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!

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