Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wildlife up the Wazoo!

I'm right on board with this whole list idea.

1. HIGHLIGHT! HIGHLIGHT!! Lowell and I went to Sandfly Beach (which, thankfully did not boast sandflies) to observe penguins in their natural habitat.

The DOC (Department of Conservation) had set up a hide in an area that was close enough to allow for awesome views of penguins surfing in from the sea, but far enough away that it didn’t threaten the penguins at all.

On our way to the hide, we ran into (almost literally) some huge hairy seals. They were snoozing on the shore and seemed indifferent to the people coming and going. I wanted to snuggle with them, but when I got a tad too close, the larger of the big hairy seals gave me “a look”, so I thought better of that plan.

Back to the penguins…

About 90 minutes before sunset, penguins start arriving on the shore to trade their ocean playground for land nests.

Oh these penguins just make my heart a-flutter. They were SOOOOOOO cute. I loved how they surfed the waves to the shore, shook the water off, then toddled playfully to the rocks and/or their friends.

We sat watching them for nearly two hours before making our way back across the beach, up the sand dunes, and through the trail to Gus.

While walking across the beach, two penguins were cruising the waves and playing on the beach within a few feet of us. The descending darkness, my hands shaking from the excitement, and the quick, playful movements of the penguins only allowed for blurry shots such as this:

But the shots in my head are crystal clear.

2. Another wildlife sighting! On the Otago Peninsula we saw the world’s only mainland albatross colony. These birds are HUGE. Having a wing span of 3 meters, they’re one of the largest birds in the world.

They’re big, but they’re fast and it was difficult to get a decent picture (plus we were stuck behind a barbed wire fence which hindered the process slightly).

3. The Moeraki Boulders are another natural Kiwi wonder. The scattered spherical boulders span a section of the beach in the town of Moeraki (hence the term “MOERAKI Boulders”).

Lowell pulled out his athletic moves yet again...

Let's take a closer gander at the intensity of his face and the seemingly dismembered arm.

Impressive. Very impressive.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Steep streets flowing with chocolate and more chocolate.

One of the main tourist traps in Dunedin is Cadbury World. We, being no different than our fellow chocolate-lovin tourists, purchased a 75-minute factory tour for ourselves.

We had to banish jewelery, watches, bags, and cameras, and cover head & facial (which neither of us can claim thank heavens) hair.

The tour was very informative, and we received several chocolate bars along the way. Some good, some kind of gross, but it didn’t really matter because it all involved chocolate.

Our favourite little factoid was that Cadbury endures 6 months of hardcore chocolate bar production for one week of Kiwi consumption. Can you guess what week that it?

Guess again...


There are 4 million people in New Zealand, and in preparation for Easter week, 43 million (I'm pretty sure that's the number our guide said) chocolate bars are made. HOLY KAZOLI!

Another crazy fact is that the Dunedin factory uses 33,000 litres of milk A DAY for chocolate production. See Mom and Dad? Chocolate is healthy!

Upon completion of the tour, we perused the chocolate store as we dreamed of different varieties of chocolate melting in our mouths. We grabbed our faves and vacated before more damage was done.

(The portion of our chocolate stockpile that hadn't been consumed before returning to Gus.)

I was hoping that the chocolate stash we acquired would be enough to satisfy our bellies for the next several weeks, but in fact it took us 2 days to polish off every last delicious crumb. Apparently we lack self control in this little family of ours... but at least we're happy.

Another must-see in Dunedin is Baldwin Street- the world’s steepest street.

The asphalt turns to concrete partway up the hill because otherwise the road would melt away on a warm day.

The steepest grade is 1 in 2.86. I don’t really know what that means other than that it’s a stinkin steep street.

We didn’t take Gus up it because we love him too much, but we sure did carry ourselves up and down.

And I say again… it was steep.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hot spots between Bluff and Dunedin

1. Bluff is the southern tip of the South Island. It's actually not the most southern tip (as the actual tip is part of a farmer's field), but it's where the road ends.

(Yeay- we made it!)

It is said that one should travel NZ from Cape Rienga (north tip of the North island) to Bluff. Well, Gussy goo has seen us through it all.

From Cape Rienga...

To Bluff...

Bluff is obviously cool because it's the furthest south you can go, but the toilets added a whole new dimension of awesomeness to the experience.

They spoke, they sang, and they did everything for you (i.e., open and close the door, activate toilet paper dispenser, flush the toilet, pump soap, turn on faucet, and activate drier).

Lowell was initially scared when the door closed him in without his consent.

But he survived...and loved it. I could hear him singing with the music (and dancing) from several meters away.

2. Curio Bay is one of the world's "most extensive and best preserved Jurassic fossilised forests", and home to wildlife such as the endangered yellow-eyed penguins.

We got within a few meters of two penguins. One was normal looking, and the "ugly duckling" hiding shamefully in the background was moulting.

One is ill-advised to get too close to the moulting penguins because they have lost a lot of fat and feathers (i.e., insulation) and could die if scared into the sea. No worries though, he seemed happy picking at his moulting feathers.

And they knew that we loved them...

3. Porpoise Bay was just down the road from Curio Bay, and is often a playground for dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

We didn't get to see any dolphins or sea lions (boo hoo), but we sure did get a good close look at a seal lazily blowing bubbles in a little pool on the beach.

We scoured the rocky terrain in hopes of sighting more wildlife, but only saw rocks, rocks, more rocks, and crashing waves.

4. Lake Wilkie. ARE YOU LISTENING KEVAN, LEAH, AND JENNA?! We stopped at this little tourist spot for the SOLE reason that you are our favourite Wilkies.

We walked to the lake and wondered why anyone who didn't know a Wilkie would go there because it seemed fairly insignificant.

Apparently, it is pretty cool though. The lake was initially formed from trapped water during the last ice age. It's slowly filling in now, and is referred to as a "bog lake". The lake walk shows the succession of forest development from lake edge to mature forest. This type of ecosystem is especially rare for this area of NZ. So there you go Wilkie clan. Apparently Lake Wilkie isn't super lame after all!

5. Purakaunui Falls. We took a brief jaunt to the falls, and it was well worth it. Apparently they're a "photographer's dream" (but more impressive if it had been raining which it hadn't been)...

6. Jack's Blowhole was 55m deep, 144m long, 68m wide, 200m inland from sea, and stinking crazy. The pictures don't do the roaring crashing waves justice... it was a tad scary.

7. Tunnel Hill is a 250-meter long railway tunnel excavated by hand over the period of two years (1891-92). That does not sound like a fun job...

8. Nugget Point is basically a lighthouse at the end of a double-cliffed walkway.

From the lighthouse, there are magnificent views of the coastlines on either side. A lot of wildlife can be seen here at times....but apparently not at the time we were there!

And there you have it. 8 hot spots between Bluff and Dunedin.