Day Trip to Oamaru

Trip Start Jan 25, 2008
Trip End Nov 16, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Since the weather has been slowly getting nicer as the summer approaches, i've been looking for things to do outside. it's been bothering me for a few weeks now that i hadn't made it to the moeraki boulders, which are just south of oamaru (about an hour north of dunedin), and i had been trying to find a way to get there. last week my friend vincent happened to have the same day off as i did (wednesday) and we decided to rent a car for a day and take the trip up to oamaru! 

the day was beautiful and sunny and i had the car dropped off to me at the hostel at about 11:30am. as it turned out, the car was a cute little toyota corolla and so i quickly felt at ease with it. well, other than the fact that i was driving on the right side of the car. but i had driven a bunch in queenstown and i was actually looking forward to doing some driving again. by the time i picked up vincent and we stopped for some coffee, we were on the road by about 12:15/12:30. naturally, i love this sort of thing--having the freedom of your own car and the endless possibilities of exploring at your own pace, and i was giddy with the day's opportunity.

we followed route 1 north as it wound and twisted out of dunedin and up through the hills of eastern coastal otago. our first stop was about 30 or so minutes into our trip, along the coast at a place called Shag Point. let me address right away what i'm sure you're thinking: no that's NOT why it was named shag point--it was named for the bird similar to a commorant. today it's a small neighborhood of about 15 houses that have been there since the mining days in the early 1900's. the rugged point is now a wildlife reserve, protecting mainly bird species and fur seals. we were lucky enough to be the only ones there and as we walked some of the paths to the cliffs, we discovered tons of fur seals, all hanging out in the sun! some were barking and some were even swimming--one of my best encounters yet! i was able to take a video but let me state however, that i accidently called them sea lions and after i finished filming realized my mistake. they are nz fur seals, not sea lions.

after watching them for about a half hr/45 minutes, we decided to get back on the road and continue towards the moeraki boulders (basically the reason for the trip). vincent kept talking about a boat in the middle of a field from the last time he went to the boulders, but he didn't remember where it was and we had yet to see anything. another 20 minutes down the road we came upon a sign for the village of moeraki and decided to check it out. low and behold, there at the turnoff was a big, ugly yellow and blue boat. "Ha! I knew it!!" he smiled.  it took us all of 6 minutes to drive around town and up to the historic lookout on the highest hill in the village. after reading the historic plaques at the lookout, we drove back down the hill and the extra five minutes down the main road to the boulders.

anyone who knows me, knows that when i get really excited about something i can barely contain myself. as we were walking through the parking lot to the building i couldn't stop chattering about how excited i was to finally see "the famous moeraki boulders!" vincent was such a good sport, considering he had been there before in passing, and kindly kept reminding me that they were "just rocks." i took my flip-flops off and buried my toes in the sand as i relished in taking cool pictures from all different angles. from what i gather, the boulders were formed from the nearby cliffs by a specific aging process that erodes them into spherical shapes. make sure you read the picture i took about what maori legend says the rocks are-- definetly worth taking the minute to read.

back on the road from the boulders, we drove the remaining 20 minutes to the town of oamaru and made our way to the little blue penguin colony (which is what makes oamaru famous, really). we checked in to see what time the evening viewing would be, bought our tickets and set out to explore the town for a few hours. we walked around the main street and down by the waterfront, or what was left of it. Oamaru is a historic town, but unfortunately like so many small new zealand towns, has been left to the irresponsible hands of time and has become somewhat rundown. there isn't much to the town besides the main street and the penguin colonies, so we decided to get some pizza and hang out in a nice new york-style restaurant called fillidelphio's for a little while. after an amazing J.F.K. pizza (chicken, beef, peppers, tomatos, cheese and guacamole), we figured we'd check out the yellow-eyed penguin colony since we still had an hour to waste. we drove up the hill to Bushy Beach Reserve and walked down the path to the penguin hide. there was a fairly large tour group there and it was getting overcast and windy, as well as beginning to rain. if you reeeeeally squinted, you could just make out one little penguin all the way down the other side of the beach. i felt sorry for all these people hudling in the cold and wind, using binoculars to get a glimpse of a yellow-eyed penguin, knowing how lucky i'd been seeing them so close on the penninsula and in the catlins.

at approximately 8pm we bundled up and went into the little blue penguin colony to watch them come ashore from the designated stadium seating. the smallest penguin species in the world, these little guys form groups at sea and after fishing all day, wait until just after dusk to come ashore. depending on the time of year, there can be a couple hundred making the climb up the rocky shore and a quick dash to their nesting boxes a few yards away in the bushes of the protected colony. because the biologists don't want people taking pictures of the penguins as they try to make it to their nesting mates, we weren't able to catch them running from the shore (which was, by the way, so adorable!) and i had to resort to taking pictures of the exhibit to give you an idea of what they look like. however, as we were driving out from the parking lot, we spotted one crossing the driveway (near the penguin crossing sign--they weren't kidding!) and we tried to take a picture as it stood next to our car. i was afraid to use the flash on my camera in fear i would scare it, so i appologize for the blurriness, but it's the best we could do.

we drove the hour and a half back to dunedin only passing five or six cars on the way home-- ah, new zealand traffic. although we were tired, both vincent and i couldn't stop saying (yet again) what a great day it was.

Love you all so very much, especially uncle Tom--my thoughts and prayers are with you.

P.S.-- as i write this tonight, i have 10 days left in dunedin. though i have enjoyed calling it my home for 5 months, i am more than ready to start traveling again. i have much planned and i can't wait to get on the road again. i promise another post within the next week or so to let you know where i'll be and what i'll be doing for the coming weeks.
**NOTE** I WILL ONLY BE AT MY CURRENT ADDRESS UNTIL NOVEMBER 9TH. As soon as i have an address you can reach me at, i will let you know!
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