We had visitors this week - two of our UK friends have been in NZ for a couple of weeks travelling round and they arrived in Wellington on Sunday night, flying in in one of the autumn's first gales (it was apparently a bit of a heavy landing...). They were staying with another friend up in Upper Hutt, but I booked myself a day and a half off work (unfortunately I had meetings on the Monday morning) and met up with them for a bit of sightseeing. It was bitterly cold, and we almost got blown away up on the look out, so, once they had had a look around, we decided that an indoor venue would be a little bit nicer, and we headed down to Te Papa for a couple of hours (which I'm now getting to know quite well! There is still something new each time we go, though, so it doesn't ever get boring - this time, we visited an exhibition of the photographer Brian Brake). Then, a quick trip up the Cable Car to the Botanical Gardens (some plants still in bloom, even this late in the year), and it was time to head back to the Hutt for some supper. We visited one of our local Indians, Little India, and had a very pleasant evening.
The weather was better on the Tuesday (still windy, but there was no ice in it), and so we headed round to Owhira Bay, south of Wellington itself, where the map said there was a seal colony where the seals spend the winter months. We parked up, and began walking - there was a track which could be driven on, but only for four wheel drives and motor bikes (we saw a couple of each, but we were able to share the path easily).
The air was very clear from the Bay, and we could even see South Island and the snow on top of the mountains.
The wildlife was out in force, with cormorants sunning themselves between fishing dives.
The tide was going out, and had left behind this beatiful starfish. It was still damp underneath, so I got the bottoms of my jeans wet and put it back in the surf - I couldn't leave it for the seagulls!
Even though the wind had dropped slightly, the waves were still crashing on the rocks - this wasn't a place for going surfing!
We headed on round the bay, and came across a Seal Watching tour coming round the bend the other way. They told us that there were a number of seals very close by, and, indeed, when we rounded the bend, we nearly walked right over one pretending to be a piece of driftwood
and another lying in the middle of the pathway at the very aptly named "Devil's Gate." The signs up told us that we had to stay further back than 20 m, and not to get between the seals and the sea. Fortunately, this one was very much enjoying his doze and barely blinked as we walked between it and the side of the cliff (we left it its escape route to the sea, just in case!)
The sea was still whipping round the rocks when we crested the hill through the "Gate"
and when we looked down, we spotted a number of seals below.
This one was very much enjoying his snooze in the sun, so much so that he really didn't mind me getting in close for this shot.
Then, as we were watching, another seal came out of the surf onto the rocks in front of us.
We were also very lucky to spot this Little Kingfisher who was very interested in us as we passed.
The seals certainly weren't phased by us at all - one distinctly appeared to be posing!
As we turned to head back, a yacht appeared sailing round the bay.
I am sure it was far calmer sailing further out from the rocks!
It was a glorious walk in the late autumn sunshine, and a place that I definitely want to visit again.