Nature and Chocolate on the Otago Peninsular

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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Otago » Oamaru
October 27th 2010
Published: November 2nd 2010
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Once we had decided to leave Queenstown we headed for a town called Oamaru on the Otago Peninsula, as we would get there around 7pm and we had heard there is a huge ‘little blue’ penguin colony there that comes out of the sea to go ‘home’ after dusk, so we would arrive in time to see them. We got our tickets at the visitor centre then headed to the grandstand outside which overlooked the ocean where the penguins would come out from. We had to be quiet when the came out of the sea so as not to disturb them or they wouldn’t go to their nests, which were really near us. They would then head up a ramp to their nests to feed their waiting chicks. The visitors centre monitors the penguin numbers and activity and built all the nests for them a few years ago for their own protection from feral cats, dogs and ferrets. Penguins go out to sea to fish for their families for hours daily and swim up to 50k! Some of them don’t return every day and are out at sea for days collecting fish which they swallow then regurgitate for their chicks when they get back. The chicks usually start to fish for themselves at around 10 weeks old as they get abandoned by their parents, and the cycle continues.

When penguins come into shore together this is called a raft, and rafts can have over 100 penguins in them. Usually the centre gets around 6 rafts per night usually containing about 20 penguins in each one; on this night there were 3 rafts which were really big with a total of 224 penguins in them, the most they have had this season! We were really excited to see the penguins in their natural environment and we were not disappointed when the first raft came out of the sea and started to waddle up the ramp to their nests. If you have seen the programme ‘Penguin Island’ based in Aus this is what it was like! They scramble up the ramp to their nests, where the chicks have come out and are waiting and screeching for their food, and usually they go straight to their nests but two penguins went the wrong way when they came out of the sea and were trying to get under the fence instead of go through the hole they were supposed to about 10 meters away. It took them about 15 minutes to eventually find the hole and while they were waddling around you just wanted to go and pick them up and take them to the hole so they could get to their nests; it was so funny to watch and really cool to see them.

We were going to stay in Oamaru that night but decided to drive further south to Dunedin (as we had booked a tour of Cadbury World for the next morning!) so we left around 9.30pm and had only gone a few metres when we stopped as there were penguins crossing the road in front of us! They had come out of a different part of the sea and were just waiting to cross the road so we got out of the car to look at them - it was amazing to see them this close - before they waddled across the road to the security of their nests. Back in the car Scott drove the 2 hours to Dunedin while Vic slept. Once we arrived there it was 11pm and everything was closed except for McDonalds, so we grabbed a bite to eat and found a campsite for the night, but not before Scott backed into a fence and put a dent in Eric! Luckily it’s only small so hopefully it won’t notice...! We were really tired by then and it was raining so we went to sleep dreaming of chocolate as in the morning we had a trip to Cadbury World!

We woke up to rain in Dunedin and headed to Cadbury World for our chocolate factory tour which we had booked for 10am. While we were waiting for the tour to start we looked round the chocolate museum which had all the old Cadbury logos, old chocolate wrappers and the story behind Cadbury’s, as well as adverts playing, including the famous ‘gorilla drum’ advert. When the tour started we first watched a dvd about Cadbury’s chocolate, before donning our hair nets and heading into the factory to see the chocolate being made. It was like being in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! The smell of chocolate was so yummy and we could see the production lines going; Vic was singing the oompa loompa song and wanted to climb in the big chocolate drums! Along the way we would get given all different samples of chocolate, which was cool as many of them we don’t have at home; chocolate covered marshmallow is really popular out here and comes in all different flavours (pineapple, banana etc) and they also have coconut covered chocolates and lots of other types, as well as some of the ones we have at home. The tour showed us how chocolate is made and also packaged, we also got to go inside a 25 meter tall drum, where 1 tonne of liquid chocolate dropped out in about 5 seconds, covering us all as it splashed up the sides of the stairs. We then got to sample some liquid choc, which was yummy aswell as watching a few dvd's about the production of various bars. By the end we each had about 6 different bars of chocolate and lots of mini chocolates too!

When the tour had ended we decided to head towards Kaikora, as we had a whale watching trip booked for Friday and wanted to make a start up there as it was a long 8 hour journey which went past Christchurch. We headed back up towards Oamaru, stopping on the way at ‘Shag Point’ (which is a type of bird!) and also the Moreaki boulders, which are huge rocks in the sand that no one knows how they got there. We passed through Oamaru again before continuing up to a small town called Timaru, where we stopped for petrol and a coffee and carried on towards Christchurch. Vic drove for a good 3 hours and managed not to get a speeding ticket this time! When we were near Christchurch we thought we might as well try and get to Kaikora that night, as it was only another 2 and a half hours away, to save driving again in the morning, so Scott took over and we headed for Kaikora. After about half an hour we passed a police car going in the opposite direction, but when Scott looked in the rear mirror he saw him do a big u-turn, put his lights on and come up behind us. Not again we thought! We definitely hadn’t been speeding this time and had our argument ready when he said he had had a complaint about us driving recklessly and overtaking everyone! Now Scott does like to overtake but only the slower vehicles, so we said no we had been driving normally, and he said ok and let us go...we think the police have it in for Eric now!

We arrived in Kaikora around 7.30pm, got some food for dinner and found a great hostel with kitchen facilities which we could use. Scott cooked a mean spag bol and we enjoyed our first cooked meal for a while, before going to bed for one of our last nights sleep in the van which we were quite sad about, but looking forward to our whale watching trip in the morning.


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