Otago Peninsula

Trip Start Aug 01, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, March 19, 2011

On the way to Otago Peninsula that is located just off the Dunedin coast, we enjoy another beautiful drive. We stop over in the Shag point to observe some more seals and the reason for the name of this place, the shag birds. We also stop in Port Chalmers the birthplace of New Zealand's modern export trade, where we can already see Otago Peninsula across the Otago Harbour waters and its main city Portobello.

The main highlight of the Peninsula is the Royal Albatross Colony, the only mainland albatross breeding colony in the world. It is highly overpriced attraction where you can walk up a hill and see a few chicks and possibly an adult albatross. Lonely Planet tells, that they fly over the car park and the bird watching spot at dusk. Guess who we meet there? - Our bird watcher friend Mark. He has his kit out, a serious photo camera with a huge zoom lens (one of those men things 'mine is bigger than yours'), and the binoculars that can take you for a walk on the Moon.

After only a few minutes wait, this bird watching sessions turns out to be really successful and for free (as it should be). Those huge wings (up to 3.5 meters across) are really impressive; it is the largest wing span that any bird has. They are capable to fly up to 115kph. Our patience is finally rewarded, it slowly flies over the crowd only a few meters above our heads, saying ‘Common, take a picture of me!’ It is a seriously big bird. His mates soon join him in a fascinating parade. And so fly back and forth until all the bird watchers are satisfied with their pictures and now can observe them without the cameras. It is not only exciting to watch the albatross but also those bird watcher tourists. They can get so passionate.

We leave them all there and head to the Pilots Beach that is popular spotting place for the small blue penguins. It is not the right time for them to come out from the sea yet, but we just want to see their land habitat. It is a conservation site, so we see a few man made borrows. We look inside one of them, what a surprise! There are two blue penguins sleeping cuddling each other and shyly looking at us. Tick!

Our next point of interest is Larnach Castle. This is the only castle in New Zealand, so we have to see it. Plus, as it is raining we don’t mind spending our time in an indoor attraction. However, we miss out on the vast castle gardens. Inside we visit the rooms and admire carved ceilings, historic amenities, and antique articles. We also read the entertaining, sometimes scandalous and tragic history of the original castle owners, the family of William Larnach, a prominent entrepreneur and politician in colonial New Zealand. He built this caste to impress his French wife.

What is interesting, that nowadays the castle is owned and inhabited by the Barker family, who have spent over forty years restoring the building and recreating the beauty of the 14 hectares of gardens and grounds.

After the castle visit we continue our journey down south. We drive through deserted dirt roads, it is only sheep and the ocean and the beautiful landscape that you have to see to understand the beauty of it.

In the late afternoon we arrive in Balclutha, a small town with a supermarket and a holiday park. That’s about all we need. This camping ground is really nice, with a ‘feel like at home’ type of atmosphere. After exchanging a few words with the friendly owner, we cook our dinner and enjoy the cozy living room and a TV.

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