After the night of rain, I was ready for the walk – up the Queenstown Gondola. It’s a vertical rise of 440 meters (1443 feet!). I walked it in about 2 hours!
I came back to the hostel afterward and put my feet up to wait for Blair and Suzanne to come back from Doubtful Sound. They arrived and we all went to a really, really good dinner on the lakefront (mine was salmon in whiskey teriyaki sauce).
The next morning, we all drove to Dunedin. About 3 blocks from the hostel, I missed a “give way” (yield) sign and almost got us in an accident (in my own defense, it was a 4-lane road and the sign was behind a tree). The other driver was about 20 and she actually followed us in order to yell at me. 😦
Anyway, that night we went to see the little blue penguins that come in from a day of fishing at sunset. It was so cool – we just waited next to the beach and at a certain time they come in, traveling together on top of the water – they call it a “raft” since they look like a raft, and went to their nests on the dunes. You could hear the babies calling to the parents and the calls back and see them walking on their paths (just barely though, they wait until dark). We met a nice American woman there with her college-aged son and daughter; she recommended we go to the Yellow Eyed Penguin reserve down the street.
The next day Blair and Suzanne went on a heritage walk with a guide and I went to the Public Art Gallery. The gallery was pretty amazing for a small, free, public gallery. Among their collection, they had a Monet and some original Audubon drawings. I met back up with Blair and Suzanne and we made our way back up the Otago Peninsula to see the yellow eyed penguins. We saw about 6 from a really interesting series of covered/nearly underground passages. They hide the people so we don’t scare the penguins, but we can still take photos (without the flash).
Coming up with our plans, we all decided we wanted different things, so Blair is off hiking with Jacob on the Routeburn Track for 3 days for their birthdays. Suzanne took a bus to Christchurch and will stay there for a few days to chill. And I wanted to see the part of the coast that I missed on Stray, so I’m in Oamaru. On the way here I saw the Moreaki Boulders, which were a lot cooler than I expected. Most photos I’ve seen don’t have people in them, so it’s hard to see scale, but the biggest one was well over my height.
Oamaru is a sleepy town with a row of shops and 2 penguin colonies. The shops all closed at 6, so I ate dinner and asked in the kitchen if anyone wanted to go see penguins; they’re a little too far away to walk and I figured someone without a car would want to go. 2 Swedish girls came with me to see both the yellow and blue penguins. This time we could see the yellow ones for free, but had to pay to see the blue ones.
The place to see the blue penguins was a small reserve with a strange set-up. You sit in stadium seating and they have yellow flood lights shining in the area where the penguins come out of the water. For some reason, the penguins can’t see yellow, so to them it looks like it’s just night, but we can see them clearly. About 50 of them came out of the water in about 5 “rafts”. There was a seal between them and their nests, but they weren’t afraid until it moved. Each time it moved to scratch itself or stretch, all the penguins near it ran the other direction! Also sharing the grassy area where they nest were rabbits. For some reason, the rabbits and penguins get along pretty well.