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Published: September 4th 2010
I must have mentioned numerous times how New Zealand was such an amazingly diverse, stunningly beautiful landscaped country, I just didn't want to leave. I had spent more time than anticipated on Stewart Island, which cut back a few places I had wanted to see, one of them being Dunedin and the Otago Penninsula. Well......
Earlier in the year, while volunteering in West Sumatra, I was scarfing a much-appreciated Cadbury bar given to me by a fellow volunteer friend. I started reading the back of the wrapper and noticed there was a Cadbury factory in Dunedin. I checked the itinerary for my upcoming trip, and sure enough, that city was on it. "Perfect," I thought to myself, "I'll go there." At the time, I was unaware of the amazing Otago Peninsula with its prolific dolphin and seal colonies, the Scottish-influenced architecture in so many of the houses and buildings, and the really cool and hip downtown area, with its myriad shops and wonderful restaurants. I was going solely for the chocolate!
I took the first tour of the day of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory on the morning I was intending to leave the city. There were maybe 20 of us in total who gathered for the informative, humorous and delightful tour of the grounds behind the purple walls. We were all handed a plastic bag and repeatedly told *not* to loose these bags and make sure we keep them out o pockets and purses. We'd find out soon why this was important. It didn't take long before the group was addressed with a question. The person who answered correctly was given a chocolate. We all learned really quickly to be the first to answer the questions correctly. In the end, it didn't really matter, since we were "awarded" chocolate along the way anyway, just for being on the tour. This made Suzi very, very happy. I finished the tour with a full bag of "free" chocolate bars and a big smile on my face, such the chocolate whore that I am.
I finished off New Zealand with a lovely visit with my friend Angela in Christchurch, then taking the Trans-Alpine train trip across to the West Coast again, and back up to Nelson where I Couch Surfed with a guy on his yacht. We went for a couple of nights to Abel Tasman, the lovely and scenic National Park at the top of the south island. We took a dingy to a "nursery" and were the only ones around to enjoy about 15 seal pups frolicking in the shallow waters without supervision. Apparently the mothers go out for days on end hunting for fish while the little ones practice their swimming abilities and socialize amongst each other. Oh the joys of seeing places like this on one's own without a group tour...
Dolphins followed alongside us on our way back to the harbor for at least 20 minutes -- the first seen this season, according to my Couch Surfing friend. We also saw some little penguins diving for fish in the waters as we cruised along on the glorious calm waters of the Bay.
I left New Zealand in early May with a real appreciation for all things nature. It's a simply beautiful country with some of the most amazing and kind people around. There's still so much to see and do. One day I'll get back.
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