Spermaceti (Part One) – Taramea Bay / Aparima Riverton

“On a Mish” #304 Spermaceti (Part One). Taramea Bay. Aparima Riverton. 18.5.2024. Millions of years ago giants roamed the earth. Long before humans most of these massive creatures disappeared never to be seen again. Nowadays the only giants live in the sea, and it is rare to see these monsters of the deep unless you head to certain places or have excellent luck. Unfortunately, there is another way to see a whale, but it is a rather sad way to see the biggest animal on the planet…

Around 16 years ago I started guiding people around the prettiest parts of Aotearoa. The life-changing decision was one that was needed due to the fact that my life in Christchurch was taking me down all the wrong roads. Life’s GPS re-routed me on a much better course and, through my new life as a guide, I gained friends who weren’t getting up to the same mischief as the dudes I hung around with back home.

One fella who has led me on some of the most epic adventures I’ve been on lives on the South Coast of the South Island, and it doesn’t take much to convince me to head down for a mish to Aparima Riverton. We usually find some way to fill in our time, but on this occasion a mission was beached for us. Unfortunately, a Sperm Whale had come to rest on the shores near Riverton and this presented the unusual option of hiking along the beach to see one of the largest creatures on the planet.

Georgie and I left Te Anau and our journey south got off to an unexpectedly snowy start. Before leaving Te Anau, I had a quick look at the weather, and it looked like a southerly was going to bombard Southland and I would be driving into the storm. Normally I pack a couple of extra layers when visiting Dan’s pad, so I was fully prepared for cold weather.

About twenty minutes out of Te Anau I encountered sleet and hail, and then before I knew it snow was pelting my windscreen. The snow increased as I climbed over Gorge Hill, and by the time I was at the road’s highpoint it was starting to settle on the ground. This mish was already awesome, and it was only 30 minutes old!

The coldness was eradicated by the warm reception I received when arriving at Dan’s house. Dan’s mother Dee was down for a visit as well, and I was very thankful to be able to join their together time. I have known Dan’s mum for nearly as long as I have known Dan. We were both lucky enough to join in on one of Dan’s Active Hearts Foundation missions, and it was very cool to hang out with the mind that moulded one of my best mates.

With the team assembled we travelled to an unassuming part of the beach that stretches from Aparima Riverton to near Invercargill. We got out onto the beach and were greeted with a breeze blowing straight from Antarctica. Luckily the glow of companionship was warming us as we began our trek. In the distance we could see a white dot, and considering how far away from us the dot was, it must have been something big.

Our feet didn’t appreciate what we had to cross to begin our hike along the beach which is part of the Te Araroa Trail. Normally there is a small creek near where cars are usually parked, but on this day the creek was swollen and spread out over the sand. I don’t mind getting wet feet when the outing makes it worth it. As we got closer, the white dot got bigger and bigger and began to look more like a whale. About 20 metres out it became apparent that we were about to see a creature of epic size. Not only one of the biggest mammals on earth, but also one of the most interesting…

Physeter macrocephalus / Sperm Whale (RIP)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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