Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Oamaru and the Penguins

Peter is a single, gay guy, who lives just outside the main hub of the town of Oamaru. A most amiable chap who put us up in a separate cottage on his property. He had some great stories about his 20 year stay in the US where he lived in Florida and New York, before returning home to help look after his aging parents in the area he grew up in, which is where he remains to this day. We enjoyed fine conversation and a couple of great days with him. Peter is as big a fan of wildlife as Mel and he took great pleasure in taking us to visit 2 separate penguin colonies whilst we were in Oamaru. The nocturnal blue penguins which frequent the rocks and protected scrub by the sea right in the centre of Oamaru were a treat on our first night. We really enjoyed watching them waddle from place to place. It was quite strange to see them tucked up against the side of great big warehouses and the like, somehow one doesn’t think of penguins in this environment, but there they were, going about there business.

The following day we visited the more stereotypical yellow eyed penguin colony a little further down the coast at Moeraki. These are an endangered group with great characters. It amazed us how close we could get to them and just how good they are at climbing with many of their nesting boxes being quite a long distance from the sea shore. Incidentally, these penguins travel around 60 Km out to sea every day to go fishing and when they have chicks, they take it in turns to babysit them, alternating days out to sea. Out at Moeraki there is also another large colony of seals, sunning themselves on the hillside and the rocks. There was a brilliant sun set that evening. 

On our way back into Oamaru, as a way of saying thank you, we talked Peter into allowing us to buy him fish & chips at his favourite chippy in Hampden; “The best on south island!” he said, and they are!

Having fixed a puncture before being able to set off the following morning, we set off reluctantly towards Palmerston which would hopefully be the last stop before arriving into Dunedin. We had to spend quite a lot of this day on the hard shoulder of Highway 1. Not a great deal of fun and sadly something that turned out to be a real problem for my inner tubes. I actually had to repair 4 punctures that day and I even ran out of puncture patches. I had just enough to get us into Palmerston, but as it turned out not even having a spare inner tube to hand would get us as far as Dunedin. We woke up in our room the next morning and found that the tire had gone down again over night, so we decided to catch a bus into Dunedin with the bikes and get to a cycle shop as soon as we arrived. It was frustrating in the extreme, but it couldn’t be helped.

Our bikes were damaged by the poor handling of the bus driver, who meant well but was very aggressive in putting the bikes into the storage area of the bus and this put me in rather a bad mood as we were dropped off outside the very impressive Dunedin train station. As luck would have it though, we passed a bike shop on the way to the YHA we hoped to stay at and we were able to pick up more inner tubes before heading up to the hostel. I changed the tube again and we were back on our bikes and investigating the town before dinner. We did have to pop back to the bike shop to get some help with damaged rear wheel on my bike before we could completely relax though. The guy in R & R sports was brilliant though – fixing the wheel, sorting out the gears and advising us on a few things, all for the princely sum of $0. What a brilliant gesture – thank you R & R Sport!

That evening we dinned at a small Turkish place near to the YHA. It was the best Falafel kebab that either Mel or I had ever tasted. We celebrated this by enjoying a glass of red wine back at the YHA. It was at this point I decided that life wasn’t so bad after all.

We are into our third day here in Dunedin now and we have packed a fair bit in. I am loathe to say that we have tested with yet another puncture on my bike again today, but I’ll not dwell on that. We have been staying with Manna, Naomi and Dave, all from the USA, in a house which overlooks the city and a surf beach, just off a road known as Norfolk Street, so I feel right at home! We have been to two lectures, one at the impressive Art Gallery and another at the University of Otago, enjoyed another Turkish falafel delight and a tour round the gallery, as well as enjoying a pint with new acquaintances at a real ale pub last night and seeing lots of the town. It’s been good to be in a vibrant city again; lots of students, great food, a superb botanic garden and so far, clear, sunny days. I am writing this entry sitting at our warm shower hosts’ kitchen table, looking out at the glinting evening lights of the city stretching out to the hills that mark the boundary between the suburbs, the ocean to my right and the Otago Peninsula opposite.

Tomorrow we are going to stay with some couch surf hosts, Scott and Rachel, on the other side of town.

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