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Published: August 19th 2009
Not only is every day different but every moment, no two sunrises we have witnessed have been the same, just as no two crashing waves have been remotely similar, each view from the same lookout on the same day just moments apart are different let alone the next day, each tiny speck of difference should be marveled at for its individuality, never will these exact same elements be in line ever again, oh sure they may look similar but take a closer look and you'll see the difference. From the first moment we wake to the last moment before we sleep each day is as individual as we are.
From the smooth babies bottom rolling hills to the jagged rock faces to the crashing living ocean and isolation of the magical Catlins to the (semi) bustle university city of Dunedin, we were going to completely by-pass Dunedin but after speaking to a Swiss couple who mentioned it was worth a gander, we decided to stop off and take that gander!
The Young Ones without the humour!
Our first and only task is always to find a nice hostel, sounds easy! The whole procedure started well enough, we rang a
with the backdrop of the southern Alps
hostel and verbally booked in, we were given the door code and told to make ourselves at home, sweet! Task complete! We pulled up at an old grand colonial house, punched in the door code, opened the door and was immediately hit with the smell of rotting students (who are not real students but travelers who think and act like students!), closing the door and cutting our fresh air supply! This place felt all wrong and certainty could never be mistaken for home, we should have turned around and shut the door on this foul smelling pit but instead we ventured further into the rancid haze, until we hit the kitchen, we swear something was living in the fridge, not wanting to disturb the inhuman massacre we slowly and quietly backed away and into the freshness of the car fumed air outside! We never looked back we just kept driving to the next hostel, which to be fair was not much better but we were running out of places to stay. We talked ourselves into staying and it was only for two nights, the rooms were reasonably clean which is more than can be said about the kitchen and its
Church of the Rising Sun
The Good Shepherd & Lake Tekapo
content! We ate all our meals, even our coffee out. The problem was the hostel was full of long term stayers who had completely taken over and monopolized the whole place, making you feel very uncomfortable but better and clearer about yourself! So all in all we failed our first and only task!
Café Culture of the Old Skool kind
The “Best Café” may conjure up images of a slightly modern establishment but this could not have been further from the reality. We entered another world via the red neon sign, we soon realised we were the youngest clientèle by a considerable number of years, there was a deathly silence only interrupted by us opening the door into what could only be described as looking like the inside of a church hall complete with the Queen's portrait and lots of still life paintings of fruit! This was a Fish and Chip served Old Skool, tea and coffee with your meal (not at the end) in fine china that echoed as you stirred and slices of bread and butter, the only thing missing was someone banging out “roll out the barrels” on the old joanna! We loved every minute of
it and would not have missed our Ye Olde fish and chip experience.
Dunedin City was a bit of a grower with its very steep hills, great coffee, Best Café and large Scottish village feel mixed in with a touch of shabby chic, it was also a great base for the only mainland Albatross colony in the world on Otago Peninsula, the drive alone was spectacular to see these giants of the air. You could pay $45 each or you can do what we did and stand outside (in the freezing cold) on the peninsula tip for free and see the Royal Albatross above your head! It was amazing to see these huge majestic birds so graceful at flight. The life of an Albatross is a solitary one, spending most of its time on the wing covering 190,000km's a year, a bit like our year!
Unlike the Albatross we only covered 117km's today, all the way to Oamaru, stopping at Moeraki boulders. Perfectly round boulders formed about sixty million years ago sit submerged on the sandy beach in the tideline, exposed by the eroding ocean from their mudstone coffins.
Do As Colin Says Or The Penguin Gets
Once at Oamaru we explored the coastline, still feeling tipsy drunk from our last penguin sighting, worried that a hangover will follow if we don't get our next fix! We by-passed the Blue Penguins (far too expensive on a travelers budget!) and up to the free Yellow-Eyed Penguin viewing hide over looking the beautiful Bushy Beach. A lone figure manned the platform and patrolled the beach like a worried parent awaiting his child's safe return, this man-with-no-name moved silently and seamlessly among the viewing public! We got talking to the man-with-no-name who is now a man-with-a-name, Colin be it, from Glasgow! Colin is a volunteer who off his own back ensures the safety of these endangered little guys day and night,”but why would penguins need Colin's help” we hear you cry, because people are far too stupid, the locals have the mentality of do-as-you-likey and tourists try to get their killer close up photo; the little guys are easily scared and will not return to their nest to feed their young. Colin tries to ensure their safe return.
As the sun slowly made its way down the penguins made their way back to their nests, running the gauntlet
up the bushy banks passing the motionless fur seals! But the best was yet to come, a small platoon had to pass the viewing platform to get to their nests, where us tourists got that killer photo (no flash photography please). With all this excitement we didn't notice the subtle pink sunset behind us.
The world needs more Colin's but the reality is there isn't enough of him or people like him to go around, so please remember to carry a little piece of Colin around with you because if you don't do what Colin says there won't be any yellow-eyed penguins to photograph. For more information about the endangered Yellow-Eyed penguins visit Colin's website @ www.nfobb.com (New Friends Of Bushy Beach). We are more than happy to share our photo's with anyone in exchange for the safety of these penguins.
Penguins Night Out On The Town!
We stayed with Agra at Swaggers Backpackers in the old city of Oamaru, thrusting a cup of hot chocolate in our hands making us feel immediately welcome, then a quick tour of the old city with a German brother and sister, driving around what was the pumping heart of this city,
the dim lighting gave it a black and white look and the old tram lines split the street. Shops now subtlety blend in with the old walls and blue penguins make their homes under the old foundations; wait a minute “Blue Penguins” we hear you cry again! Yes blue penguins or fairy penguins (the smallest penguin in the world) wander the old streets at night, so no need to pay the rip off prices of the blue penguin hide you can see them in the wild but please carry a piece of Colin with you if you go looking for them. We must have spotted about seven blueys about town before it was back to Agra's for fish and chips!
It was the celebration of Kirstin's birth date, what would the day bring? First Agra gave Kirstin some photocopied pictures of blue penguins with a birthday message on it, well it's the thought that counts! We treated ourselves (or rather it was Mummy Jean's treat) to lunch at Fleur's Place, a fish restaurant that provided: atmosphere: nice and chilled, professional but not stuffy, environment: a converted fish store, food: most important when you are out with a chef, fresh
fish, freshly cooked, our only complaint being that the portions were maybe on the too large side but we still managed to share a dessert! A top meal in a top restaurant all this while watching the fishing boats coming into harbour (thanks again Mummy Jean). After a leisurely lunch we made our way to the penguin hide near Moeraki village for our best encounter of the penguin kind so far, overlooking a small picturesque cove. A singular penguin was on the beach, he disappeared quite quickly up the bank to his nest area, we had become used to seeing this behaviour but that's when it all changed. Out popped another penguin from the surf, and then another, and another, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in three's, we must have counted at least twenty at one time standing on the beach! These guys and gals were very sociable, we spent a privileged couple of hours watching them frolicking in the surf, in out, in out shake it all about; mating season had started and love was in the air which was causing a ruckus between the guys who got into a bit of flipper flapping! This could only be compared to
a handbag fight. As the sun started to dip and the sky turned pink, Kirstin was thanking her lucky stars for such a great birthday.
After all this sea air it was time to head inland into the backbone of New Zealand's farming industry. We stayed in the heart of merino sheep country, the Buscot Station Merino farm to be exact with Tony and his dog Fitzy, surrounded by stunning mountains and peaks, Tony is a source of all that is NZ's knowledge past, present and future, he has been through tragedy that no-one should ever have to experience but is an example of how people through whatever adversity can somehow get back on track and carry on living, but that's his story to tell.
He's Not The Biggest Mountain In The Whole Of New Zealand, He's A Very Naughty Boy!
We had already seen Aoraki Mt Cook from one angle but we were now on the other side, several viewings across Lake Pukaki but Aoraki Mt Cook must have done something to upset his Sky Father because he was not allowed out to play! Low cloud cover hampered our view of his mountain range the whole time
we were here. A drive took us along the side of the huge Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook Village, a fairly non eventful place, probably somewhere to base yourself for tramping. Again our view of Aoraki Mount Cook was shrouded, luckily the information centre was full of interesting information connected to the mountains like when the tip of Aoraki fell off! A short drive took us to the lesser known Tasman Glacier, the biggest of all the glaciers in NZ. The whole place was just spectacular, crumbling chunks of glacier formed icebergs, imprisoned in the part frozen powder blue Terminal Lake.
Before the day was through we managed to get the thinest of glimpses, when the Sky Father fell asleep watching repeats of Top Gear, letting his guard down, Aoraki poked his head above the cloud just for the moment and was gone again!
The next day was very much a low cloud day but that didn't stop us getting out to Lake Ohau one of the glacial lakes and the surrounding mountain ranges, the baby blue colour of the lake is due to light reflecting from the microscopic rock particles in glacial melt water also known as “Rock
over The Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo
Flour”. White horses skimmed across the powdery blue liquid as the ice cold wind chilled you to the bone, most of our time was spent in the car with the heater on max! But as the day drew to an end the wind and clouds let up for just enough time to see the sun setting over the Western ranges and turning the Eastern ranges a sublime pink!
We had had a fantastic run of weather lately but that was all about to change, the clouds became lower and darker bringing the rain as they passed, leaving the lower ground sopping wet and the higher ranges with a dusting of snow. We said our farewells and on to Lake Tekapo another glacial lake. Still Aoraki Mount Cook stayed hidden behind his naughty cloud as we drove past deeper into the rain clouds.
Get Ahead, Get A Hat!
We pulled up at the hostel in the pouring rain and checked into our new temporary home, this process took all of about two minutes, we returned to the car for our bags and was greeted with blue skies, the hot sun chasing the remainder away. We were welcomed by the
Clouds of Fire
over the Two Thumb Ranges & Lake Tekapo
comical hostel owner Michael who would try and guess your name, then crack a joke followed by; winking, poking his tongue out and making a chicken wing movement, this was all done from the left side of his body! Everytime we met Michael he was wearing a different hat followed quickly by the winking chicken movement!
Lake Tekapo is a one strip and one church town, The Good Shepherd, a tiny old church sits on the milky blue waters edge surround by snowy mountains and peaks. The air here is so clean and clear you can drink it, with the clearest skies in NZ; some locals and the university observatory are trying to make this area a UNESCO site, protecting it from light pollution. Unfortunately cloud filled nights hid their starry brilliance.
The best views in Lake Tekapo are up at Mt Johns Observatory which also serves a mean cup of coffee/hot chocolate and believe us you need a hot drink after walking across the exposed car park! Drinking our hot beverages in front of the ever changing scenery, the bitter ice cold wind whipping low cloud in and out of the valley for our viewing pleasure.
over the Gammack Ranges & Lake Tekapo
Each morning(ish) we opened the curtains to ascertain whether it's worth getting up for sunrise or turn over and snuggle down in our warm and cosy bed, leaving the winter elements firmly outside! But that morning, nothing could have stopped us getting out and witnessing the birth of a new day. Already clouds were being painted pink against the dark morning sky, this colour was only getting brighter and boulder between the Two Thumb mountain ranges, at one point we thought the mountains were going to burst into flames. The sky slowly returned to normality, the reds clouds turned to pink and the pinks turned to white just as if nothing amazing had happened, only witnessed by a handful of people, like the white clouds we blend into the new day.
Tick Follows Tock Follows Tick........
Our time in NZ is quickly running out, with only a handful of places we have yet to visit, thoughts of home are always in the back of our mind and nothing brings you back to reality as quickly as booking your flight tickets home, a subject still too raw to talk about! We had a quick stop in Christchurch for a spot
A Majestic Giant
Royal Albatross Otago Peninsula
of admin and organising our passage back to Blighty!
Oh well, until the last one............maybe!
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