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Published: September 27th 2011
Having A Whale of a time.
Dunedin is a very favoured spot, sat at the top end of a long sheltered bay. It is also very hilly and out of the sun was pretty cold. I need to say in praise of the local New Zealanders that they are a hardy bunch, many of them wearing shorts 52 weeks a year, rain/snow or shine, seems that you are classed as a wimp if you have to revert to long trousers (puts me firmly in the wimpy class). At the end of the bay in which Dunedin lies is the Otago peninsula where at the tip of the headland is the world’s only mainland nesting colony of Albatrosses. Coughing up the £20 charge we took the guided tour which was conducted by a large Maori woman complete with face tattoos and local ancestry. She gave us the full chapter and verse on the habits of Albatrosses which Liz says I am not allowed to bore anyone rigid with. I must tell you though that I had no idea the size of these things, basically a Labrador dog with a 10 foot wingspan, they are huge. When we were there we were
only able to observe fledglings which were days away from flying off and spending two years at sea before returning to find a mate. (Albatross fact no.1). The adult birds were due to return any day to start their breeding cycle and 4 days later the bells were ringing in Dunedin to celebrate the first adults return. Mating for life the adults leave independently to spend a year at sea but will arrive back within hours or minutes of their mates. (Albatross fact no.2).
Anyway it was off to Invercargill for the serious business of rugby. Half of the locals claimed Scots ancestry and swelled the numbers to support Scotland at the two games there. Our campsite was almost completely full of Scots and a seriously good time was had by all judging by the amount of alcohol consumed. I don’t think they will have finished clearing up yet. In between the two games we managed a trip out to Stirling point which is almost the most Southerly point in the continent. (Slope point round the headland takes the honour, but it was closed due to the lambing season. Sheep are a serious business down here). From Stirling point
it is the Southern ocean and then Antarctica and not a lot else in between.
Leaving Invercargill we had a pit stop back in Queenstown for a new wing mirror (not my fault really) and then it was off to the Glaciers on the west coast. Spectacular scenery again as we drove through Wanaka and the Hasst pass and found ourselves at a campsite on Jackson Bay road. Most of our fellow campers are whitebait fishermen, being a piscatorial chap myself I must confess to some mystery here as to why large numbers of men spend days camped by the side of rivers to catch very small rather tasteless fish. Then someone local explained that strong drink was involved and all became clear. This is a very remote area where you drive through long stretches of rainforest (between 2-8 metres of rain a year which makes Fort William look drought stricken) with the road signs on the way to the local restaurant (see Cray pot photo) warning of Penguins on the road. I once ran over a red squirrel in Perthshire and haven’t got over it, god help me if a squash an endangered blue penguin. We have seen
some odd signs here and some are put there by the locals and are a bit strange, like the yellow warning triangle for snails on the road. It reminded me of the “mole sanctuary” sign on a field near Kingussie put there by a farmer at the end of his tether. To cut a long story short, that very evening we heard on the local N/Z radio that a coal mine application had been refused on the grounds of endangering the world’s only breeding colony of some large snail. I had wondered as we drove past what the popping noise from the tyres was, but being a hire van I turned the radio up.
So then it was off to see the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers which were pretty impressive and then we travelled over to the East cost to Kaikoura to take a boat onto stormy seas to watch Sperm whales with Dolphins and Southern Albatrosses thrown in for good measure. Kiakoura was a truly beautiful place backed by snow capped mountain sweeping down to the Pacific Ocean, and it was a pretty chilled out place too!
A couple of days here in Kaikoura and
then off to Wellington for the rugby. Scotland has been dismissed by the local press as having no chance, but then they said that about Ireland before they beat the Aussies a few days ago. So hope springs eternal for a famous victory. (Fat chance!)
Tot: 0.048s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 13; qc: 30; dbt: 0.0092s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb