SeaLion - Tick. Penguin - Tick

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tapanui Hilton

Flag of New Zealand  , Otago,
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Tapanui Hilton was so comfortable that we didn't wake up until 9.30. The sun was shining and we realised what a beautiful place we were staying in. The view of the Blue Mountains from the kitchen window over breakfast is truly spectacular and despite lovely scenery in southern England, it’s easy to see why Toany emigrated! Lindsay really kindly invited us to stay another night, and we couldn’t resist the chance to spend time checking out the farm tomorrow morning. Today we were going to take the car and head out to the Catlins, a wild area on the southern tip of the South Island where we hope to see rare yellow eyed penguins and sea lions.

Driving back out from the house and heading towards Gore we saw the incredible views we’d missed in the dark yesterday - rolling green fields with a back drop of snowy mountains. It continued to be spectacular as we headed for the coast and the first beach we reached was wild and beautiful. The spray pounded on the sand which was littered with over-sized driftwood and bull kelp (massive version of the kelp we get at home!) Once again, we’re glad to be here at this time of year and enjoy all of this on our own! We then headed to Nugget point and braved the incredible wind on the 1km walk out to the lighthouse and enjoy the sheer cliff views, spotting more fur seals chilling on the rocks below on our way back.

Then in was back in the car for the half hour drive to Cannibal Bay, where Toany had told us to hunt out those Sea Lions. The beach was completely deserted when we got there and without much hope of success we decided to walk south and see what we found. The tide was racing in and we had to jump/wade some streams, Ironman being a hero giving me a piggy back. We were staring ahead at some enormous bull kelp wondering if it could be an animal, when we realised that it definitely wasn’t but the massive beast appearing from the water was! We used our out of shape running muscles and sprinted the km towards him, watching as he awkwardly heaved his massive blubbery body up the sea shore to the sand dunes. When we reached him he had flopped down just in the edge of the dunes and was trying to have a snooze.

He really was amazing, so massive, but so sleepy! His face was adorable, and somehow a bit like Newton’s with the whiskers. The way he was rubbing his face into the sand and rolling around trying to get comfy was definitely very dog-like. He looked at us a couple of times and grumpily pulled himself up and dragged himself further into the dunes to find a quiet spot for his snooze. We kept creeping up on his and watching him roll around flapping his flippers and tail. Despite the dolphins yesterday, this was definitely our best ever wildlife experience. It was so amazing to be on a deserted beach with such a wild and massive animal. When we dragged ourselves away we did actually see another two playing in the surf up at the road end, but they’d headed back into the sea by the time we got there.

Right, we thought, penguins next and we’ll have done it all. We then made the probably unwise decision to head to Curio Bay, right at the southern end of the Catlins. We were in a bit of a rush as they only emerge from the sea to nest a couple of hours before sunset and it was quite a long way. The road was winding and deserted, and MUCH longer than we thought - a very bad time to realise you’re running out of petrol! It was a bit very tense drive under a darkening sky, until we hit a tiny township and found a café where a very helpful guy headed into his shed and brought out an emergency can and filled us up! Phew! We were back in business and headed on to the bay. The wind was really howling by that point but we stuck it out and were rewarded by the sight of the funny little fat birds waddling out of the sea and trying to dry themselves off before disappearing in to the bushes. Very funny and worth the car journey.

On the way back we realised just how far we’d some, as it took an hour and a half, making at least 6hrs round trip. It probably would be best to have taken a couple of days there, but with our shortened time limits, it was well worth it. We just managed to catch Lindsay before she headed out to bridge, having left another scrumptious home-cooked stew for us to enjoy with Toany and Jimmy. More great conversation during which Mikey and I interrogated Jimmy and Toany about their farming lives and tried to comprehend exactly what it is they do. We should find out in the morning however as we follow them out onto the farm at 7.30! Best get to bed, we’ve not been up that early for a while and really don’t want to miss it.

MIles Cycled; Still 0
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