Top of the South

Day 13 – Two tired beings – on account of last nights storm, set off once the rain eased at nine ish for a three hour drive to Wharariki Beach Campsite at the top of the South Island.

We arrived to the wind blowing a hooli and a threatening sky, normal for here we were told. A quick lunch, cagoules packed – in case – we set off up and over hill pastures, a twenty minute scenic – when in New Zealand is it not – walk with grazing sheep and cows to the beach. The sun had put in an appearance, fleetingly.

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And …words almost fail me a beach like no other we had seen or wind we had experienced at the same time before, anywhere! High dunes lined our route to the receding sea, wind so strong whisking up the sand, sending it straight at us, our legs burning with the force of tiny sand particles spattering our bare skin.

The surface of the beach looked like a lunar landscape with the patterns created by the drifts of dry sand swirling against the damp. We walked backwards to alleviate the sting on our faces, leaning back in to the wind it was so strong as to support my full weight. Only once we reached the sea and walked along to huge rocks did we find some respite from the biting gales.

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Here in the calm we could fully open our eyes – once we had cleared them of grit – to take in the full beauty of this rugged and inhospitable place.

6pm Low tide – The wind had still calmed slightly, we desperately hoped to see the resident family of seals missed on our earlier visit. Taking a different route this time lower on the slopes, slightly more protected we made our way down and through thick forest, this time arriving at the opposite end of the beach.

We were totally unprepared for the sight before our eyes, and from our earlier visit had no idea of the true length of this extraordinary beach. Monstrous rocks towered from the sand all shapes and sizes, arches and caves hollowed out by the raging seas. The tide was completely out now and the sand was littered with these huge sculptures and shallow pools.

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The seal pups we found back at the far end in a deep pool where the wind at lunchtime had made walking and photography impossible. Four in total we watched from the rocks as some swam fast in circles jumping and rolling in the water, diving down, deeper invisible then to our gaze.

 

One arrived from behind a rock flopping across the surface in an ungainly awkward manner until it slid unceremoniously in the pool and became graceful and sleek through the cold water – kind of like me on a bad day!

We both agreed the trek back was well worth it to this diverse beach that has everything to offer in spades, the weather conditions actually made it all the more exciting.

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