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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Red Rocks

Yesterday I finally had the chance to get out and take one of the many scenic walks around Wellington. Welly is a harbor city and it sits at the southern end of the harbor, facing north. Steep hills surround it on its southern and western edges, and to the east it is connected to a peninsula known as Miramar (Spanish for "sea view", and incidentally home to most of Peter Jackson's studios). It is also quite windy here, so the combination of that, the average annual temperature and the hilly terrain serve to give Welly one of its nicknames, "Mini-San Francisco".

One of the many cool things about New Zealand (and I really don't mean to gush about it all the time, but it is difficult not to) is that you can be in a large cultural center like Wellington and in five minutes' drive be on a seemingly remote stretch of beautiful coastline. I am reminded of a similar experience in Christchurch, when I drove over some hills leading out of the city and saw Sumner and Brighton nestled on the shore.

I had this sensation again yesterday when I made the drive south out of Welly, along Owhiro Road. An involuntary smile flashed across my lips as I glimpsed the ocean (well, Cook Strait to be specific) for the first time as I got close to the trailhead for the Red Rocks hike. There are several spots to stop and park your car, and I noticed that many people chose to drive out here and have their lunch as I was here on a workday but had the day off.

Before I forget to post it altogether, here is a link to some new pictures from my walk yesterday, along with a couple of other random photos I had on the camera:

Red Rocks

Once again, I've succeeded in posting the photos in reverse order, so just indulge me a little bit and maybe next time I'll master the art of posting of pictures to Photobucket.

The weather was perfect for this walk, as I had planned to take it the day before but in a typical display of Wellington weather, the sky became dark and then rainy in a little less than half an hour. This day, there was hardly a cloud in sight so I decided to go for it.

In one of the pictures I took you can see several 'baches' (pronounced 'baches'). These are the Kiwis' version of summer homes or just getaways in general. They usually belong to those with a little money, or those with a longstanding family tradition. Unfortunately, they are apparently becoming a thing of the past as some bach owners are giving way to - dare I say the 'D' word - developers. Baches are great because they are each so individual and seem to compliment a picturesque location like the Red Rocks trail, rather than to subjugate it and all but obliterate it, as those hulking, excessive hotels are wont to do.

I sincerely hope the Kiwis don't allow too much of this development thing to go on, but I'm trying not to be cynical about it. So far, it seems the baches as well as the undisturbed stretches of natural beauty here in New Zealand are remaining mostly undisturbed.

But enough about that. I wanted to hike as much of the trail as I could, and one pleasant surprise was the presence of a large colony of seals towards the end of my hike. I hadn't expected to see them, partly because I had such bad luck finding them on the Southern Scenic Route. Yet there they were, right at the end of 'haulout' season, wherein they haul themselves out of the water to sunbathe on the rocks. My background in biology fails me at the moment as to why they do this, but I guess all that swimming and catching fish must really take it out of them! Watching them, I was reminded of their equally indolent cousins that I had encountered on my cruise of Doubtful Sound.

I made sure to heed the warnings posted on the sign nearby, telling me not to come between the seals and the water. That would have been rather difficult, even had I wanted to somehow tempt fate like that! At first I didn't even notice the seals, as their near-motionlessness and fur color provided excellent camouflage amongst the rocks. But then I heard a sort of barking cough as I was walking and I turned to see if someone was coming up behind me, and that's when I saw the seals.

At one point, the Bluebridge ferry sailed by, making one of its many trips across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton. I got an odd sort of satisfaction as I watched the boat cruise past. I realized this was because I wasn't on it for a change. Instead here I was, standing on the rocky shores of my new home, at last settled in to where I wanted to be.


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