Jared Ning


The Fellowship of the Ring of Fire, Part 6: Kaikoura seals


Other than the whales, we had heard that there was a colony of seals a good walk down the road. We walked for about 40 minutes until we reached what we thought was where the seals were supposed to be. I stopped to ask a man for more direction. It turns out he worked for the department of conservation, so he knew exactly where we were supposed to go. He pointed and told us to walk another 15 minutes. We began to walk. He came back to us and told us he was on his way to do some work near where we were going so he would give us a ride.

His name is Brett. He is a native. I don't mean that he's a kiwi, I mean that he is Maori, the native natives of New Zealand. He lived the city life for a while, but wanted to give back to the community while still staying in touch with his Mauldi (not sure on spelling but it's pronounced "moldy") culture. So now he's working for the department of conservation.

On the ride there, he told us about a really neat place we should go see some seals. But we were on a schedule and also had no car to get there. Being the nice man he was, he offered to take us there after he had finished his work. So he dropped us off and went to do his business.

We saw some seals out on the rocky shore. There were even some in the parking lot, on the boardwalk, and under the trees in the lot. I absolutely love being among wild animals, even if they have to come to ours rather than me going to theirs. Brett came back with his truck and trailer. This time his trailer had a dead seal. The task he had was to pick up a seal that had died from old age and dispose of it.

On the way to what he called a "once in a lifetime" seal site, he spotted a seal on the wrong side of the road. We got out, Brett got a pair of gloves and clapped them together as if they were flippers. His goal was to annoy the seal in the direction that would get him on the other side of the road, back on the shore and away from traffic. It worked, but the seal spit on him. Ungrateful.

About a 15 minute drive around the mountains, we arrived at a little break in the mountains where there was a stream that emptied into the ocean behind us. Along the stream, we saw seal pups trying to get upstream. It was shallow so they had to basically climb over rocks. But what we saw made us realize that the seemingly painful path to get to the end was definitely worth it. Apparently this is THE place for grown seal pups to play. At the end of the stream was a small waterfall and pool where at least a hundred seal pups were having the time of their lives. You'll just have to watch the video.

It was time to catch our bus. We had mentioned earlier that we wanted to try the crayfish but it was too expensive. Brett said he had some fishermen friends that kept giving him seafood, but he doesn't like seafood. And he was outraged how expensive it was to buy in a restaurant. So he said he would give us one. Sure enough, he took us to his home, ran inside, and came out with a whole frozen crayfish. Later that night we put it in boiling water for a while, cracked it open, and ate it with our fingers. Someone at the hostel had just finished using a package of butter and gave it to us too.

Just before catching our bus, we had a few minutes to kill, so we treated Brett to a lunch. We exchanged contact information, thanked him as much as we could, and said goodbye, but the Maori way. The Maori greet each other by "sharing the breath of life". This is done by closing your eyes, and gently touching foreheads. Stephanie was fast enough to capture our fond farewell on film.