of weather so there are very different weather patterns on both sides. Driving towards the sun feels like late summer, and I see us sitting on the porch, enjoying that glass of lemonade and breathing in the crisp, clear air of NZ. Thanks for joining us.