We have a flair, it would appear, for reaching southernmost points. Today we drove to Cape Palliser for almost no other reason than it was in a corner we could easily reach - my travel strategy is the same as my tooth brushing technique. We were expecting to find a lighthouse, and a seal colony there. Or would that be a seal dominion now? Or a constitutional monarchy of seals, perhaps? In any case, we found ourselves traveling a one-way road, that finished in Cape Palliser itself and frayed quite a bit towards the end. The road seemed far too close, and at too similar a height, to the waves of Cook Strait which thrashed menacingly on one side with high mountains just a hundred meters inland of us. One big wave would have sorted us out. But we made it to the Cape, and we could see the lighthouse alright (it wouldn't be much of a lighthouse if we couldn't, now would it) but there wasn't a seal in sight.
This was supposed to be one of NZ's largest colonies. I thought we'd be deafened with the noise of barking (and the odd rendition of Crazy). But when we stepped from the car, and began to walk along the verge that separated the barren soil from the stony beach, there was nothing but the wind and the waves pushing back at us, asking us what the hell we wanted anyway.
Good question, actually. A seal, perhaps? We had driven for 2 hours to get here so a New Zealand fur seal would be nice. We've seen one or two before, but we we don't have any back home so we're not ready turn up our noses at them quite yet. We looked out upon the stones and the waves, and implored the Maori spirit of the sea to reward us for our trip but all he did was blow Letizia's beanie off (yes - that beanie) and along the beach. We gave chase and eventually caught the beanie just before it was lost to us forever. Incredibly (in the sense that it sounds made up, and probably is) the flyaway headwear led us to a treasure, a collection of paua shells just lying there on the grass, unclaimed. We had already paid 12 bucks a pop for a lot of these mother-of-pearl shells back in Christchurch, so we obviously took a few as, er, consolation for the missing seals.
As we started to make our way back to the car, Letizia managed to hear the call of nature over the noise of the wind and waves, and made her way towards the nearest bit of scrub at the edge of the shore. The girls and I prepared ourselves for a wait, but we needn't have bothered. Letizia had barely disappeared from view when suddenly, there she was again, running towards the car at a speed that was all the more impressive for the headwind she had to content with.
She had found the seals.