A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about birds

Dunedin - Day 77

Amazing Albatross

We were in need of a shower (don't worry, I'm not saying each time we've had a shower, so we are pretty clean I promise!) so when we arrived in Dunedin this morning we found they had a local swimming baths and went there. Moana Pool is a big place with a large standard swimming pool, diving pools, baby pool, a fun pool and a spa pool. There was a school gala going on in the main pool - although we did wonder whether it was a national meet considering the size of New Zealand?! - so we swam in the fun pool, rode the waves when they machine turned on and zipped around the wave tunnel on floats. You wouldn't think we were 27 and 29! But then we relaxed in the spa pool, which is quite grown up I think!?!

After lunch, we met Mary at her hotel room and we were so jealous of the massive bed in there! It's definitely life's little luxuries that you miss when on the road! Mary had a free afternoon, but before we started our exploring of Dunedin together, we stopped off at the isite to book mine and Andrew's Milford Sound trip for a few days time - we tried to get on the same time as Andrew's mum but it was all booked out by their coach trip.

In Dunedin, there is an albatross colony out on the Otago Pennisula - I didn't know until we got there but I definitely wanted to try and see them. At the isite we were told that if its a windy day we might see them flying around from the car park at the albatross tourist centre, but if not there are tours where you have a better chance to get a glimpse I think.

A short drive out to the Pennisula, with lots of twists and turns in the road though, we got to the car park. Almost as soon as we got out of the car, this bird with enormous wings flew right around the tourist centre. We didn't even have the camera ready at this point so I was disappointed when we waited for a while and didn't see any more.
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At the tourist centre they told us the last tour had gone, so we went back outside and waited longer. It was a windy day after all. We didn't have to stand too long before they came flying again, as many as three at once, swooping around the tourist centre. It was just awesome to see, they are so graceful, it really was spectacular. The pictures don't really do it justice but again I am hoping I can edit one or two when I get home.
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We then drove up, down and around more windy roads to try and see some seals and sea lions again at Allen Beach. We had to jump over a couple of turnstiles and walk down to the beach to get to the right spot but we were either too early or too late because there wasn't any there :( It was a very pretty beach though and the drive was lovely too.
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There were no DOC campsites in Dunedin so after dropping Mary off to get ready for the evening, we found a holiday park close by. It was freezing cold and so windy, being close to the sea, and getting ready for a nice dinner was difficult on two counts. One, the darkness and coldness in the van when getting changed and trying to put some mascara on to attempt a less dishevelled look. And two, the freezing cold outside when deciding what to wear when the choice is; sparkly flip flops (cold) or converse trainers (dirty), a button down vest (cold) or a tshirt (scruffy) and a 'north face' coat (not 'going out for dinner' wear) or a trespass fleece (not 'going out for dinner' wear plus scruffy). I decided on the sparkly flip flops and button down vest, plus the coat with a jumper and my butterfly sarong as a scarf for the journey to the restaurant because it was that cold. It's definitely impossible to pack everything you need for each occasion and weather type when you only have a backpack, but I think a black cardigan would have been really handy...I think I might do a post about what I should have taken once we return home.

Mary, Andrew and I went for dinner at a place called The Reef, which was recommended to us for good seafood. Andrew had steak and prawns, and Mary and I had the same dish - silver trumpeter and sole (because they didn't have two portions of trumpeter left, we shared) with a tomato and prawn bisque, roast potatoes, salad and crumbed calamari - which we ate with a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir called Kopiko Bay. It was delicious! I don't know if it was just really good, or whether it was made tastier by the fact we hadn't eaten out in the evening for a while!

We had a great dinner, chatting and catching up, Andrew's mum is really enjoying her trip around New Zealand, which were really happy about. We walked back towards Mary's hotel and stopped on the way for a drink in a craft beer pub - Andrew's choice of course! It was a nice place though, right on The Octagon, and it was a nice end to a lovely evening.
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What was less lovely was returning to the camper van. Despite us sleeping inside it completely, rather than with the tent attachment, and fully clothed in our now very familiar thermal wear, we were absolutely freezing...again!

Well, you can't have everything!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged birds food camping albatross Comments (0)

Oamaru - Day 76

Penguins!

18 °C

We were up before 7am today because of the clock change, which wasn't ideal after a long day of driving yesterday, but it meant we had time for some travelling essentials - blogging, planning and washing!

Oamaru is a small Victorian town with lots of lovely old buildings, which seems a little strange after 3 weeks of seeing pretty much only 'new' buildings. It makes me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have such beautiful old buildings.
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We had lunch overlooking the town and while we were up there we spotted a jetty with about a hundred birds on there. Oamaru is known for its penguins, so from this high up we thought we might have come across a massive colony, but no! On closer inspection, they were just another sea bird. Still, I've never seen so many birds in one place.
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There was two chances to spot penguins here. One was to see the blue penguins, where you sat in the dark in a stand and waited for them to come out of the sea, and you had to pay for it and you couldn't take pictures. The other was from the cliff top looking down on the beach to see the yellow penguins, which was free. So we went to see the yellow penguins.

A couple came on to the beach while we were there, which was lovely to see, even if it was quite far away. I took a few videos of them walking up the beach - they walk so funnily!
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I didn't think we'd see one closely, because the beach was quite a way down, but then we saw this little fella in the bush just in front of us! How a penguin can get up to that height with those little legs and flappy wings is beyond me?!
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We were there for a long time, waiting for more to come, but then we saw a man on the beach. Apparently, you're not allowed on the beach because this scares off the penguins, so after seeing three or four penguins we didn't get to see any more.

It was getting late, because you have to wait until early evening to see the penguins, but we still decided to drive to a campsite closer to Dunedin, our destination for tomorrow. It was really difficult to find, with no signposts, and the sat nav took us to the wrong side of the road, so we went back on ourselves about 20km down an eerily quiet, dark, winding road. It was scary and I really didn't like it!

We took a chance on a sign for a reserve of the same name - even though most reserves showed from the outset that you could camp there with a little symbol - and in the darkness went down a long gravel path and over a ford, we found it. The campsite was tiny, but luckily had a few other campers there, which made it less terrifying for me. The toilet, the camp's only facility, was up a few steps in this scary little cabin in the trees. If you'd forgotten your torch, you'd have been lost...literally.

Needless to say, this is definitely not my favourite that we've visited. I am looking forward to leaving tomorrow morning!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged birds penguins steep_roads Comments (0)

Lake Wanaka - Day 75

And more driving...

18 °C

After the glaciers yesterday we drove to a campsite on Lake Paringa, near Haast, so we could get a head start for today.
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We had a lot of driving to do to get to the East coast of the South Island today. The rural nature of New Zealand was never more evident than when we had a cow road block on the main road! A bit like cows being herded down the M6.
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Along the way, we saw Mount Aspiring. We almost missed this fantastic view because it was side on to the road, but we stopped to fill our water tank directly across from it and was hit by this really imposing mountain.
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I've also been desperately trying to get a decent picture of one of the many birds of prey that fly around here, but they're too quick. I did manage to get a couple of ok shots today though, which I hope I will be able to edit when I get home.
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On the way towards Lake Wanaka, where we'd stop for lunch, the scenery was typical beautiful. We've seen a lot of lakes and mountains by this point!
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Lake Wanaka is a really pretty town and probably my favourite so far in New Zealand. I am sure it is even better during the ski season. We had lunch by the lake and fed the ducks, which is where we spotted this massive fish in the water!
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There was a Gypsy Fair on in the town, so we had a walk around it. I expected Gypsy Rose Lee telling fortunes and pretty painted wagons but it was just caravans, stalls selling rose quartz and had a little stage for people to perform on. One young boy sang an Of Monsters and Men song while playing the guitar, which was quite impressive and he tried really hard.
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We were about to continue our journey when Andrew spotted yet another viewpoint, this time of Mount Aspiring, which ended up taking us ages to get to and the view was nowhere near as good as early. The first picture is of the mountain, the second of me looking impressed!!
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The rest of the day was spent driving to the Glencoe Reserve campsite near Oamaru, passing more mountains and we managed to get another picture of a bird of prey eating road kill!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains lakes birds fish views gypsy_fair Comments (0)

Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef Glacier - Day 73

This shall be known as the day after the coldest night of our lives.

18 °C

Well, last night was freezing. Literally. The window screen on the van was frozen when we woke up and it was only 1 degrees, so it must have dropped below zero during the night. All night we kept waking up because we'd turned and moved into a freezing (not just cold!) spot or uncovered a thermal-clad arm from the two duvets we were under. I felt so sorry for the people in tents. We made some porridge for warmth and everyone on the campsite gathered together to share hot water for drinks to try and get some warmth.
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We drove through Arthur's Pass this morning, which had some really beautiful scenery along the way. It was almost worth freezing for!
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At the dramatically named Deaths Corner, we stopped to see some Kea, which are apparently slightly destructive - they can chew all the rubber from around your windows - but they were really friendly, sitting on the fence in front of us, and cute.
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The next big stop would be Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, so this took us through a small town called Hokitika, where we needed hot food. This came in the form of an enormous sausage roll.
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After yet another unsuccessful attempt to get some photos uploaded - we did get our camper and first hostel booked for Australia though - we travelled towards the glaciers.
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We stopped for the day at a campsite by a peaceful lake. The sun was shining and it was lovely and warm when we arrived, but as soon as the sun went behind the trees it was really cold again. Another night in the thermals!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains lakes birds food roads arthurs_pass Comments (0)

Uretiti Beach Camp to Cape Reinga - Day 65

Beautiful beach...until the nudists came out!

24 °C

We woke up after a good sleep - the caving and driving must have tired us out - and headed for the beach. And what a beautiful beach it was! White sand, mountains and islands out to sea. Hardly anyone was in the beach, a few walkers and a lady sunbathing and reading her book.
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The sand was covered in pretty shells, some of them perfect and enormous - I wish I could have brought some back. And the birds were really cute too!
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I felt like I could have stayed here for a long time, it was so peaceful and beautiful. But then in the distance, walking towards us were two people, who must have been wearing speedos or a tiny bikini. Wait, they don't look like they have any clothes on...can't be, they've got hats on. Oh no, it can be. A man and woman were walking towards, completely naked except for sun hats?! We turned around and walked the other way, but I still can't get my head around wearing a hat when you're completely naked?? Anyway, when we turned around a bit later, they'd grabbed their body boards and were surfing the waves of this beautiful beach completely starkers.

Time to go and we had another long drive ahead of us to get to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. We stopped in a town called Whangerai for shopping and to book our dolphin trip. The tour we chose includes a swim with the dolphins if the conditions are right, so fingers crossed we'll be lucky enough to be able to get in with them.

Along the way we saw some more beautiful scenery...
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We got to our camp at Cape Reinga at a good time, which was in a really pretty bay. We've been able to camp in some really amazing places here so far - in terms of scenery, not facilities! - for very little money.
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Not everything was perfect though. As we started to make dinner the camp stove wouldn't work properly, which meant we had to cook a two pan meal on one hob. It took forever and we ended up making and eating dinner in the dark.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches birds views campsite Comments (0)

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