Invercargill, Catlins, Moeraki Boulders and Rare Yellow Eyed and Little Blue Penguins
My new friend Jane and I rented a car to take us down to Invercargill and along the Catlins Coast to Dunedin then to Oamaru and back to Queenstown. For us Invercargill is the most southern point we have been too and it’s a great thing to say. One of my friends from school, Scott had moved to Invercargill over 4 years ago and he met us in town and showed us the sights. Bluff Hill Lookout Point, where we could see Stewart Island, New Zealand’s 3rd island but lesser known and very small, then to Oreti Beach, where Burt Munro of ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ film used to ride his motorbike, funnily enough we had seen the film coming back from the Milford Sounds. Jane cooked us her famous ‘carbonara’, so yummy and we watched a DVD. On Sunday we went to watch Taranaki rugby team play in the ITM Cup against Wellington in a pub called the Northern. Sadly Taranaki lost but the silver lining is that we shall hopefully see them play their next game while we are in Christchurch against Canterbury. Scott lives with his girlfriend Andy in a lovely house, so we had comfy chairs, cosy bed and a fab big TV! Scott and Andy made us feel so welcome and we had such a good time, we were sad to leave on Monday for the Catlins.
Scott and Andy had very kindly showed us the way to join the Catlins coast the night before so it was very easy in the daylight and sunshine to see the beautiful coast line. We travelled along to Waipapa Point, lighthouse erected after New Zealand’s worst civilian shipwreck, from low tide the ship can still be seen, we didn’t see it. Then we carried on to Porpoise Bay, Curio Bay and Slope Point, desperately looking for penguins and dolphins, no such luck, but beautiful scenery even though it was very windy. Finally the place I really wanted to see Nugget Point. I’d seen this place from watching a rubbish film,’Two Little Boys’ but silver lining was the scenery. I really like lighthouses, I don’t know way, I think it’s because they are a turret and I’d like to live in a round house. Anyway, we parked and I walked the 900m on a small path to Nugget Point and I was blown away, not literally, but it was spectacular! The lighthouse was lovely, not the best I’ve seen the rocks and cliffs it would highlight in the night were stunning. Before Nugget Point there was a yellow-eyed penguin spotting beach, we waited about an hour with no joy. We carried on to Dunedin. Our hostel was fine, not up to the usual YHA standard but it was clean enough and the kitchen and common areas were comfy. However at 26, I felt old and uncool, but I reminded myself, we are only here for two nights and you came to see New Zealand not hostels.
On Tuesday I bought my new camera and we headed off to see the Moeraki Boulders ‘6th (attraction) not to be missed’ and they were amazing. These boulders have fallen from the cliffs in almost perfectly round spheres. Originally they housed crystalised lime about 60 million years ago! Now they just look a bit like spaceships submerged in water. It’s amazing to think that these aren’t man made, Mother Nature at her best!
Then off to Oamaru, this is a funny, funny place, it was like something out of a film, ‘Stempunk HQ’, two rows of building with interesting artist studios, Victorian Bakery and a theatre. Then as you walked into the centre of two a train stopped you from crossing the road and you were met by a giant toaster caravan. We decided to see if we could spot these rare yellow-eyed penguins, only 4000 left in the world, all in New Zealand. We drove to Busy Beach and watched two surfers try to catch the waves, but hoped they wouldn’t stop the penguins coming in to land. After the surfers left about 10 minutes later we sighted out first penguin, 2 hours before the tourist information thought they would surface. We saw two in quick succession and then we walked back to the car and spotted another 4. My new camera worked wondered and I have some really good penguin photos. (please bear in mind, that I was quite far away, so I didn’t scare them)
After the yellow-eyed penguins I was so chuffed! But I had booked to go and see the Little Blue Penguin Colony and they land at dark, so we had a wee while to hang around. I paid for the Premium package and it was so worth it. I was 1m away from the little penguins as they came to surface in their raft (collection of penguins) they climbed up the ramp and ran into their nests. The colony has special lights which means tourist can watch but the penguins think it’s dark. The colony came about after the quarry and mines had closed in Oamaru in 1970’s, people spotted that penguins were nesting under the disused machinery, so they decided to protect the land to develop the colony. The penguin numbers increase by 10% each year since the colony has been established, last night I saw 184 little blue penguins. I heard them feeding their young, I watched them waddle and run, I watched them chatter and call to their friends and I had a very special evening.