Howdy!! We are taking a rest afternoon so thought i would take the chance to keep you all up to date, i have entitled this blog......
THE SEARCH FOR THE ELUSIVE YELLOW EYED PENGUINS!!!
So we set off from Mt Cook fairly early as we had a long drive ahead, and a few planned stops along the way! First up was a long drive from Mount Cook back to the East Coast and a town called Oamaru, Mount Cook is only 25kms from the Tasman sea on the West coast, but not accessible from the West side, so this drive took us across the full breadth of NZ! We made good time, arriving in Oamaru shortly after mid day, we headed out to the coast line where it is possible to View yellow eyed penguins, apparently the rarest penguin in the world, however there are several spots along the SE coast where they can be seen! There was a viewing station at this site, annoyingly they charged $20 each for entry, with the best time to see the penguins come ashore being any time after 4pm we thought it was not worth paying when they probably wouldnt be there anyway! So we sat in the carpark, knocked up a few sarnies and had a nice lunch in the sun!! We set off an hour or so later and took a slow drive towards Dunedin, our guidebook had several places of interest listed, so we made several stops along the way, and took a couple of coastal road detours! We eventually arrived in Dunedin about 4 hours later and headed straight out to the peninsular which is where we were planning on staying, though bigger than we expected, about a 100km round drive, it was much more beautiful than we expected, big dramatic cliffs, huge wetland flats, and numerous small little villages tucked away on gorgeous little bays!! We stopped on the way to the campsite at Sandfly bay, another spot where the penguins can be spotted, after a long day we couldnt be bothered with the 40min walk to the viewing hide, so we sat and looked down on the beach, but didnt see any penguins!! We decided we would spend a couple of nights here, so would come back tomorrow, and headed to the campsite for some dinner and some 24!! At the campsite we bumped into a family who we seem to be following, have seen them 5 times now along the way, and as i write this, across the site is another group who we met in Hanmer springs, and some old girl just waddled up to the van and claims they have been behind us for four days...small old world!!!
Next morning we slept in for a bit, we didnt have to leave the campsite by 10 as we were staying another night, so we had a slow brekky, some nice showers and left the site nearer 11.30!! We were just going around the peninsular today, so were in no rush and pottered around several nice bays and villages, and generally relaxed!! Our main aim for the day was to find some penguins, so around 3pm we headed back to sandlfy bay and made the 40min walk down to the viewing hide! The beach was cramed full of sealions, literally hundreds of them, which made the walk quite interesting as Chloe is scared of EVERY animal on this planet, and the signs along the beach state you should not go any closer than 10m's near a sealion, due to their vast number there was a few spots where you had to walk closer to one or two to get past, so i was kept amused watching Chloe trying to tip toe past sealions, trying not to wake them so she wouldnt get her leg bitten off! We did make it to the hide though, and without incident and sat up in this little bird viewing hide over looking the beach where we waited...... and waited....... and waited....... and no penguins!! After an hour or so we'd had enough and decided to walk back, we took a slow walk, watching the whole way but no penguins!! And to rub it in we walked over some fresh penguin tracks in the sand, so we had missed a couple whilst in the hide obviously looking the wrong way!! Not to worry, there was another bay further along the peninsular which had penguins coming ashore a little later, our guidebook said an hour or so before dusk, so we jumped back in the van and shot up there ready to finally see some penguins..... but no, the whole bay was shut off for some enviromental restorations!! So our day ended without a penguin sighting, but we werent too disheartened, we had a few more spots where they can be found to come, so we headed back to camp, grabbed some fish and chips and turned in for the night!!
Next day we headed into Dunedin town center and headed to Cadburys World!!!! Whoop!! And had a guided tour of the factory, we got fed far too much chocolate for 10 oclock in the morning and ended up feeling pretty sick, epsecially after the cup of pure warm melted chocolate! The tour was really good though and we stocked up our fridge with chocolate, most of it stuff which we were given on the tour and we couldnt eat!! Tour completed we had a quick walk around the town, we visited the old train station, which is apparently the most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere, not sure why, but we jumped on the band wagon and took some snaps!! Our final stop in Dunedin was Baldwin St, the steepest residential street in the world, and it was STEEP!! Sadly our photos don't do it justice, but i had fun running up and then back down again, the residents must get idiots like me all the time screaming as they run down the road, but i enjoyed myself! We had parked our van on the least steep part of the road, but still had great difficulty pulling a 3 point turn without ending up in someones front garden!! Next stop for us was the Catlins, a large area in the SE, which is mostly National Park, and has several nice walks and beaches! It was a fair drive down there, made longer with the stops for photos etc, and we rocked up to our first planned stop, Nugget Point, around 3.30pm! We took a walk up to a lighthouse and took some snaps back down the coast, there were sheer cliffs either side of us with water pounding the sides, all looked rather dramatic!! The time was now 4.30pm, prime penguin viewing time, and there was a viewing hide a few 100m's up the road, we staked it out for about 30mins and of course didnt see any fooking penguins!! We decided we hated penguins now, having spent over 3 hours in total already waiting for them and we now didn't want to see any anyway!! We headed for Curio Bay, about 100kms down the coast where we had chosen a campsite for the night, along the way we stopped at several viewing points and took a walk to some waterfalls, finally arriving at the campsite around 7, we checked in and just as i was walking out the lady shouts "if you quickly head down to the bay 200m's up the road, you'll probably catch the penguins coming in for the night!"... we didnt know there was a viewing point here to so we decided it would be worth one last try and dashed down to the bay, we found a good spot on some rocks and settled down and waited again.......an hour later and still no penguins!! It was getting dark, and we hadnt eaten so we headed back for some sausage hotpot and got into bed and sobbed!!
The campsite we were in was very basic, and neither of us dared to use the cold showers so we were up early and ready to set off by 9am, Chloe was getting herself sorted so I took a little walk around the campsite to a point you can look down on the neighboring bay just to see what was going on, and i spot a little black and white bird on the rocks.....is it a penguin? it looks like one but probably not... then a seagull lands next to it and it starts holding up its wings and waddling around in circles... when we were in Langkawi Aquarium all the penguins there held up their wings and waddled in circles, therefore this must be a penguin, at last!!!! I sprinted full pelt back to the van screaming at Chloe to pass me the camera and shouting "Penguin!!!!", I raced back to the cliff, threw myself down the cliff face, climbed over massive rocks, got in position and started snapping away! I grabbed several snaps and then decided to leave it be, apparently if you scare them too much then they will run off and abandon their young, not wanting to ruin any happy penguin family i got up and started making my way back with a big smile on my face and Chloe cheering from the top of the cliff. I made it about 5steps away when i turned back round for one last glimpse and the penguin flew off...... hold on... penguins don't fly...... it was just some bird that looked like a penguin, Ive spent the day examining the photos and im still sure its a penguin, but can't be!! Dejected and feeling a little silly i cambered back up the cliff to Chloe and we both stood there weeping and wailing for hours!! Actually we cursed the Penguins and the Penguin look a likes and got in our van and set off for another day on the road, destination Te Anau, gateway to Milford Sound, which should hold some amazing sights , and apparently the best drive in NZ!!
We arrived here in Te Anau a couple of hours ago, we took the scenic drive here and once again it was a stunning drive, we are still enjoying good weather and today is the first day the shorts and thongs are on, and it feels good, sadly we are being blasted by super strong winds and the road to Milford sound is currently closed due to this! We are catching up on some cleaning of our clothes, the van and ourselves, and then going to have a chilled afternoon and hope the road is open for tomorrow!!
So after all our efforts we have not seen any Penguins, we now despise the little b*****s and will probably react quite violently next time we do see one, Chloe has vowed to carry a club with her at all times on the off chance we see one!! For tonight we have splashed out on a fancy campsite, so im off to stick some sausages on the BBQ and sink a few cold ones in the evening sun!!!