. There were info boards in the carpark telling us that the best time to view them is either before 7am or after 4pm... it being 10am we didn't hold out much hope for seeing any. You also had the option to look for them from a hidden hut in the hill or, during 9am and 3pm when the penguins are at sea, you can go down onto the beach. We decided that as we probably wouldn't see any penguins we would head down to the beach and just enjoy going for a walk, so we clambered down the hill and walked along the shore. As we got towards the left-hand side of the beach (directly under the viewing hut) we thought we could hear a funny squawking noise, so we sat down on a log and waiting to see if anything would materialise. We heard the noise again a couple of times in the trees behind us and although we were pretty sure there was something in the bush we couldn't see anything. A bit further down the beach we spotted a really big seal and I was very happy to get a closer look at it. So we headed back up the hill a bit disappointed we hadn't seen any penguins but happy we had seen another seal and we directed another couple we met to the seal so they could see it too. We were about to go back to the van when we decided to quickly go to the hut just to see what it looked like inside. We were inside for a few minutes when Tom said "Is that penguin in the sea?" At first I wasn't convinced because it looked like a small cormorant but after a minute or two we realised that it definately was a penguin.... we'd found one!!
! We were the only ones in the hut and we stood there for about half an hour watching it play in the waves and slowly make its way out on to the beach. It was funny because the couple we had directed to the seal couldn't see the penguin because they were too low down and we were desperately trying to get their attention from the hut as once the penguin came ashore they weren't allowed to get any closer because the penguins are so endangered. We were so happy to stand and watch it waddling its way across the sand and yes, they really do look like they are tap-dancing when they walk! It was really slow at making its way up the beach but after a while it went across the sand and into the grass and started to jump up some little steps in the hill. Once it had left the sand the other couple moved in abit closer for a photo and we decided to run back down to the beach to get a closer photo of our own. Even though the track down the hill was really steep we practically sprinted the whole way down and when we got there the little penguin was still quite happily sitting in the grass and preening itself. We tip-toed our way over and crouched down in the sand to get a good view, it was absolutely fantastic! Sitting silently on the beach getting a close up look at the most endangered penguin on the planet, it was such a beautiful animal and gave me mixed feelings of absolute awe and such sadness to know that if I am to ever have children there is a very high chance that they wouldn't have the opportunity to see this penguin as it is on the verge of extinction
. We sat in silence looking at the single penguin sitting in the grass and we didn't move for about half an hour. After a while some other people came down on to the beach and we decided to head off as we didn't want to frighten the penguin with loads of people crowding around it. Back in the van we kept on looking at each other saying: "God, we are so lucky, that was bloody brilliant". We arrived in Dunedin a few hours later and we had to check our van into the mechanics because it needed new break-pads, it only took about an hour or so and we were quite happy to go wandering for a while. We went for a look at the steepest street in the world and decided to climb to the top of it, it really is bloody steep and I started to feel quite ill on the way down! So we made a quick exit and I got my breath back on flat ground. Dunedin is a really big city and has lots going on but by the time we had been food shopping and got the van back it was quite late and we checked ourselved into a campsite for the night. Later that evening we got chatting to a couple from the UK who have been backpacking for the last year so we were busy pumping them for information and any tips. We also ended up chatting to an older couple from Australia who gave us loads of recommendations for nice places in Oz. As we were talking with them they also said: "We visited the UK once, we stayed in a placed called... oh what was it called.... ummm....oh yeah.... Llandudno". Tom nearly choked on his curry! I couldn't even get my words out, all I could manage was to point at myself and repeatedly say "me Llandudno live... me Llandudno live..." like some kind of deranged idiot! I guess that infuratingly catchy Disney song was right after all, it's a small small world!!
Day 5) We were up with the lark this morning to finish our drive to the final destination on the Southern Scenic Route, the city of Dunedin. As we were leaving the campsite there were some workmen relaying one of the roads and we ended up having to pull over for a while as one of the trucks was laying some gravel. As we sat at the side of the road one of the guys came over to chat to us and we told him about the elephant seals which we had seen the night before and he told us that if we really wanted to see some great wildlife we should head to a place down the road called Nugget Point where there are seals and penguins. So once the workers had finished we drove over there with the intention of staying for 10 minutes or so. In actually fact we stayed for closer to 3 hours and had one of the most memorable moments of the trip so far! Nugget Point is a little bay surrounded by a big hill covered in windswept trees and is one of the last remaining homes of the most endangered penguin in the world, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin