29 August 2014

NZ Must Do: The walk to Red Rocks Seal Colony

Isn't it amazing what a difference a day makes?!

Above - Saturday morning while out taking dawn photos, below - Sunday afternoon as we started our walk to Red Rocks.

A few weeks ago when I'd been out in Owhiro Bay doing a dance with the  income tides at dawn to get some sunrise shots, it got thinking how long it had been since we'd been out to Red Rocks - we certainly haven't been out this way since having kids although I do remember doing it several times in our early years in Wellington. I did a quick search on the Wellington City Council website for Red Rocks and Sinclair Head and realised that this time of the year is exactly when the seal colony should be in residence, so we decided that on the next fine and still opportunity we would seize the day.

The walk hugs several remote bays along what is the most south-western coast of Wellington, and is in fact the most south-west point of the whole North Island. The views towards the Kaikoura mountain ranges were pretty clear, and there were a few hardy fishing boats visible out on the water trying their luck as well.

We wrapped up thinking it was bound to be cold in the shade and whilst it wasn't warm, it was pleasant enough both in the sun and in the shade - thanks to so little wind! This is not a walk you would want to do on a day with a howling southerly blowing up off the ocean that's for sure.

It's a pretty rugged coastline as you can see, just the odd fishing hut and bach breaking up the rocks, sand and sheer cliff faces.

Looking across to the east you can see all the way over to the Pencarrow and Baring Head lighthouses - the walk to Baring Head lighthouse is quite appealing (we've since looked it up) but at 1 hour 15 each way we think it might stll be a bridge too far for Mr nearly five at the moment. Even this walk was pretty much at the upper limits of his stamina at 8km return! It was a good thing we had regular snacks to dole out to keep the energy levels up.

Looking back toward the Owhiro Bay quarry we could see the car park where we'd started the excursion growing ever smaller in the distance.

Once you reach the first point, you could be forgiven for thinking you've made it and the walk is over, because it's quite clear that you have reached Red Rocks.

But there's still another bay to walk around before reaching Sinclair Head and the seal colony.Plus it's not easy walking like on a concrete footpath, you'll find yourself going through sand, gravel, big rocks, and river stones all at different times on the walk.

Just through that gap below is where we were headed - racing the ferries as they chugged their way through the Strait towards the Marlborough Sounds.

This was the first seal we spotted in all his glory. Sexy and he knows it!

We thought all our Christmases had come at once after seeing one or two seals, unaware that through the gap hundreds more were waiting.

Everywhere you looked there were seals blobbed out on rocks, someone described them as 'rock sausages' and it's rather apt I think. As we enjoyed the experience yet another ferry sailed its way past us - what a glorious day it would have been being on board for that sailing.

There were literally hundreds of these guys sunning themselves on rocks. Big ones, littler ones, some up for a bit of argy bargy, some more than happy to doze. It was an incredible sight to behold, but it was a little whiffy when you stood downwind!

This guy below seemed intent on taking the cake for 'most photogenic seal in the colony', perched on his rock with the whole South Island for a backdrop.

Even managing a good yawn to show us what he had for breakfast.

The hills of the most northern part of the South Island were also clearly visible beyond the wild coast bays we walked, which has me filled with great anticipation of our week long holiday to Nelson and Golden Bay which is less than 2 months away now!

All in all it was an amazing afternoon spent in NZ's great outdoors, getting up close and personal with our glorious wild coast and native animals. A must do if you live in or plan to visit Wellington at this time of year!

27 August 2014

Prawn and Pork Cakes with Noodles and Broth {Recipe}

Quite by chance we've discovered a favourite new recipe that has been given the tick of approval by one and all - and that's saying something in a household where one member is not particularly fond of any meat that's not mince or sausages. Now I can't personally vouch for how easy it is to make, but hubby has assured me that 'even you could cook it'. Not sure whether I should be offended by that or not!


Prawn & Pork Cakes (makes 12)
150g peeled raw prawns, roughly chopped
200g pork mince
2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or easy ginger)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp soy sauce
pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 egg white
1 onion, finely chopped (use 1/2 in the cakes, 1/2 in the broth) or 1 spring onion
small handful coriander, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Tip into a bowl and season. The mixture will be soft. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes (this will help them stick together).

Heat some oil in a pan. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of the prawn mixture and  place in the pan lightly flattening them. The mixture should make 12 cakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side and drain on kitchen towels.

Noodles/Rice and Broth
200g fresh rice noodes (or rice)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup coconut cream
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp easy ginger
2 tbsp lime juice
Optional: ( 2tbsp fish sauce, 1 long red chilli seeded and thinly sliced)

Drop the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes (or cook rice as you normally would). Drain well. Put the stock, coconut cream, sugar and ginger in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the lime juice (and optional fish sauce/chilli).

To serve: Place the noodles/rice in serving bowls and pour over the hot broth. Top with 3 prawn cakes.

For more delicious recipes, visit my Recipe page.

26 August 2014

34/52: A night away

A portrait of my children once a week every week in 2014

This weekend Mum and Dad went away for the night to Greytown and left you both in the very capable hands of your almost-aunties Jackie and Heidi. While we were enjoying wine and cheese and a couple of movies in peace at The White Swan, you two were busy getting dirty and wet in the Hutt River with the girls and their doggy, Jill.

These were the pictures we received via text, so we could tell you were having a grand old time without us!

25 August 2014

Braving the elements on the South Coast {landscape photography}

Photography is an itch that definitely needs to be scratched for me these days. And regularly. I find if I don’t get out with camera in tow at least on a weekly basis that I start getting ants in my pants searching for the next opportunity.

Mark had been away in Melbourne for the whole week before which had limited any chances to get out, so despite the fact he only arrived in at midnight Friday/Saturday come 6am Saturday after a quick hello kiss for the weary traveller still in bed, I was out the door.

As it turns out, I was being more than a little optimistic on this occasion. The bad weather we’d had on Thursday (hail-like snow) had drifted on into Friday and the southerly wind was still blowing rather strong down at the coast where I’d made plans to take some shots on this morning.

I started at Island Bay near the boat launching ramp (at least I think that’s what it is – feel free to correct me if you know better!) down in the sand, trying to get some long exposure shots with the waves breaking over the concrete.  The very nature of the structure meant that the water was whooshing straight up the middle and fanning water out on either side, a recipe for wet feet if I was not on my toes. Not only that but right behind me, back up on the road, a front loader was trying to clear the copious amounts of sand from the road that had blown up from the beach over the past few days of wild southerly winds and I could just imagine that as it got down closer to me I could easily end up under a pile of sand as it was dumped over the wall back onto the beach. So this spot was short-lived and I gave up after about three shots – which were rather good ones in spite of the precarious location.

I headed further round the bay to capture the island of Island Bay side-on, all was going well until one of the many showers threatening all round started to shed itself on me and the camera. So that was the end of that location too!

So I made my way further along the South Coast past Houghton Bay and stopped in at Princess Bay since I could see a lovely pink glow looking back towards Island Bay. This is the first time I’ve ever been down to Princess Bay and I was rather hoping I might catch sight of a little blue penguin but I was the only (animal or otherwise) one there. This was a pretty good location all things considered, and I got some lovely shots with the pink glow in the sky that I wanted, but then I could see behind me that the clouds were getting lit up by the sun and chose to head down the other end of the Taputeranga marine reserve.



It might have been a magic location for shots, but the horizontal sea spray/rain showers were trying their best to put the kybosh on getting any shots. I’ll show you I thought, tugging hubby’s brolly with me, and shielding the camera with my body (in puffer jacket) and the brolly overhead. I managed two quite decent shots before I slightly adjusted my position, and the umbrella caught the wind and that was the end of that. It blew inside out, and about half of the spokes popped.

So here I was, camera stuffed down my jacket to protect it from the rain, tripod in one hand and inside out brolly threatening to take me away like Mary Poppins in the other. The fact that I had only one hand against the full force of the wind to try and manoeuvre the umbrella back down again meant I was fighting a losing battle and I lost even more spokes to the wind. I must have looked a right sight, not that there was anyone else crazy enough to be out to see it.

Eventually (with a silent apology to hubby for wrecking the umbrella) I managed to get back to the car and safely stow the equipment inside. Time to get out of here I thought.

I headed back around the bays to the side-on location I’d been at earlier and lo and behold the sun decided to make an appearance. I’m not sure who was crazier – the weather or me for trying to beat it at its own game.  Either way, I still think that the shots I got were sufficiently good to compensate for nearly getting blown over, feet wet, and wet through, although I’ll leave that to you all to decide if that was the case!

The next afternoon, we took a family walk along the same coastline to Red Rocks to visit the seal colony and it couldn’t have been a more different day. That’s the beauty of living in Wellington for you!


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