Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dunedin, albatross’, seals, penguins, shorn the sheep and…

It sounds from the title that we’ve had a hectic few days and I suppose we have, but it doesn’t feel rushed as we’ve stopped for iced coffees, read, drunk wine and chilled in amongst it all.

St Pauls Cathedral, Dunedin
After our animal encounters and fish and chips at Moeraki we drove into Dunedin, the ‘Edinburgh of the South’, which apparently is what Dunedin means. It certainly has a likening to Edinburgh, with many of the older buildings built in a dark stone with light coloured mortar, the Dunedin Railway Station (there in time to see the Taiori Express pull in) and the Council buildings being excellent examples, along with a statue of Robert Burns taking pride of place in The Octagon, in front of St Paul’s Cathedral (not quite as impressive as the one in London!), in fact St Paul’s is a grand gothic building with a very modern alter area built at a much later stage from concrete with a gaudy plastic cross – very odd! 
Dunedin Railway Station
The 'push-me-pull-you' steam loco
It has certainly split the community, according to the two old lady guides (one knitting a bonnet for an Indian child while she spoke!), but it was decided to try not to match the older gothic design, but build something contrasting. We had a history lesson of British Monarchy from them while we were there, going back to Richard III! A trip to the art gallery, the settlers museum (with a ‘push-me-pull-you’ steam engine called Josephine) and lunch and a stroll in the Botanical Gardens rounded off our trip before we headed off to the nearby Otago Peninsular for more animal encounters, stopping at the motor camp at Portobello for the night. I’ll pass over to someone else to write the next bit:

A baby blue eyed penguin
In the search of yet more ‘animal encounters’ we headed off to the Royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head, the only mainland breeding colony for any species of albatross. We arrived a little early so headed down to the beach where you can see little penguins at dusk, coming in to feed their young, although we haven’t seen many little blue penguins, we’d passed on the opportunity the previous day as we’d spent the evening planning our next few days! On the beach and rocks we expected to see seals, and didn’t think there were any till one coughed about 5’ from us. There were also nest boxes for the little blue penguins so with a little bit of peering we found some baby penguins, despite it being 2 months later they are a lot less developed than the ones we saw on Motuara Island in December. SO cute! 
Having introduced Mother to the delights of B’s iced coffee we went to see the Royal Albatross, Pam was our guide and very informative, there were 3 birds on nests, awaiting hand over with their partner, we didn’t see any hand overs but they all stood up and shuffled about giving us opportunity to see the chicks underneath. They were all very small, probably only at the 1kg stage, they reach 10-12kg as they first leave the nest before settling as an adult at about 8kg with a 3m wingspan! Huge.

A Royal albatross sitting on her nest
The second part of the trip was to look at the vanishing gun, built into the headland to defend NZ from the perceived Russian threat towards the end of the 1800’s, quite a boy thing but interesting none the less, to me and Mum it just looked like a gun from Tracey Island! The theory is it gets pumped up to pressure, fires and the recoil sends it back below ground so the enemy literally wouldn’t know what hit them! All very clever.

B moving the vanishing gun
The pyramid that just had to be climbed!
A little detour round the peninsular took us to the Otago Flats where we walked to some pyramids, which turned out to be the remnants of an ancient volcanic vent. Not too high with a path to the top with a sign that read ‘it's worth the trip up for the views’, we just had to go, so leaving Pauline at the bottom Jackie and I were up and down inside 10 minutes, enjoying the fine views out to sea and over to Mount Charles, sporting a very nice cloud hat!

Come along girls!

Preparing dinner at Balclutha
We took a different scenic route from the peninsula and headed towards Balclutha, not much there except it is between Dunedin and Te Anau, the gateway to the fjords so a good place to break our journey. The hosts were a joy, Mac who looked like an old Hells Angel, from Stoke on Trent (not that he sounded like he was from Stoke on Trent) and his wife Leeanne were the kindest people – we saw her bring an icecream to a resident so B went to ask where we could get an icecream, with which they went to their freezer, and even helped him carry them over! How kind is that?

Brian with Cam Ferguson - the world champ!
The neighbours woke us up when they arrived at 3:15am, making lots of noise, much to our displeasure, but when Mac told us the world sheep shearing contest was on in the town and our noisy neighbours had been celebrating after winning 2nd and 4th places in the local contest, it changed to congratulations. After learning that the ‘big guns’ were competing for a world title today, we just had to go round and have a look, B meeting Cam Ferguson, the current world champion, but also seeing Richard Jones from Wales (sadly who came last in the semi finals). I took a bit of video, along with some seals from Otago Peninsular and put it on YouTube, you can watch it by following this link:

On stage, preparing to 'do battle'

Today has really been a travelling day, the view as I type from outside the van (despite the threat of sandflies) is spectacular looking at the mountains behind the lake, we’ve prepped dinner, B and Mum have made pear crumble with the foraged pears, and we’ve read the paper! She’s beginning to understand how hard life is for us!

1 comment:

  1. HI P,J and B. You seem to have done so much in the last few days, despite the not so good weather! Great pictures (yes it is an elephant!). Sharp intake of breath when I saw Brian jumping boulders as that is how Nadia smashed her knee on hols with Iain a few years back. So be careful!! Weather here is still pants x 10 so feel good Pauline, a bit of wind and rain is better that what is happening here! Take care all of you and don't forget to chill out and do nothing for a few days or 'mum' will be worn out! She's on holiday remember! Lots of love xxxx