|Saturday 18 June 2011 Lake Tekapo -Dunedin
Headed off about 8:30 (before dawn although it was light) and said goodbye to Ban and Lake Tekapo. Had a really good trip and stopped at the Whitestone Cheese Factory at Oamaru which turned out to be very good with a fair bit tasting and we had cheese and onion scones with a cuppa each. Niiiiicceee. We made a couple of purchases and then had a quick look around the historic precinct of Oamaru which was built from the local white limestone and this is still being used today for houses.
We then headed south along route 1 and stopped 30 kms down the road at the Moeraki Boulders which are on the high tide mark – luckily we were there at low tide. Very strange things they are too. Spherical shaped boulders averaging about one metre high they think they were formed in a similar way to oysters but this seems very improbable when standing next to them. The ones that were disintegrated or partially disintegrated were even more interesting as they showed the internal parts which were all different colours and patterns. Quite bizarre.
After our geological survey of the boulders we were back on the road for another hour and into Dunedin were we found our accommodation first go, dumped our things and headed into the city to pick up a few things and visit the info centre, a Starbucks (of course) and a few things from the supermarket. Interestingly Woollies is called Countdown over here. Maybe Molly has shares.
Having done this we headed back to the apartment in Roslyn and then out for a dinner at Zucchini Bros which was pretty good and then home for a relax. It was very windy on going out but luckily it was a lot better going home – or was that the wine?
Sunday 19 June 2011 Dunedin
Out and about in the city centre first up today with the first stop the Railway Station to book our Taieri River Gorge Rail Tour for 12:30pm and then to Starbucks for some caffeine and onto the info centre to book a couple of wildlife tours for tomorrow at the Otago Peninsular.
We had an hour or two to spare so we trundled around the shops in the city centre and headed back to the Railway Station and boarded the old train for the four hour journey. Unfortunately a large family group also hoped on the same carriage so not long after it headed off so did we up the train to a much quieter carriage. We won’t hop on our soap box here so moving on, the journey itself was very good and relaxing. Ju hung out at the back of the train for a fair while as it was an open air little platform that provided good photography opportunities and was joined by Wuzz who also took some good videos of the gorge. It was a two trip on the same line so we stopped at Pukarangi “Station” where a couple of ladies were selling odds and sods. Once the engine had been changed to the other end ready to bring us back we were off back down the line past the same striking scenery towards Dunedin.
As we neared Dunedin we trained into fairly dreary weather with drizzle and a lot of cloud around. We managed to see all we wanted however with reasonable weather and we headed back to our apartment via the local supermarket in preparation for a night indoors listening to the rain and wind.
Monday 20 June 2011 Dundein
We eventually headed out to reasonable weather that threatened to either rain or become fine, which we suspected would probably do both throughout the day at various stages . We headed into town to start with to fix up poor Ju as her toe was playing up like a second hand fridge and wasn’t looking too flash. After a couple of shoe purchases and a very good chemist we were on the road again with an hour drive along the very picturesque coast road of the Otago Peninsular and the Albatross Wildlife Centre.
The Centre has been set up to foster and protect a little flock of 250 Southern Royal Albatrosses who nest there and raise their chicks. We were there at the stage where the chicks were starting to wander around a bit near their nests and the viewing building had a view of four of the cute fluffy little buggers and it was good to see them waddle around and in the peak of health. Interestingly the Dept of Conservation who run the Centre have a fairly aggressive intervention policy and will take action if they believe a chick or egg is in danger. It does seem to work however with the colony slowly increasing in numbers each year.
After a spot to eat at the Centre we headed up the hill to our next wildlife experience which was a bit different than expected and as you would expect with those Kiwis it had an adventure factor. The actual experience was a Yellow Eyed Penguin Encounter but it was so much more. We headed off in an eight wheel vehicle called an ARGO which is used by a lot of military around the world and is also amphibious. Similar to what the Banana Splits used to drive!! We were soon off in the mud and slippery conditions and it was really amazing how the vehicle handled going up the hills in the mud and through large puddles and potholes, nothing seemed to worry it at all. Our first stop was a lookout point that managed to show a fairly cloudy and rainy Otago Peninsular with no hope of seeing Dunedin. Unfazed we were off again and this time stopping at a NZ Fur Seal rockery with a purpose built viewing area to ensure as little intrusion to the seals as possible. There were seals of all ages including some cute little pups and all appeared fairly content with life in their world. Further on and up a huge hill and around the peninsular a bit further we stopped and walked down another purpose built enclosed walkway which allowed good sights of the nearby beach and scrub looking for Yellow Eyed Penguins. We were soon rewarded with one coming out of the surf and trundling up the beach and into his little home among the scrub. We also caught sight of one high up on the hill just chillin’.
Back into the ARGO and up to another lookout and with the weather having cleared for a while we were able to see the peninsular and were able to take some good snaps of the area. We then headed back to base camp and it was a very good experience and our guide was clearly very knowledgeable and enjoyed showing visitors the area and wildlife and along with most Kiwis we have met seem to be able to understand the need for conservation but they also seem also to be working with this need and also work the land in a sustainable way. At least that’s our take on things in the South Island anyway. Dare we say it, but it’s refreshing.
After this thought provoking moment we headed off in our little Corolla back along the coast road of the peninsular back to our apartment during which the weather had turned wet again so it was another night in with cheese and wine after a fairly full day.