All in all, I didn’t spend an awful lot of time in New Zealand as part of my trip to the South Pacific. Many people will tell you (as they told me!) that a mere 16 days on both islands is basically a crime against…, well, … against what actually? Against New Zealand, I suppose.
My standard reply was that, (a) 2 weeks is still better than 0 weeks and that, (b) it was never my ambition to explore as much of NZ as possible. I always knew that my time there was limited, and I also knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see during my stay.
One of the highlights of my trip (partly even in unexpected ways) were the three days that I spent in and around the little town of Kaikoura in the first week of the new year. My main reason for including this spot on the east coast of South Island in my travel itinerary had been the albatrosses, of course. As you know, my expectation to see these magnificent seabirds was not the least bit disappointed… But I know now that Kaikoura and the peninsula of the same name have a lot more to offer than birds!
It’s a well-known fact that New Zealand is characterised by a lot of seismic activity, including frequent earthquakes. In November 2016 the region of Kaikoura was badly affected by a strong earthquake, in fact the second largest such event in NZ since European settlement of the country. As a result, the ground was uplifted by several metres in various places. This means that the landscape in the immediate surroundings of Kaikoura looks rather different now than it used to before November 2016, in that parts of the former bottom of the sea are now well above sea level.
Kaikoura itself is a little tourist town and not very remarkable in any way. But the surrounding landscapes are absolutely stunning! I was rather surprised when I made this discovery on a couple of walks around the peninsula. The landscape is very diverse, the ocean is beautiful as always, and the scenery is made even more dramatic by the backdrop of the impressive Kaikoura mountain range.
On my first day in town I wondered if it was really a good decision not to rent a car. The peninsula was larger than expected, and my photo equipment heavy as always… But in hindsight I would say that it was definitely a good thing to rely on walking and hitch-hiking – not least because it meant that I met some nice people.
The pictures I am presenting here are basically from two different walks on subsequent days. On the first day the sky was largely overcast and without any direct sunlight, but with the most spectacular sunset in the evening. I think the cloudy skies and subdues colours complement the interesting structures of the rock formations on the ground in a rather attractive manner.
But see for yourself!
My main reason for walking along the northern coastline of the peninsula right down to the tip was the colony of fur seals which can be found there. But taking many photos along the way, and all the while not walking very fast, both meant that I arrived there a little bit late in the day. There were a few seals, yes, but if was already rather dark and the light not good anymore. (I will present the seal photos in another article here).
What I did witness, however, was a marvellous sunset – even though the actual sun had already disappeared behind the nearest hill. But the sky was aflame all of a sudden in the most amazing colours!
Seeing a salmon-pink sky (and taking pictures of it) is one thing. Even better is the reflection of these stunning colours on the surface of ocean and rocks. Truly amazing!
All the hardship of carrying the heavy photo equipment around with me didn’t matter anymore…
So that was day 1 in Kaikoura.
The following day brought completely different weather conditions: it was very windy, the sky was bright, the sun shone as if there was no tomorrow, and the air was crystal clear. At first I thought that this was not ideal, but after a while I got used to the conditions.
This time I walked from the southern end of the peninsula towards the eastern tip and the seal colony.
The later the afternoon, the longer the shadows, the more beautiful the scenery. It’s as simple as that. No black magic involved!
Just like the day before, the walk took me a lot longer than expected, simply because there was so much to see and admire. At some point I had to acknowledge the fact that I wouldn’t be able to walk back the whole way in order to see the penguins return to shore at dusk…
This stretch of the path made me think of the Ukraine. Look at their national flag and you will understand why.
And so it happened that my second walk around Kaikoura peninsula ended in more or less the same spot as the first one. This time, however, I made sure not to be behind the bend and to miss the setting sun. There were rocks and seals and gulls, and it was a fantastic evening. And there was Will, a landscape photographer from the UK. He gave me a lift back to the town centre. And he takes great photos. He is now probably in Vietnam.
I am pretty certain that Kaikoura isn’t among the most impressive photo locations in New Zealand. But I, who had gone there primarily for the wildlife, was extremely impressed by the beauty and diversity of the place. (And I haven’t even shown you the fur seals yet…) I surely wouldn’t mind going there again one day!