Kaikoura weekend

Last weekend we went to Kaikoura, a small town on that peninsula that juts out into the pacific ocean. It seems a little funny to have such a tidy looking landscape of verdant fields and trimmed hedgerows next to the tall craggy mountains. Loads of farms, thousands of kilometers of fencing, zillions of sheep and millions of cows….but very few barns and even fewer grain crops. All the milk and the meat is grass fed by default.

We stayed in a hostel in Kaikoura. Nothing fancy, but it’s fun to hear where other people are from, chit-chatting in the living room after dinner, hovering around the wood stove (called a “log burner” here).

In the background are limestone bluffs, ancient sedimentary rocks formed under oceans that are getting pushed up by hard-to-fathom plate tectonics. We walked around the whole peninsula, picking up shells and chasing seagulls (Milo).

No, he’s not barking, he’s just yawning. Seals lounge around on the rocks like gigantic slugs. I really wanted to poke them to see if they felt firm or soft and to find out if they would move….but I’m a mom now, need to set a good example. And besides, all the posted signs said “No touching seals.”

I’m coming back here in the summer when the water is warmer, to wade in the tide pools and feel the dozens of different species of slimy seaweed. Jeremiah wants to come back to, with a wet suit and snorkel, to hunt for paua and lobster (called crayfish here).

The hills look haphazardly terraced from a distance, but it’s the animal paths that we’re seeing. The sheep and cattle walk across the face of the slopes instead of straight up and down, so their paths make ribbons on the grassy hills. Smart ruminants. Pastures cover the whole peninsula, right up to the bluffs.

That’s a pretty distinct snow line on these mountains, eh? They’re around 3000m high. I like seeing the shapes of the mountains in all the places we’ve just been (Hawaii, Alaska, Adirondacks, NZ), and thinking about the ancient geological history that made the bedrock that erodes in such drippy droopy patterns.

It’s strange to think how much humans have altered the landscape, then to realize that other grazing animals like sheep and cattle drastically change the earth’s surface too. I guess that’s just part of life on earth. Hard to figure out the idea of conservation, while at the same time we (or our animals) are using almost every square inch. But if humans aren’t using it, other animals are using it and changing it too. Maybe that’s all part of the cycle. Give it some time, the ocean will rise, and all this human impact on the land will be swallowed up.

Someday Milo will be embarrassed that he was sucking on his chewy, but it was easier than listening to his whining while he tried to fall asleep. He doesn’t seem to notice the views, even impressive ones like this, looking down from Mt Fyffe into the valley near Kaikoura.

Baby and Daddy, and they even match. Aw! There was a grassy clearing near the DOC hut on Mt Fyffe that Milo enjoyed.

These are the small mountains, around 2500 meters….the ones in the center of the island bump up another 1000 meters. They’re still growing at a fast (geologically speaking) pace of 1 cm/year. It’s strange to think of instruments being sensitive enough to measure that growth, because at the surface all I can see is erosion.

Yowzers, this is a fern! Susannah my friend and colleague at CCE picked out a NZ plant book and gave it to me before we left. She was so excited, flipping through the pages and pointing to exotic specimens. “They even have ferns the size of trees!” she gushed. She was right. Jeremiah wanted to cut it down to see what the inside looked like.

This looks to be the native “bush” that once clothed these mountains. The trees are rather like overgrown rhododendrons in size, and they all have shiny waxy leaves of some type. When it’s sunny it looks rather nice, but I’m glad I’m not bushwacking these steep slopes.

3 thoughts on “Kaikoura weekend

  1. Thanks Molly, that was a fun tour! You take awesome pictures-can’t wait til you can show us your new lands in person. p.s.-you need to make Jeremiah a hat like Milo’s so they’ll really match ;}

  2. you found the fern trees!! Loving the tour so far. I bet I’m seeing more of New Zealand than I would have if I took a trip there. You are amazing adventurers, I would have found a beach and stayed put…yes, even in winter! I loved that Jeremiah is going to hunt lobster too, always thinking of the local game!

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