P-p-p-pick-up a Penguin

Trip Start Jul 26, 2007
Trip End May 10, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

Up and running, we headed down South working our way inland from the Banks Peninsula.  Driving along deserted roads, across great plains, surrounded by serrated mountain tops, I can see why people like New Zealand.  As we approached Lake Tekapo, its turquoise waters added to the postcard-like image.  We parked the camper on the edge of the lake and took in the view and what is, quite believably, claimed to be the cleanest air in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere (not a patch on Leeds though?).  The beautiful weather is helping, but the scenery is simply stunning.

After Tekapo, we're off to Oamaru. For no reason other than it's a sizable town (by NZ standards) where we may get to do some Internet updates, see some penguins and get to a supermarket.  Besides, it's on the way South and that's where we're going.  I reckon they must get a lot of people just popping in to pick-up penguins because the woman in the visitor centre was enthusiastic beyond the call of duty when she found out we were staying longer than an hour.

There are two types of penguins that you can see in Oamaru.  The first are Little Blue penguins.  These are in a managed reserve, you can get up to within a couple of metres, there's special lighting and a $20 fee.  The second are Yellow-eyed penguins. These are free as proverbial (and in this case literal) birds, they can be found at the end of a long arduous walk under the late afternoon sun, are viewed from a platform so far away that they might as well be chocolate biscuits for the size they appear on photos and you can see them for free.  Guess which ones we went to see....Well, at least a couple turned up.

Other attractions wheeled out from the Visitor-Centre Dusty Book of Leisure included a visit to the Heritage square part of town where, incidentally, Oamaru is the best-preserved Victorian town-centre in the world (a bold claim).  We were pointed in the direction of an artist who 'specialises in faces'  and entered a gallery in an old (Victorian) building.  Walking up a creaky wooden staircase, passing illuminated swirls and obscure phrases (in mixed media), we entered a bizarre world.  It looked like some sort of Victorian theatre-themed backstage area with caricatured and grotesque faces glaring from all angles.  This was night-out-at-the-circus enough for me without the bloody satanic, operatic wailing that was pouring out of the sound system in the middle of the room, just beyond the dusty piano.  Wandering around I nearly jumped out of my skin when a bloke not looking unlike the 1980's Michael Bolton startled us by saying hello from behind a couple of mannequins.  We said hello, made some appreciative murmurs and promptly fled.

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