Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sutton Salt Lake

It was my birthday yesterday.  We had plans to go up to North Otago to a winery that is kid friendly, but found out the day before that it was closed for the Christmas holidays.  I woke up on my birthday and was greeted with breakfast in bed!  So nice!  And my husband had given me a picnic basket full of yummy picnic items.  The weather was looking fine outside... now, what to do?

Then, i remembered, i had been wanting to go to the salt lake that is near Middlemarch.  What is it?  Lake Sutton is the only saline lake in New Zealand, located in the arid region of central otago.  It is recharged by rainfall only and when full is only about a meter deep.  The salinity is from marine aerosols carried in rainwater from the coast about 50 km away.  The aerosols are forced into the air by wave action and carried in and deposited in the lake.  The lake does not always have water in it b/c it evaporates regularly due to the frequent exposure to wind.  The filling and evaporation over time has created a build up of marine aerosols in the lake bed, which causes the salinity when filled.  The saline environment means that a unique ecosystem has been created in the middle of an arid desert region.

So, we took off to the track, no idea what to expect we just knew it was a 4km loop that should take about an hour to walk (much longer if you go with a 4 year old who doesn't like to walk, but rather climb up on every rock).  The drive from Dunedin to Middlemarch takes about an hour and you get to drive through this amazing weathered schist landscape with orange/yellow tussock.  The parking lot was through an alfalfa field that were up to our car windows.  And low and behold, the track to the lake was through the amazing rock landscape!  The track was very easy and flat and perfect for active children who like to climb on rocks!

We got to the lake and it didn't have any water in it, but it was still cool.  We had an amazing picnic upwind of the lake (b/c it smelt like death down wind) and Bodie really enjoyed jumping/climbing on the back of the sleeping dragons (i mean rocks) and hiding from the Orcs (Lord of the Rings stuff).

Great place to go with kids b/c it is an easy walk and the scenery is so amazing!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sea lion chase!

We went out to Allan's beach on this beautiful sunny day with light north-easterlies.  Stunning day on the beach.  The beach is known to have sea lions on it.  We got out there and there were two!  Normally they are up in the sand dunes and you can barely see them.  This time, they were down by the sea.  So we went out and sat about 20 m from one and just watched it while we ate our popcorn and Bodie made sand angels.  I noticed the sea lion we were near starting to move so i stood up to start taking pictures.

As i was taking pictures i hear someone yelling "Excuse me, Excuse me", i turn my head and i see them frantically pointing at something behind me.  I turn around and there is the biggest bull sea lion i have ever seen charging right at us.  

I about crapped my pants!  He was HUGE!  And came out of no where!  So, I turn to tell Simon (who was laying on the sand) to look out behind him but he had already turned b/c he felt the vibrations in the sand.  We realize he wasn't coming after us, he was coming after the sea lion we were photographing, we just happened to be in his path.  So, we quickly picked up our stuff and moved, while he just ran on by us and chased the sea lion into the dunes.  Then he continued running down the beach.

And he finally reached the second sea lion and chased this one into the sea.

At last he ran down the entire beach until the last sea lion was in sight.  I thought he was going to chase this one away too, but it must of been his mate.  Because this one didn't move until he was right over her and they had a romantic moment before heading off into the sea together (but they had to chase a dog off the beach first!)

Coolest wildlife experience ever!