Up at Dawn!... Photos of the Lighthouse and Seal Colony at Cape Palliser, NZ (Part 4 of 4)

The day after our hike at the Putangirua Pinnacles, we decide to get up and go capture the sunrise coming up over the Pacific Ocean near the lighthouse at Cape Palliser. To capture photos of sunrise, you actually have to get out of bed and out of the house BEFORE the sun comes up. I know I'm stating the obvious.... but easier said than done with a young baby in tow and after I had been up feeding her during the night. We had asked my sister the night before if she wanted to join us on our sunrise adventure and she nodded her head with a smile definitely not wanting to miss out on anything on her trip to New Zealand from the States. A photo of the Cape Palliser Lighthouse made it in to our calendar (not the picture below)

Photo of Cape Palliser Lighthouse at dawn, Wairarapa, New Zealand

As the alarm rings out, David is so eager and literally pulls me out of bed. “Hurry… we’ll miss it if you dilly dally!” I grab a banana for sustenance and my camera and David grabs the tripod and the baby and my sister grabs the diaper/nappy bag (just in case). We pile into the car in silence (I'm not naturally a morning person and therefore not a big talker in the morning even on a good day) and we speed off. It’s still dark but that first light of the day is just appearing.

Photo of Cape Palliser Lighthouse, Wairarapa, NZ

 At first it seems there is nothing special about this morning to “capture on film” and there is a bit of disappointment in the air. Yesterday’s sunrise was remarkable and we had enjoyed it from the windows of our holiday home or bach which is what gave us this crazy idea. We pull up basically next to the lighthouse and I get out of the car and snap a photo or two. It doesn’t seem to be working—the lighting and the photo composition.  We had already climbed up the 250+ steps the afternoon we had arrived (well worth it if you get the chance!) so we decide to move on.

Did you know that the Cape Palliser Lighthouse is listed as Number 8 in the Lonely Planet's List of the Top Ten Flashiest Lighthouses?! We liked it and would put it on our list of Must Dos for Kiwis and Internationals alike. And we enjoyed seeing it in a different light (literally--at sunrise).

Close up photo of Cape Palliser Lighthouse with a red sunrise in the background, Wairarapa, New Zealand

 We then head back on the gravel road towards our bach as the sky continues to change from dark to light. Now there's something special about the lighting. I find a space to pull the car over and this time we all get out. David grabs his camera and heads for the beach. I stay near the car because at this point our baby has gone back to sleep. David seems to be gone for ages and now I'm starting to get hungry. The banana just wasn't enough. My sister is near the car with me just taking it all in.

Photo of David Hammond lying on the beach at Cape Palliser,, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Next thing we know David is yelling for us to come down to the beach. I lock the car with the baby inside and head down. We have to climb over a bit of scrub and some rocks to get down to the sand. We find him lying on the sand taking photos of a seal that has come up on the shore. "Shhhhh!” He mouths. My sister is excited to be so close to a seal. I'm ready for breakfast and ready to get back to the car where the baby is. Also by now there's a great view of the lighthouse with a red sky and dark clouds behind it.

Photo of a New Zealand Fur Seal, Cape Palliser , Wairarapa, New Zealand

Driving on our way back we discover the famous seal colony that Cape Palliser is known for. Too many seals to count… There are young pups swimming in a protected pool surrounded by rocks where they won't get washed out to shore given the especially strong current. There are adolescent males roughhousing and older seals resting and sunning themselves on the rocks. It's as if we've entered a whole another world! And this isn't Sea World! We watch for what must be five minutes or more and try to capture it more or less unsuccessfully with our cameras. How many can you spot in this picture? They are hard to see as they blend in!

Photo of a New Zealand Fur Seals lying on the rocks and swimming, Cape Palliser , Wairarapa, New Zealand

I should mention a word of caution if you are heading there and find the seal colony somewhere between the last subdivision of housing and the lighthouse, do be careful. They can charge at you. Expert advice is not to get between the seal and the sea. They blend in on the rocks and grass and are often hard to spot even when you are looking for them.   

We now go back and eat breakfast. Then we got ourselves ready and head out again this time walking past the lighthouse around the coast on private property. They allow people to walk through here but we can't drive. It's hot and the sun is beating down on us and I realize I didn't put on enough sunblock. My arms are getting really red… I take what I have in our diaper bag to cover them-- just one clean diaper I open up. I doubt it really did anything to help. I look ridiculous as well. My sister is carrying the baby in the front pack and David's carrying the camera bag. The plan will was to scope out if this would be a good place to return to later on in the day. The late afternoon sun with the long shadows makes for great photography. While there are great views of the lighthouse from the other side, we decide there's nothing much in the foreground and the photos would seem a bit flat. Plus later on in the day we've run out of steam to make it back here and the weather changes and dark southerly clouds roll in.

Photo of New Zealand Fur Seals by a rockpool, Cape Palliser , Wairarapa, New Zealand

We return to our bach for lunch and then I decide I need a rest. My sister heads back to the seal colony on foot and is hopeful to find a spot to swim to cool off. The ocean is too wild for that but there is a small stream that is a potential place. She can't find the seals and with the changing tide she realizes that that small pool of young pups is gone.

By late afternoon, when I get up from my rest, the weather changes completely. A cold southerly front rolls with dark clouds and big raindrops. It’s a good thing we are headed home tomorrow.

This is part four of a four part blog series about our trip to Cape Palliser. You can also read about how it's been getting out now that we have a baby (part 1), Getting to Cape Palliser (part 2), and our hike at the Putangirua Pinnacles (part 3). 

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