Two weeks after returning from Hawaii, I met my meetup group for a walk to Wellington’s famous Red Rocks, an area on the coast where people flock to in order to see the seals. While cruising through Milford Sound on New Zealand’s south island, I had caught a glimpse of some seals from a distance, but I had never witnessed the creatures up close. I couldn’t wait.
After a visit to my barista to reenergise with caffeine, I caught an Uber to the start of the Tip Track. I had no idea why it was called that until I arrived: it was right next to the garbage dump, situated on the appropriately named ‘Landfill Road’. This is the most beautiful dump I’ve ever seen, I thought. Far prettier than the putrid-smelling, seagull infested dump back in Adelaide. I chuckled at the thought of hiking around the dump in the western suburbs of Adelaide. Gross.
By 11:00am, the entire group had arrived. I warmly embraced the familiar faces and introduced myself to the new, foreign faces. Eleven members in total, we set off.
Standing at the beginning of the track, I looked into the distance at where we would be walking to. All I could see were the high hills above us; not the easy hike I was expecting. We walked up, up up. After only a couple of minutes, I felt my breath catching as my lungs forcefully sucked in oxygen while I fought to tell my friend the details of my Hawaiian holiday. I knew the hike was going to be long, but I didn’t expect it to be this steep.
When we finally got to the top of the hills, George checked her phone to see how far we had walked: six kilometres.
Bullshit! I don’t believe that. Six kilometres?!
I checked my phone; it read the same. No wonder the group was struggling.
At the top we faced a new challenge: the strong Wellington winds. We stopped for a drink and a snack, but were forced to ground ourselves for balance in our best effort to stay on two feet. Not an ideal spot to relax, we kept on.
Walking on top of the hills was a beautiful scene: lush green hill faces surrounded us as the bright blue ocean stretched out in the distance. We walked along the top, down into the valley and crossed two creeks before we finally hit the beach, fifteen kilometres later.
On the beach we saw a sign that pointed to where the seals would be and headed in that direction. My new friend and I lagged behind the others, taking in the ocean’s waves and rocky coastline while learning about each other. After crossing the beach, we walked up a small hill and my eyes wandered towards the rest of our group as I listened to her voice.
Suddenly, I let out a scream, stopping my friend in her tracks.
Oh my god! Oh my god! Look!
I pointed to where our friends stood. In front of them a huge seal lay on a rock, rolling, scratching, baking.
Grinning, we ran down to the shore and started climbing onto the rocks to get a closer look.
“Cheriyse, you should be careful not to get too close because they are actually really fast”, my friend warned me.
Panicking, I stepped backwards and found a rock a safe distance away. Feeling more relaxed, I watched, smiling. The seal looked like he had an easy life.
Twenty-minutes later, we decided to walk back along the beach to where we began, taking our tired legs home to rest.