Kaikoura and the Seals

Our next destination was Kaikoura on the Pacific coast of the south island. We’d heard wonderful things about Kaikoura and were looking forward to the visit. Since we had a limited amount of time, we wanted to take advantage of every moment. Kaikoura means food (kai) and crayfish (koura) in the Maori language. Ken and Mary at Coleraine B & B made us feel right at home. Ken was in the middle of harvesting honey from his beehives when we arrived. I did enjoy some at breakfast the following morning. YUMMY!!

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Once again, we were hosted by the kindest and most friendly people. Spending time with them was a delight. I highly recommend a visit to Coleraine B & B. The large room we stayed in was on the first floor with the cutest patio. Mary and Ken’s primary living area is on the second floor with an incredible view off their large balcony.

Kaikoura landscape

We headed to the Pier Hotel for dinner a bit early so we could enjoy the views while the storm rolled in.

Kaikoura Pier

Kaikoura Skyline

The waves were crashing against the shore and up on the road in places. It was spectacular.

The next morning we had breakfast with Ken and Mary and discussed our itinerary. The first activity was whale watching and then, on our way out of town to Blenheim, Ken suggested visiting the seals and in particular, the seal pups. Sounded like a great plan.

Except…once we arrived to board our boat for whale watching, the caution was up on the screen.

EXTREME SEA SICKNESS WARNING!!!!

It’s me…not you. I have motion sickness issues and have been known to feed the fishes more than once. We waited to see if conditions would improve. NOT. So, reluctantly, we decided to cancel our boat trip. I was really disappointed. Delia was very understanding.

So, it was off to see the seals. Since we headed out earlier than planned, we had plenty of extra time. I’m so glad. It was another incredible New Zealand experience. We saw the seals off the shoreline and then moved further up the highway to Ohau Stream and the seal pups that swim in the pools while moms are relaxing near the ocean. Amazing!!

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I was able to sit just off the path and above the seals. Visitors are very respectful and keep their distance while the pups play.


The waterfall is not much further up the trail and I understand that pool can be filled with seals, but today there were only two and they quickly left the water to head back down the hill. Still, it’s a beautiful area and I’m glad we were able to see it. This little guy must have played hard. We found him resting on the rocks in the middle of a dense forest.

Seal pups of Ohau

Experiences like this are just one of the many reasons I travel. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity and wonderful hosts who make sure I stop to smell the roses, or pause to appreciate the antics of baby seals. Thanks Ken and Mary!

Sydney Edition – Part Two

Sydney Rain

It was pouring rain in Sydney when we set out before sunrise. Raincoats, an umbrella and a bright yellow waterproof cover for the camera bag were the fashion statements for the day. As we stood on the train platform, I looked around at business men and women with their shirts plastered to their backs. They looked miserable and I felt bad for them. We were dry for now, except for our jeans and shoes. We’d woken to an alarm in order to meet the driver and mini-bus for our tour to the Blue Mountains with a number of stops along the way.

Our driver Steve warned us that the views and activities could be a bit of a challenge under the circumstances, but we were up for about anything.

So, what was on the anything list?

Red necked pademelons at the Featherdale Wildlife Park.

Red necked Pademelon

Pickles, the spotted python. (Remember it was pouring, so my hair was in pretty bad shape. Still, Pickles looked amazing. And, I’m actually holding a snake with a smile on my face, so I should get extra style points.)

spotted python

And…wait for it…

Delia and I holding Reuben’s bum.

koala

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When I was a little girl, one of our family friends gave my sisters and I stuffed toy koalas. I’ve loved them ever since, so this was one of the highlights of a wonderful day. They were beautiful.

Sydney koala

People were able to feed some of the animals including the kangaroos with some kind of grass or hay in an ice cream cone. I’m not sure what kind of kangaroo this is. They apparently come in all sizes including as tall as I am.

kangaroo

Next up? Learning about the boomerang. Steve asked if anyone wanted to try it. After nobody immediately spoke up, I raised my hand. There’s something about travel that inspires me to try as many new things as possible. It’s not thrown like a frisbee. Steve stressed the point since he’s had Americans throw them that way resulting in broken boomerangs. It’s thrown at one o’clock if you consider twelve o’clock is straight up. Then a flick of the wrist and off it goes. It took me about four tries before it finally made the return curve. Not quite all the way, but pretty close.

boomerang

Then we hiked the Leura Cascades in the Blue Mountains. It was still raining but incredibly beautiful. We were rushed, so I wasn’t able to really set up for photos, but I caught what I could. This is one place I’d love to revisit someday.

Leura Cascades

All this, and we hadn’t even stopped for lunch yet. A fantastic morning in Australia.

Sharing Incredible Moments

Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take,
but by the moments that take your breath away.  

Unknown Author

We were up early and after a quick snack at Little Vumbura, we took a short boat ride and then climbed into our vehicle for an early morning safari. Just a few miles down the road, our guide gestured toward the ground and pointed out lion tracks. My heart began to beat a little faster. I checked my camera once again just to make sure everything was in order.

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A few hours later, we were still looking. We had seen so many incredible things, but none of the elusive cats. Chief, our guide, looked at his watch and suggested it was time to go back to camp for brunch.

AfricaImpala

 “Can we try a little longer, please? We didn’t come here to eat, we came to see wildlife.”

I’m not quite sure who said it, but everyone nodded their agreement. Chief just smiled and kept driving. Around the next curve was a herd of Cape Buffalo, one of them with a fresh wound on its’ hindquarters. We were close. Let me just say, Cape Buffalo are huge and incredibly intimidating. I could have watched them for hours, but we had lions waiting for us.

Cape Buffalo

A few turns later, and there they were. A pride of nine lions sleeping in the road. One of the females lifted her head briefly as we came around the corner, looked at us and went back to sleep. Talk about a moment that took my breath away…they were magnificent and we were within twenty feet of them.  It’s a moment I will never forget.

Lions

That was ten years ago and I still clearly remember the feeling of disbelief and gratitude that I was in Botswana, on a warm African morning, watching lions sleep.

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I have plenty of pictures and I have described that moment to people in my life. It doesn’t matter how detailed I am with my words or how many photos I share, none of them can imagine the magic of that moment. Someday soon, I’m going to take my sisters and my son to Africa. Instead of trying to describe the indescribable, I’ll going to enjoy watching them experience the moment for themselves. It’s something so special that I need to share it with them.

What moment in your life has taken your breath away? If you could, who would you share it with?

Day Seven- Tundra Lodge

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This is the view of the Hudson bay from the shore. Ice is beginning to form along the shoreline.

This post was written on October 29th on the Tundra Lodge.

One more sleepover and we’re done. This was our last day out on the Polar Rover. Everyone went for the longer ride today except 5-6 people. They stayed behind hoping for some action at the lodge. I think they were concerned about having so many people on the rover. It was a bit more crowded, but everyone was very accommodating as far as getting photos.

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We saw a number of bears. The first one walked toward us. I managed to get out the back on the deck early and had a great photo.

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This was an early morning photo with the bear walking toward the Tundra Lodge where we stayed.

The next bear actually walked under the grate of the back deck area. He looked up and smelled our boots. He was so close, I had to use the little camera to get a photo. I couldn’t see what I was getting, but I kept taking pictures. It’s amazing how big he was. I don’t think I’ll ever be closer to a live polar bear then at that moment. I could hear him breathe. Unbelievable!!

We saw a couple bears sparring, then laying down together and eating kelp, then the cycle would begin again. I think it was a quiet day for bears so more rovers pulled up and the bears finally walked away. I’d seen a couple at a location at a time, but this was a little frustrating. There’s quite a bit of ice now, a lot more than when we came. You’d think with all the snow we’ve had over the last few days that we’d be knee deep. But, the snow keeps blowing. There was little wind today and that was really nice.

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I had an error show on my camera while I was taking photos of the sparring. I thought the battery had gotten cold, so I replaced it. Luckily the camera continued working. A bit later, it just quit. I tried everything I knew to do. It appears it has to go in for professional service per the error code 40. At least it waited until the trip was about over. The only thing left where I would have loved to have the big camera was the helicopter ride. At least I have the little one. I’m so glad I brought it.

As we sat at dinner, two bears sparred outside the window. Then, the kitchen bear that sleeps out back woke up and we had a chance to wish him goodbye. He’s scarred and, according to Annie, about 14-15 years old. He still will chase off the other bears, but he likes to conserve his energy. He’s beautiful!!

It was a good day. I had a chance to really talk to Bonnie about photography and her experience with the professionals coming through. She’s met some of the really famous photographers who have published photo books. It was an interesting conversation. She’s also a wonderful person. I think we lucked out. All the people, staff and travelers alike, have been fantastic.

We are up very early tomorrow. Luggage has to be out by 6:15am and breakfast is served at 6:30. Our helicopter flight is at 8:45 for an hour and then we have to be to lunch by 12:30. So, we have limited time to shop. Probably a good thing. So, off to bed.