‘T was time to move on. Three nights in one place on a touring holiday? Ridiculous. We had to make tracks towards a reservation for an overnight cruise in Milford Sound boarding the coming Monday afternoon. To do that, we’d be averaging ~250kms a day for the next four days.
We left Kaiteriteri in good weather. The initial part of our journey to Westport-ish, on the west coast, took us on a minor road, perfectly good and sealed, actually brilliant, through a picturesque rural valley with swathes of bright yellow Broom covering many of its hillsides. IMHO, Broom is so much more attractive than Gorse, being a bright, clean yellow compared to the slightly dirtier yellow of Gorse. It’s not prickly either. Unfortunately, Broom has assumed the status of “invasive weed” here in New Zealand and is regarded rather as Rhododendron and Himalayan Balsam are in the UK. Our pretty Broom-infested road eventually joined State Highway 6 and, after a cappuccino at the café handily situated at the junction, we turned towards Westport.
The second half of the drive was through what could have been the attractive Buller valley. However, as we climbed up towards the col to begin the descent into the valley, the clouds climbed down to meet us halfway and the hilltops disappeared. A very wetting rain began to fall. “Bother!”, said Pooh, crossly, again.
There being little point in stopping anywhere, we continued to Westport. Actually, we continued to our campsite at Carter’s Beach 10kms west of Westport. As we approached the coast we left the miserable conditions behind in the mountains and both the weather and our mood brightened accordingly. We were booked in and chose our pitch.
About 5kms further west again is a seal colony, a natural attraction for us nature lovers. The seal colony is at the enticingly named Cape Foulwind. Which genius thought that one up? Whether Cape Foulwind is so named because of inclement weather or because of the aroma drifting off the seal colony remains unclear. In any event we parked and went investigating.
The “seals” in question are so-called New Zealand Fur Seals. Here, I have to repeat my little lesson on seals and sea lions. I say repeat because I had to recite it about the so-called Cape Fur Seals that we saw earlier this year in Namibia. In common with the Cape Fur Seals, these New Zealand Fur Seals are, in fact, sea lions – they have ear flaps and walk on their limbs. No matter, the vernacular/common name we’re stuck with is seal and I’ll have to live with it. This is low season on seal/seal lion colonies but I spotted half a dozen or so from the high observation platform. Neither the high angle of view nor the very harsh lighting (the sun was now out again) was really favourable for photography but I clicked, as one must.
The seal colony solved an avian mystery for me. Back at Anchorage after our coast path walk, we’d seen a brown, flightless, chicken-sized bird wandering about almost oblivious to humans. Here at the seal colony, we saw them again, several this time, wandering about in a similarly oblivious manner, though get closer than about 2 metres and they ran off. An information board identified our feathered friend as a Weka. In common with most native New Zealand birds, many of which lost the power of flight due to their having been no predators away from which to fly, Wekas are not doing well. The problem is that some idiot decided it would be a good idea to introduce the possum to New Zealand. Flightless birds tend to nest on the ground, possums love to eat birds’ eggs. Enough said. Mankind screws the ecosystem yet again. We have been seeing kill traps tucked amongst the trees on pretty much all our walks through various forests/woodland. Traffic also takes a toll on possums but it ain’t enough, a concerted effort is required.
Beside the seal/sea lion colony is an expansive beach. While I was communing with wildlife, Francine played a little game with the landscape available. Eventually she’d tried enough angles and came back to join me.
Heading back for the campsite, Francine spotted a lily pond that was accessible. The sun was still shining and it was warm, about 17°C. I spun around and we accessed it. The pond was relatively teaming with Odos. There were three species, I think, including the Common Redcoat damselfly again. Neither of the dragonflies seemed interested in resting very much, so we spent an interesting hour or so trying to catch them in flight. The light was not advantageous again, being very harsh and into our faces, but we managed a few possibly identifiable shots. One of them finally settled briefly near Francine; it looks like a Hawker of some description so probably Aeshna brevistyla but don’t quote me until I can get on the blasted Internet properly. Another looked different to anything we’ve seen hitherto so I’m pretty sure this will constitute two new species.
Good start to the day and a good end.