The next place that took our fancy to stop ...
Trip Start Sep 19, 2002
129Trip End Sep 22, 2003
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On our way here we were diverted off the state highway as it was closed. Thankfully we were a bit closer to civilisation so on this occassion there was another route we could take to get us back on further along. We assumed there had been some accident or other but then heard on the radio that a body had been found in a Discovery but it believed to be boobytrapped as there were wires coming from the vehicle so they had the bomb squad out to have a look! I almost put my work hat on and was intrigued as to the outcome but I don't have to put that hat on for another few months yet!
We were actually headed for Oamaru which is a pleasant older style town with some buildings that are actually older than 100 years!! (We've hardly seen any at all in the whole of NZ) This is because they are made of concrete and bricks rather than the wooden and plastic weatherboard ones in the New England style that seem to be everywhere else. We actually did a bit of a heritage walk today and saw some of the historic grain and seed buildings which are still used today. But that was today, yesterday was penguin day!
We arrived in Oamaru in time to see the yellow eyed penguins coming ashore as this colony come in a bit earlier than the ones at Curio Bay. We saw two go back to sea (very odd - they should have been coming home) and a tiny one hopping out of the surf to make his way back to his nest. They looked ever so funny waddling quickly around. We decided to go on the tour as there were some newly hatched chicks and we could get quite close. One nest had 2 babies at only 2 days old and the other had 2 at 2 weeks old. Very fluffy and VERY cute and worth the $8 each as the chappie doing the tour was great and was obviously very proud of his work and his colony.
After some chips to sustain us we just about made it in time to see the little blue penguins which is only 5 mins from the town centre. This is a bit more organised and goes from the visitor centre and costs $8 as well. In this one you have a viewing gallery to keep you back but it was full so we ended up standing by the chain and somehow right by the nesting boxes which they have built for the penguins. Just after dark, up they came, in batches of around 20-40. This penguin is much smaller and is even cuter than the yellow eyed (but not quite so rare) and they were shouting and running about chasing each other which was very amusing to watch. They also kept mating in front of us and it was staggering how long they can go for and how exhausted the female looked afterwards (you couldn't really tell if she was walking funny or not). As they come out of the water they dry off a bit and then re-waterproof themselves so that when they get up in the morning they can go straight out (a bit like making your sarnies the night before work). The oil that they produce to use for this STINKS and I can still smell it now as it was quite pungent. When they go into the nest boxes, they run out again followed by their chicks (if they have been patiently waiting inside and not shouting from the doorway). There is then a great commotion and the three penguins roll about and fall over each other in a bid to get fed and show appreciation for the delivery.
As we were right by the nest boxes we got some great views (but sadly probably not any decent photos due to the flash ban) and it was very hard to keep still and quiet when you've got a fluffy baby penguin less than 2 feet from your hands which are dying to reach out and stroke them. Apparently though they have quite a bite on them if you should try it. On the way out, there are penguin crossing signs and they ask you to be careful but we thought this was a gimmick. I told Phil "watch out for the penguins" and then 2 seconds later "oh, there's one!" and it was right in our headlights in the middle of the car park. There was also one on the road back into town.
It was about half ten by this time and we had to try and find a place to stay for the night but of course none of the roads are lit in the beach area. We managed to find a place though where there was a bus already parked. In the morning we saw that this bus is probably there permanently and you can get your palms read by the occupants!
We're making the most of the pleasant weather today so after our walk (we are about half way now and have stopped for refreshment at a quaint little cafe) we will be heading for Timaru and Geraldine for some more walking (which means I can have chocolate today - hurrah!). Then it's Christchurch for a couple of days before heading back to the north island.
That's all folks!
P and R