Published: January 6th 2011January 6th 2011
Yellow-Eyed Penguin Blues
I actually had another chance to see yellow-eyed penguins, but I've given it up. At least for now, and probably for good. For $50 I could catch a tour bus that would take me to the public viewing area for yellow-eyed penguins (which is a little farther away than the blue-penguin viewing area), and then on to view the blue penguins again.
The I-site employees assure me that the slope at the yellow-eyed penguin viewing area is nothing to worry about, though photos of it on the Web do suggest otherwise. But they also say that there are only ~20 yellow-eyed penguins living there and that no more than a few are likely to appear. I get the impression that the tour survives on the huge success of the Little Blue Penguin sightings (there are hundreds of them) and the yellow-eyes are a bonus.
The one advantage to taking the tour would be that I could stay for the entire Little Blue Penguin event and be ferried back to my hostel at the end. But there's a downside to that too; the Penguins take an hour to an hour and a half to
come onshore, and I'd have to stay till the end if I came with a busload.
I'm not sure I've got the stamina. In fact, today, I definitely feel as though I hadn't.
So I'm writing this journal entry at exactly the time I ought to be running outside to wait for the tour bus to come by, if I wanted to do it tonight. The problem with doing it tomorrow is that tomorrow is supposed to be much colder. The problem with doing it Saturday is that I've got a bus to catch at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Since I'll be travelling on Sunday, I tried to go to a midweek Eucharist, but midweek services were cancelled for the holiday season, as was Sunday's early service. The minister met me at the door and chatted with me. He had been to America four times, he said, and he liked Arizona. I like Arizona too, so I can understand that.
Then I wandered down into Oamaru's historic district, where to my delight I found a vintage train. It's normally steam-powered, but just now it's diesel (the steam engine is in the shop).
It had an open observation car and a finely appointed enclosed car with polished wooden seats. I bought a ticket and was invited to sit anywhere.
Almost everyone else chose the observation car. I sat on one of the polished wooden seats inside and admired the train more than the scenery. The track was about a mile long; it went almost all the way to the Blue Penguins' reserve.
At the end of the line, we had ten minutes or so to look about us. There was a mock-up of an engine and coal car, obviously there to keep children (and adults) from begging to climb into the real engine. There was a sculptor's shed with half-finished statues in it. And of course there was the harbor, with its ocean waves.
In the engine shed, there were two Blue Penguin nest boxes. A crewman opened the box and showed us the penguins inside. Unlike the Reserve, they let us take pictures, even with flash; they said these particular penguins were used to it.
I rode back and walked further into the Historic District. Almost all the shops were still closed for Christmas, and not planning to
Displayed at Oamaru's radio station
reopen until the 10th. One large tourist trap, called the Woolstore, was open: it had a cafe and a souvenir shop and a vintage car collection.
I paid to see the vintage cars, and on the whole it was worth the $8 admission fee -- though the train had also cost $8, and it had been a lot more fun.
Most of the cars in the first and larger room had been manufactured in my lifetime; I began to feel really old. But I hadn't seen most of them on the road, because nearly all of them were from Britain.
There was a racecar from Czechoslovakia, and I spotted at least one Ford.
The inner room had the real treasures: a lovely cream-colored car from 1911, an authentic Willys Jeep from World War II, a tractor that someone drove around the world in 1994.
I realized I was both hungry and thirsty, so when I had emerged from the car-collection (and winced at the "affordable" prices in the cafe) I went back to the Empire Hotel and fixed lunch. And after lunch I pretty well collapsed. I was so very tired. I spent the whole afternoon on
the Internet, reading mail and news, talking to Jim, corresponding with friends. As the time for the Yellow-Eyed Penguin tour drew near I fretted and fretted and fretted, but I decided in the end that I was just too tired to do it.
I feel bad about it; I could probably have done it without getting seriously ill. But I wouldn't have enjoyed it, I think, even if I'd seen a yellow-eyed penguin after all. I think the problem is that I'm short of iron; I have had iron-deficiency anemia since I first reached puberty, and the amount of iron prescribed for me is about twice what I've been taking here. I shall increase my dosage.
There are more photos below