Day 21 Dunedin to Te Anau
What a night! Wind and rain like you'd never believe - back end of cyclone Wilma so they tell us. The North Island apparently got it during the day and we picked it up later, I didn't sign on for this, I mean it's supposed to be summer! However the morning dawned bright and sunny but still blowing a hooly, and a cold wind too. Drove up to the top of the Otago peninsula from our campsite in Portobello to visit the Royal Albatross Colony at Otakou. This is the only place on the mainland in the world were these endangered species nest so a rare treat, especially for Bill who we know is a bit of a "twitcher" or if you prefer fancies birds! We couldn't get a tour until 11am so spent an hour just wandering around the cliffs and beaches. I think it's rather like the north Cornish coast, especially with the gale force wind blowing! We walked down to one of the beaches and got some fantastic shots of a New Zealand fur seal only feet away from us sleeping on the rocks; certainly the closest I've ever been to a seal in the wild. We then went on our tour of the Colony and our guide, Mary was actually a direct descendant of the Maori chieftan who had lived on this headland. As she has this direct bloodline she was allowed to actually sit with the albatross, something that only the rangers are allowed normally. All others, including the paying public have to observe these fantastically huge birds from behind glass in the observatory. These birds have been recorded to have lived over 62 years and are still breeding, spend up to 3 to 4 at sea circumnavigating the southern hemisphere, have a wing span of over 18ft and breeding biannually one chick at a time. Only 75% return as a lot fall victim to long line fishing in the Antarctic.
The drive back to Dunedin was beautiful as it followed the coast all the way along; very narrow, winding and windy road though but nothing to prepare us for the journey from Dunedin to Clinton where the winds were severe gale force and we had to fight to keep the camper on the road even at speeds of around 80km (50mph). After that it calmed down slightly and driving became a little more pleasurable. Found a lovely campsite on the lakeside at Te Anau and plan to visit Milford Sound tomorrow.