Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kaikoura. Beach, Seals and More Sheep


Oh.  My.  God.

No matter how much I’ve been trying to teach my daughters that “Ohmigod!” is not a term to be thrown around lightly – it just has to come out about Kaikoura.  

It’s the only place in the world where snow-capped mountains approach the ocean so closely. 

If Switzerland and Hawaii had a love child that they raised British – it would be New Zealand.  And this is super-apparent in Kaikoura.  Where else am I going to find a photo of palm trees with snow in the background?

Tropical Vegetation by Snow-Capped Mountains
More Kaikoura
Kaikoura is a whaling town.  Your main options for entertainment are:  whale watching cruises, whale watching helicopters, whale diving or whale watching flights.  Short of eating whales, there’s not much more you could do with them than what you could find in Kaikoura.  There’s also dolphin swimming, seal swimming and an albatross encounter if you are interested.

We skipped all of it.  We might, someday, regret this (like immediately after we talked to the medical student from Dallas who saw sperm whales and pods of close to 100 dolphins on her excursion), but we only had one afternoon.  And we had gone whale watching last summer.  So, we opted for the seal colony and the Kaikoura track.  (A track is a hike, for those of us in the United States.)

And we saw LOTS of seals.  And we had a great walk.

Anna and I walking on the hills of the Kaikoura Peninsula

A seal on the beach (yes, I could get close enough to take this photo.)

Another seal at the Kaikoura seal colony
Then, we had the perfect timing to get a necessary New Zealand experience – a sheep shearing demonstration.  We learned a lot about sheep.  For example, 20 years ago, there were more than 8 million sheep being raised in New Zealand.  Today, there are 3 million.  We also learned that the world record for sheep shearing was held by someone who sheared sheep at a rate of approximately 37 seconds per sheep for an entire 8 hour workday.  That is approximately 775 sheep in one work day!  We also felt lanolin, and both girls got to feed “Mr. Ram Man” – the sheep who is part of the demonstration.  Anna clearly liked it better than Sarah.

We missed the baby lambs by about 10 days, but we did see some very pregnant sheep.  (And I just thought they were fat.  But I know better than to ask any woman – even a sheep – if she’s pregnant before you see the baby exiting her body.)

Three pregnant sheep - and I thought it was just their wool!

Beware, the sheep are looking at you.

Anna feeding Ram Man.

Sarah feeding Ram Man.  (We really didn't force her, she said she wanted to do it.)

After shearing

Then, we went for a walk on the beach in the town of Kaikoura.  It’s a fun beach, because it isn’t sandy.  It has a ton of river rocks.  And if you stand listening for the waves to go in and out, you not only hear the pounding of the waves as they go out, but the slight rattle of teeny, tiny pebbles as the waves pull them back down their small slopes on their way back the ocean.

End of day on Kaikoura beach
It was sad that we only had a day in Kaikoura, but once we left, we drove through the heart of the Marlboro wine region.
Marlboro wine country

And then we got to Nelson.  But Nelson is a whole ‘nother post in and of itself.  And tomorrow, we are going on a cruise into Abel Tasman National Park.  So, I must head off to bed in order to be ready for our 7:45 am pickup.

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