The West Coast...
Relations between guests and guide seem to have calmed back down. There was another tense rest day in Nelson, but the last two days of riding down the west coast of the South Island have been drama free.
As for the west coast, it is stunning. Think Big Sur but hundreds of kilometers long. The weather has been cloudy and cooler, but the rain has not really caught us while riding and this afternoon the sun came back out in dramatic fashion. I was riding up a steep grade along the coast looking through the mist at beautiful rock formations in the surf. When I reached the top and looked down on the next section of beach, the sun was shining brightly and blue sky changed the whole perspective of the coast.
The South Island has a ridge of mountains running roughly down the center of the island. These mountains are not volcanic like on the North Island, but are formed by the collisions of two tectonic plates. We are riding right down an earthquake fault line! The road follows this line with steep mountains covered in rain forest vegetation to my left and sandy beaches to my right. Every couple of kilometers you can hear a waterfall back in the forest. Sometimes they are visible and sometimes only the sound makes it to the road.
Two of the highlights of today's ride were visiting a seal colony and seeing the rock formations known as the Pancake Rocks. Watching the seals was great fun as the seal pups were at play in a pool of water mostly sheltered from the sea waves. Their jumping, diving and wrestling turned the water into a whirlpool of commotion. In other spots, mother seals were warming themselves on the rocks, nursing their pups. It was great to see this as these colonies were almost hunted to extinction over the last 200 years. As for the Pancake Rocks, you'll understand the name when you look at the uploaded pictures. And the waves crashing through openings in the formations only made the scene that much more dramatic.
Hoping for good weather tomorrow. There's the possibility to take a helicopter up to land on top of a glacier and fly around Mt. Cook!