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  • Day150

    Castlepoint Headland

    November 26, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Castlepoint is an often skipped destination. It's a long winding road from the highway as most people head for Wellington and the South Island. Mostly locals visit this area. For them it's the closest beach. But are we ever glad that several kiwi's had highly recommended making the side trip here. The scenery created by ocean waves carving out the limestone rocks is magnificent. A small parking lot allowed 12 vehicles to freedom camp in the dunes. Luckily we could nestle our minivan between several large RV's. We took a quick look around the lighthouse, overlooking the surrounding, before starting our evening routine. We'd save our main exploration until the following day. It was fun to watch locals take their cars, trucks and dirtbikes onto the hard sand of the beach and do donuts. Although we were happy when they stopped making such a ruckus!

    In the morning we did a short hike around the bay, making a steep climb onto a large headland. From here the view overlooked many bays in the distance. A local we met at the top had come back many times after her son had gotten married up there. The rocks are carved out from underneath, making the headland look like a large cresting wave! Many small but colourful flowers have made the salt sprayed rocks their habitat.

    On our way down from the headland, several people had told us that a seal was hanging out on the stairs. It was injured. It had one eye closed with scars and wasn't moving. We sat down a few steps higher up and wondered if we should get some help. It growled at us when we tried to get closer. As we saw more seals later during the trip, we learned that seals are just generally lazy. It was probably more disturbed by us interrupting her sunbathing than she was suffering from her injuries. In fact, she had climbed a long way up the stairs to find this sunny spot. We scrambled down in a big loop around where she lay and continued our stroll on the beach.

    There was a nice stroll around the lighthouse. It had some interpretive signs about the native flower species. And all over the headland, fossilized sea shells were sticking out of the exposed rocks.

    At low tide, a cave underneath the lighthouse was accessible. According to myths, a giant octopus lurked here! Not knowing what the tide was, Mats wanted to go look for the entrance. A few people were fishing along the rocks in the direction of the cave. Scrambling over the rocks, Mats slowly made his way along the shore. At one point, another seal was "guarding" the path. Mats tip-toed around her, trying not to disturb her sunbathing. Abruptly, the rocks ended in a channel that flowed back and forth with the waves. The channel led into the cave! Apparently the tide was not low. On the opposite side of the channel, a large male seal was "barking" loudly. Mats jumped into the channel, up to his waist and waded into the cave. Scrambling back onto the rocks, a female seal inside was startled and ran out to the sea. Mats quickly got out of her way. Looking deeper into the cave, an exit was visible on the other side. It was a tunnel carved underneath the lighthouse! With every wave hitting the ocean side, a large rumble echoed through the tunnel. Exciting! Unfortunately the water was too deep and rough to explore any further.
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