Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
Following my "cool" adventures at Franz Josef Glacier, I found myself in a remote area of South West New Zealand, in a real-life, Kiwi-version of Fawlty Towers complete with a Basil, Sybil and Polly. I mean this in the most endearing way. (If you have not seen Fawlty Towers, then you are missing out!)
Let me set the stage: I was headed to Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, thinking that this would be one of those luxury lodges highly-concentrated with visitors looking to “rough it” (but only a little bit).
As it turns out, on the contrary, the name is exactly what it implies: a Lodge on a Lake in the middle of South West New Zealand wilderness, with 5 guests including myself. Now does the Fawlty Towers reference make sense?
It's so remote that:
The Lodge didn’t show up in Apple Maps. (“Just head South down State Highway 6,” I was instructed via confirmation.)
I was given a "ration" of 100MB of Internet delivered via Satellite from Malaysia. (Trust me, 100MB doesn't get you far!)
Electricity isn’t serviced here. They generate their own power using water. (Badass.)
Nature & I for the weekend.
After the initial shock of realizing that it was just Nature & I for the weekend, I thought it'd be great to disconnect for a while. I got to read. Kayak on the lake. Watch a pair of black swans. The lodge owner Anne made me a fire and brought me tea while I read. (Ok, it may not be luxury accommodations, but it was definitely luxury service!)
I had to do something while I was there, after all I was in the remote wilderness with two brilliant lodge owners who were environmental scientists and seasoned guides. So I blindly signed up for the Coastal Walk. “Signature Walk,” the description said, complete with birdwatching, plant education, seal sightings. I had been desensitized to the American way of marketing ‘trips’ and excursions -- and figured I’d probably see seals from afar and if I got lucky, maybe a bird sighting. But still, a 4-hour nature hike...I like to hike! Sign me up.
We found a Koru - which is the ‘beginning’ of the Fern Plant. This wikipedia entry on Koru sums up well the significance of this to the Maori culture:
The koru (Māori for "loop") is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace. It is an integral symbol in Māori art, carving and tattoos. The circular shape of the koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin.
I am also drawn to it because of its spiral characteristics which reminds me of the cochlea, the snail-shaped, pea-sized sensory organ in our inner ear.
Hello, Tasman Sea!
Ok I was not prepared for this. We exited the forest to a stunning vista of the Tasman Sea, flanked by two big craggy boulders. The sand was actually gravel -- lots of smooth, smooth rocks. I started to pick up every single smooth rock I could find. Then after 5 minutes, my pockets were full and I realized there were those same rocks for as far as the eye could see. I should probably stop and pay attention to what Garry is saying about the beach.
The blues! The greens!
I kept looking at the scenery, not wanting to move on, but Garry signaled me to pick up the pace. I wanted to commit this view to memory, not realizing that even better stuff was on the horizon. (No pun intended.)
We make our way around the craggy boulder, to this. GAH! Right?
We find shells! More spiral-shaped things! (Remember my attraction for things that remind me of a cochlea?)
Then we see a starfish, too!
Seals on the Horizon
We turn around the rocky cove, and Garry points to me some seals on the horizon. (See, I told you so, we “see” seals from afar.)
“Nice! That’s cool.,” I politely respond.
Garry says, “Their teeth are so big. Wait ‘til we get up there.”
I respond, “Wait, what?”
“Yep. We’re walking up to the colony.”
Along the way, we come to the waterfall! Ok, this wasn’t just a waterfall. You see - just 20m past the waterfall, through the gravel, out streams ultra-filtered water. Garry hands us cups and we drink the water. If there’s such a possibility, then that was the best tasting water I’d ever had. Cool and refreshing.
"Let's be One Big Blob."
Garry instructs us to leave our packs, bring our cameras, and travel as a tightly packed “group” so that the seals see one “blob” of people, not multiple blobs. He warns us that the Seals have big teeth and will bite if provoked or angry. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous about being this close to the seals.
We approach the seals and they're YUUUUUUUGE. The body is BIG. I’d say 5-feet long. There are 8 of them on the beach. A few start to scurry to the water when we arrive. So we got to see them waddle. It was cute.
We woke this one up from his nap, he was pissed tho.
It's a wrap!
We basically hang out for 15-minutes to watch the Seals and they got used to us and started coming back on the beach. The Coastal Walk is pretty much over at this point -- now I know why it’s the “Signature” Coastal Walk -- it sure lives up to its name!
On the way back to the Lodge, Garry pulls off to an overlook -- and we look down to our left, and it’s the very place we were. I definitely felt a great sense of appreciation for having a personal guide take me on such an exclusive walk of this special, protected area of the South West wilderness. Thank you Garry!
Stars & Gloworms
That evening, Garry took us out to look at the stars. Unbelievable. I learned a ton on this -- for one thing, my friend Brooks’ husband can do celestial navigation on a sailboat. I’d always been fascinated by this, but couldn’t quite grasp how that works. I got one inkling of understanding on this, as Gary explained how people would navigate using the Southern Cross, and two stars beneath it:
Imagine a line connecting the Pointers. Midway along this line, extend another line at a right angle to it, until it meets another line drawn down the long axis of the Southern Cross. The meeting place is the approximate location of the South Celestial Pole. Locate south by dropping a vertical line from here to the horizon. Source
We also found lots of glow-worms. I didn’t take pictures, but here’s a picture of them to give you an idea of what we saw on the walk.
The next morning. Oh, what a morning! Not a cloud in the sky. “Harry” the White Heron was on the lake and I watched him as I ate breakfast. Thanks to not having Internet, I was forced to just eat my breakfast and “look” out.
I took the Kayak back out after breakfast to get up closer to see Harry. I might’ve startled him a bit, but he only went to the next rock. Out of that, I got to see him fly!