Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

penguin nesting habitat

sea lion

comorants

Moeraki Boulders

inside view

lovebirds at the Moeraki Boulders

Dunedin

Ken robed for the chocolate tour

railroad station


The sunshine disappeared today, but it didn’t matter much since it was mostly a driving day. We drove about one hundred mies to the southeastern most point of the itinerary. Interesting stops along the way made the drive take most of the day. Part of our route included the Presidential Highway which was a mystery to me until it dawned on me that we were driving between the towns of Clinton and Gore.

When we think of penguins we think of the large black and white tuxedoed birds that live in Antarctica. There are many other smaller species of penguins that prefer to live in somewhat warmer climes; we’ve seen them in Argentina and South Africa. Today we stopped at a blue eyed penguin reserve to learn more about penguins here. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong species to observe since the blue eyes spend much of their time at sea fishing. On land they are nocturnal animals and come ashore to mate, hatch their eggs and feed their young. At this time of year most of the young have headed out to sea where they will spend three years feeding and maturing. Only 60% will make it back to shore to choose a sweetie and start the life cycle again. We were able to peek in the top of a few nesting boxes where the young’uns were still at home waiting for mom and dad to bring them dinner. The blue eyed penguins are blue on top and white on the bottom. This coloration helps them to be less visible to predators from above or below. A few sea lions hung around the reserve providing us with more entertainment than the empty penguin nesting boxes.

Our next stop was a bit mystifying. The Moeraki Boulders are round rocks of varying sizes from pumpkin to volkswagen that have come ashore for reasons that we were not able to determine. Some of these peculiar looking formations have cracked open and inside the crystal structures looked like semi precious stone. We joined a number of other tourists combing the beach and climbing around the rocks. They looked out of place and extra terrestrial and we could imagine long ago men spinning fabulous yarns about what these rocks are doing here.

Dunedin is a large town of 100,000+ that has some awesome European looking buildings. We heard that the train station is the second most photographed building in the southern hemisphere - Sydney’s Opera House being the first. The Cadbury chocolate company is located here and gives factory tours complete with chocolate samples along the way. We had to wear nets over all our hair - beards included for the men and remove all our jewelry. A bit of over kill, but designed to keep the chocolate production line pristine. Although we have Cadbury’s chocolate in the US, ours comes from England and some of the flavors here are not available at home. Hopefully, we won’t fall in love with them or the temptation will be strong to bring home a case. A major focus of production here is for Easter. The line is open six months producing filled eggs. The grand finale of the tour involved dumping one ton of melted chocolate from a vat some distance above our heads to a tub some distance below. The smell was intoxicating.

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