Otago: Wild Thyme ,White City and Penguins

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November 24th 2018
Published: November 24th 2018
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Nov 6 - 8

NOTE (If you missed the last blog about Milford and Queenstown go back through the previous ones as they don’t seem to be in order. And I hope someone is reading these as the emails aren’t going out to my subscribers ...well I have to try and catch up !)

Leaving Queenstown we drove along the Cromwell Gorge and aimed to take roads less travelled acros Otago and this we managed to do , as always just stopping whenever we saw a brown tourism sign . There are lots of lakes/ dams along this route and New Zealand makes much of its electricity from hydropower ...we could see why ! Driving over old suspension bridges , and quiet roads ( hardly another car ) into small towns like Clyde and Ophir we enjoyed this route very much. Ecolouring further we took a wrong turn and this road ran for many kms along Ida Valley through farm land with rocky ridges on either side ...so lovely. And what was this purple plant everywhere , was it Heather brought in by the Scots , no we could smell it as we got our of the car - the hillsides cloaked in wild thyme. I’ve never seen anything like it before. That’s what’s so amazing about the flora of New Zealand .... one minute you are in Southern Beech forests ,then tussock grasses next tropical forests with tree ferns and now wild thyme. Maybe it’s not an indigenous plant but it was surely very beautiful. If you are passing this way check up on Clyde , we stopped for coffee and lemon yoghurt cake and walked the streets with cute little houses and craft shops including a Christmas shop .... good heavens I thought was Christmas round the corner. Time and days and weeks have passed through travel like I am in a bubble without accounting usual timely events.

Soon we could see the sea , we reached the East Coast and headed for Shag Point where the wind nearly blew us away but after a short walk we were rewarded with seals basking on the rocks below us and time to watch them and their antics. Up the coast from here were the famous most unusual Moereki Boulders , spherical boulders some as large as 4 m across which are scattered along the edge of the beach. Formed on the sea bed about 60 million years ago as lime salts accumulated around a hard core. Last time I was here the tide was almost right in and I had to shimmy along the cliff to see them ... but it was easier this time and I am sure the cliff is eroding quite fast as it is very loose sediments. We were staying the night in a lovely old Victorian Villa in Oamaru , so called the white city . There is a particular very white limestone here which has been used for many of the buildings ...this was a very important port and town as it was the service centre for the rich interior agricultural community and so with its wide tree lined streets and historic well preserved buildings its a great place to wander. The old warehouses and grain stores down at the port house some interesting galleries including a sculptor working the stone.

But of course you cannot come to Oamaru without going to see the Little Blue Penguins ...there is a colony here and it’s well protected so you can go in the evening and sit on benches in a sort of covered shed and after a talk about them you can watch them come in from the sea onto the beach , waddle up the rocks to the top of the cliff and then they scoot across the grass and into their burrows. They come in in groups called rafts and you hear them calling to each other before you can even see them. Special lighting enables you to see them but doesnt disturb them an everyone was told NO PHOTOS and KEEP SILENT . It was very special to see this and we were there from 8 pm till about 10 pm and saw 235 penguins coming ashore. The reason there were so many was that the chicks in the burrows were now about 4-6 weeks old so both parents would go out to sea to get enough food to feed them . These are the tiniest penguins only about 30 cm tall and swim about 50 km out to sea and back to feed ! The funniest thing was almost at the end when many people ( the coaches ) had gone, and some of the penguins actually squeezed through the railing where we sat and toddled down the stairs and just stood there while we exited, and some were in the car park as we left ...but we had instructions not to stop but drive slowly or they would come under the car for safety then you wouldn’t be able to move to car ...a handy tip !!

Penguins were definitely another highlight for us both. Sorry no photos of penguins as they weren’t allowed but I copied this one just to show you what they look like.

Additional photos below
Photos: 51, Displayed: 25


25th November 2018

Looks interesting
That looks like an interesting place. I think I would I enjoy going there. The penguins come in at night, right? That's why you weren't allowed to take photos, correct? /Ake
28th November 2018

Yes they come back from feeding at sea after sunset . No photos And we had to be silent as they don’t want anything to disturb the penguins . There was lighting so you could see them but it doesn’t disturb them.
2nd December 2018

Amazing drives and wildflowers
I've enjoyed sitting down today and getting caught up with your travels. Your descriptions of the heather, wild thyme and your drive captivated us. And... those lovely little blue penguins. I never tire of watching penguins. I'm glad to hear they are protecting our little friends.
2nd December 2018

Catching up
We’ve been doing the same thing today , catching up on respective travels. Yes life is good, and we all have to take the opportunity to to live each day thoughtfully , respectfully and appreciate the moments and the people we care for.
2nd December 2018
Little Blue Penguin


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