Penguin spotting...and rain!

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Monday, November 21, 2005

To say that it rained on Sunday would be a massive understatement. I'd not seen rain like it since the floodings in Mount Maunganui. I blame Mum, as once again she declared that "it was brightening up a bit" after a cloudy start to our journey. Soon afterwards, the heavens opened, and the rain didn't relent for a full 7 hours!

We'd had mixed weather on our travels, but the rain always seemed to come when we were driving, so we weren't too bothered. We'd certainly done everything that I'd planned to do, so I couldn't complain.

I'd booked us into a B&B for the night, 13km along the road to Jackson Bay. it was primarily to break the journey up, as Franz Josef to Wanaka is a long one at the best of times. As it happened, we were given a separate little cottage to stay in close to Okuru beach, although it was hardly sunbathing weather! Still, we had a nice safe haven to relax in for the evening, and I used the time to update my journal.

Earlier in the day, we'd stopped at the Visitor's Centre in Haast and I'd enquired about the weather forecast, and our chances of spotting penguins at Jackson Bay. The know-it-all woman at the desk declared, with utmost confidence, that it wouldn't stop raining until the next morning, and we were probably too late for the penguins as they'd arrived earlier this year. So, you can imagine my surprise when, out of nowhere, it stopped raining just before 7pm. OK, it still looked glum, but there was now a chance that the day wouldn't be a write off afterall. Therefore, we wasted little time in getting wrapped up, and setting off on the 25km journey to Jackson Bay.

It soon started raining again, as we made our way along the bullet straight road. However, by some miracle it brightened up when we pulled into the remote fishing village at Jackson Bay, and we were ready to go penguin spotting! I could hardly wait as this was such an unexpected treat, so I paced ahead on the Wharekai Te Kau track that led to the bay where the penguin colony is/was.

Once there, I rocketed off to try and find one, only for Mum to call me back. She was saying something incomprehensible as the waves were making lots of noise as they crashed on the rocks. Then she pointed, so I backtracked expecting to see nothing more than a seagull or an oyster catcher. "That's a penguin isn't it?" she said, and she was right. Stood upright on a rock island just metres in front of us was a Fiordland crested, yellow eyed penguin. I'd seen a few of them on the Milford Sound cruise, but this one didn't seem scared and stood proud as first me, then Mum ambled closer. It was lovely to see, and watching it for 10 minutes made our day...and we didn't mind getting wet when a wave came further in than expected - it was worth it!

I climbed over some more rocks until I was around the corner, and I immediately saw 3 more, although they quickly scarpered when they saw me. I stayed still for a few minutes, and one of them reappeared and I enjoyed watching that one for a further 10 minutes. I wanted to go further around the bay but the sea was very rough and it would have been too dangerous. I was quite content with the ones I'd seen, particularly as we got so close to them and it was much more than a quick glimpse.

The drama continued when we missed our turn off on the way back to base, and encountered an escaped horse at the side of the road. Luckily someone had stopped and put on their warning lights, otherwise we could have ran into it as it was pitch black, and the rain was lashing down (again!).

I felt satisfied when we finally got back to our cottage, for we'd proved the lady at the Visitor's Centre wrong on both counts. It did stop raining, and we did see the penguins!

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