New Zealand Travelogue – Tuesday, 20th October 2015

Soundtrack: *being vewwy, vewwy qwiet*

Google Fit stats:

  • Activity: 2 hours 14 minutes
  • Distance: 4.6 km
  • Calories: 1,148
  • Steps: 8,725

Told Gerry he had us all day today. He was up to the challenge!

9:00am - 12:30pm: Wilderness Seacoast Walk With Small River Crossings But No Steep Climbs - Hector's Dolphins, coastal cliffs, islands, waterfalls, driftwood, gemstones, fantastic photography and enjoy morning refreshments over a driftwood fire.

A splendid walk along a beautiful but rarely visited section of coast. We will discover rockpools, islands, coastal caves and driftwood and we will probably see Hector's dolphins, the world's smallest marine dolphin species. We drive 10km south from the Wilderness Lodge stopping at Knight's Point lookout along the way to view the rugged coastline. Our walk starts across a small stream amongst jungle-like coastal rainforest then continues to an isolated beach. Among the dunes is the rare pikao plant also known as "Tane's eyebrows"! We then follow the coast southwest searching for polished beach pebbles and wave-sculpted driftwood. We explore a cave that leads beneath basalt cliffs into a secret rainforest. There are mussel reefs, starfish, and sea anemones and keep a look out for Hector's dolphins which may be frolicking close in to shore. We enjoy refreshments at the Adiantum Creek waterfall with hanging gardens of endangered sand spurge. Finally we cross Ship Creek and while the guide gets the vehicle there is time to explore a floating kaikatea forest.

We headed out for a nice beach walk. To get to the beach we had to cross a couple of streams. Rather than risk getting boots wet, Gerry was kind enough to carry SWMBO across the streams.

Gerry did not carry me across the streams.

No, I had to take my boots off and walk through the streams, over the rocks, and then dry my feet and put my boots on. SWMBO seemed unsympathetic to my plight.

SWMBO got a piggyback. I didn’t.

I keep using the word ‘stunning’. I’ll have to try to diversify my vocabulary but really, the scenery often did leave me stunned. I was stunned I was walking through a verdant rainforest.

SWMBO and Gerry heading into the rainforest

Then, not long after, I was stunned by a driftwood sculpture someone had created on the beach – a beach that felt very different form the rainforest even though it was only a few minutes’ walk away.

We have no idea who put this driftwood sculpture together

We had the beach to ourselves – no dolphins, no other people, just me, SWMBO and Gerry.

We had the beach to ourselves

But what a beach it was. Such a variety of shapes, textures, rocks and creatures.

Spikey rocks


Life On The Rocks

We did see a seal though.

SWMBO and Gerry seal-spotting

The young seal was busy sunning itself on one of the rocks. Gerry encouraged SWMBO to go for a closer look.

The waves were coming right up to the rocks, so SWMBO had to count the waves and time it right so she could walk around the rocks to where the seal was sunbathing. Unfortunately, the counting and timing led to a small miscalculation on where SWMBO would be relative to the seal, so when she walked around the rocks she was much closer to the seal than she expected.

This shocked her.

This also shocked the seal.

I was lucky enough to just catch a glimpse of the expressions on both their faces as they realised they were both much closer to the other one than either was happy about.

It would be great if I had a picture of this but I don’t. You’ll just have to use your imagination. Picture a seal, mouth open, gasping in surprise at SWMBO. Now picture SWMBO, mouth open, gasping in surprise at the seal.

I thought this was hilarious.

The seal just thought ‘Cripes, I’m off’ and quickly made its way past SWMBO to the water. SWMBO stood there frozen and let it.

I was still laughing…


Rocks, cliffs and me

Rocks, cliffs and SWMBO

New Zealand has a very pretty coastline…

…with some dramatic scenery

Near the end of the beach walk, Gerry took us towards an area he particularly wanted to show us. He knew we were from Norn Iron so wanted to show us a geological feature of the beach – columnar basalt!

We’re pretty familiar with columnar jointing – as this page says:

Perhaps the most famous basalt lava flow in the world is the Giant's Causeway on the northern coast of Ireland…

Well, it’s here too.

Not quite the Giant’s Causeway

It’s angled at about 45 degrees, but it’s the same hexagonal columns we get back home. I thought it was a fairly unique geological feature but it turns up in a bunch of places. And it’s here, just about as far away form the Giant’s Causeway as it’s possible to get on this planet.

Me, standing beside some hexagonal columnar basalt

Some of the geological features of the beach were fascinating and fun.

A spelunking SWMBO

Then it was back through a different part of the rainforest while Gerry went on his bike to fetch the minibus.

Just a few minutes from the dramatic coastline was the dramatic rainforest

It’s really hard to credit the variety of views and environments New Zealand provides. The dramatic beach was only a few minutes walk from the rainforest. And yesterday we were up a glacier surrounded by ice, an hour’s drive (and short helicopter flight) away.

…without a paddle

Then it was back to the lodge for a quick bite to eat and a change of boots to wellies, ready for:

2:00pm - 5:00pm: Robinson Crusoe Beach and Tawaki Penguin Discovery Walk

We drive a short distance south from the Lodge and walk a hidden trail beneath ancient rimu, silver beech and kahikatea trees to a magnificant wild beach where from June to December up to 30 pairs of Tawaki (Fiordland crested penguins) nest in the forest behind the beach. On our 15-minute walk to the beach the forest abounds in primeval tree ferns, kidney ferns, spleenworts, filmy ferns and many different kinds of mosses and lichens. As we approach the coast we traverse a tangled jungle of kiekie and supplejack vines before emerging onto a stunning white sandy beach where the shy endangered penguins can be seen waddling back and forth between the sea and their rainforest nests and negotiating the often pounding surf to enter or leave the sea. Note that the track to the beach crosses a small stream four times.

Penguins! We went off to try to spot some penguins!

There’s a beach that’s quite secluded that Gerry knows often has some penguins on it. It’s a public beach, but he’s naturally cautious about people publicising where it is. I have a couple of nice wide snaps of it but I’m not going to put them here in case some smart alecs track it down and decide to go penguin hunting.

We got to a nice spot and settled in to wait and see if penguins would appear. It wasn’t long before one walked up the beach to the rainforest and its nest.

Gerry and a penguin. Yes, there is a penguin in this photo. Honest.

It was lovely to just sit and watch penguins walk up the beach from the surf to the rainforest.

A penguin preens itself on the way home


They’re Fiordland Crested Penguins and they nest in the rainforest and hunt in the sea. We didn’t see many penguins, but occasionally one would come out of the surf and waddle up the beach to the rocks, stopping every so often to preen itself.

Waddle, waddle, waddle


It was lovely just sitting there quietly, watching penguins going about doing their penguin business not too far away.

A pair of penguins, just being penguins


The penguins were far enough away that we weren’t bothering them, but close enough that we could happily watch them without binoculars.

Apparently some guests from the lodge watch the penguins and say ‘Right, now we’ve seen them, let’s go to what’s next on the list.’ I could quite happily have sat there for hours. OK, we did sit there for hours. I mean I could have sat there for even more hours, all the while getting eaten alive by the sand flies.

5:00pm – 6:00pm: Freshwater ecology of the Lower Moeraki River and feed the Giant Eels

Fed by the lake, river and streams of the Upper Moeraki where the yearly rainfall is in excess of 5000mm (190 inches) the river by the Lodge is teeming with aquatic life. Join our nature guide on a short walk downstream to look for brown trout, freshwater shrimps, snails and other small freshwater fish and aquatic insects. We finish by feeding our friendly giant eels.

Back to the lodge and then out again, this time to feed the eels! It was only a short walk through the local rainforest (something I’m still not used to saying).

The colours of the local rainforest

At Lake Moeraki, this rainforest was just outside your door.

More jaw-dropping forest

We got to the steps down to the lake and Gerry brought the eel food to the water to try to attract the eels. The eel food was really just some meat, I think – just like using chum to attract sharks. The eels can detect the tiny amounts of blood in the water just the way sharks can, but they’re a lot friendlier to deal with.

Gerry feeds the eels

SWMBO says they feel a bit like monkfish.

SWMBO feeds the eels

Then it was time for dinner and a quiet night. A new guest arrived at the lodge specifically to go see the penguins (apparently this is common – the penguins seem to be quite a draw). The weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t looking as good as today was – he might be getting wet…

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