The Otago Peninsula

THURSDAY, 10th November

So, another big jump from city to city, but before I started exploring Dunedin, first I took a chance to visit the Otago Peninsula.

I had to take two buses from Invercargill to Dunedin with the change at Gore. The weather was sunny and hot again and it was hard to believe that just a couple days before the streets and hills by the road were white from either hail or snow. I had a great bus driver from Gore to Dunedin. His name was Graham and all the way he was talking about local history of the towns we were passing by. 44 km from Gore there is a town called Clinton. Graham explained that locals had named it Presidential Highway hoping that Gore would win the elections, but as we know, the results went not according to New Zealanders’ hopes, but they are stubborn and still call it that way.

I arrived in Dunedin before 1 pm. I had booked a hostel close to the bus depot, which was not far from the Octagon, the city centre. The hostel was even closer to it and it was a great location, because I didn’t have to climb any steep streets, which Dunedin is famous for. I enjoyed staying at Central Backpackers that much that I spent there four nights instead of two as I had planned (partly because of free WiFi; mind you, free WiFi; there were no computers, so you had to have your own one).

After checking-in, the receptionist said that there was a tour to the peninsula to see albatrosses, penguins and other wild life living there. The tour was leaving at 3 pm from the backpackers. It cost $95, a bit expensive, but the weather was nice, there was no guarantee it was going to keep that up and I didn’t know at that time how long I was going to stay there, so I decided to go. There were two Austrian and one English joining me. Our driver’s name was Russell and he knew all the birds we saw during the tour.

Harbour with whitestone sculpture

View on one side of the city, the glass building is the renovated Otago Stadium

I was actually surprised how big Dunedin is! Another side of the city. If you started swimming in the Ocean on the left, you’d end up on Arctic.

Pukeko with its chicks

Hawk flying in front of our car

Black swans

Paradise Shelducks

Royal Albatross Centre was on a cliff and this is just a lighthouse

We didn’t buy any tour, just watched the birds gliding. Albatross and a gull flying next to each other. You can tell the difference in their sizes!

Shags nesting on the cliffs

Blue penguin in a man-made nest

Pest, but cute

At the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve, Penguin Place

Penguin hospital

If you want to support the reserve, go and pay for your visit. But if you just want to see penguins, don’t bother and waste your money, because you can see them in the Catlins for free at the same distance. But you have to keep the distance, because they’re very timid birds.

We watched the penguins from trenches. In some houses (those triangle boxes on the left), there were penguins nesting. It all reminded me Hobbiton movie set.

Then we watched some penguins coming out of the water

Fur seals lying on the rocks or grass

More penguins

Royal Spoonbill

While we were going through the hill to the albatross centre, on the way back we went along the coast. We passed Aramoana and Russell mentioned a film I hadn’t seen one yet. It was Out of the Blue (2006) by Robert Sarkies telling a story about Aramoana massacre. When I got back to the backpackers in the evening and had an Angus Burgh, I finally watched the movie. So sad story and very moving film. It’s hard to believe that something like that happened in such a beautiful and peaceful place.

from Te Anau to Invercargill

FRIDAY, 4th November

That was the day when my Chilean friends’ and my roads parted. I was on my own again.

We left rain and snow behind.

The closer the centre of the Island we were, the warmer it was. Gore was very sunny and hot when we arrived. B. took a short nap and was ready to drive for another couple hours to Dunedin after that. I decided to go further south, though, because I gained on time travelling by car and got to the bottom of the Island quicker than I had planned. I had time now to go to Invercargill and even Stewart Island!

They left me at the Visitor Centre at about 2 p.m. It was in the same building as the Museum. It was interesting to see skull and crossbones at the front of the building.

My bus was before 5 p.m., so after we had said goodbyes and gave hugs, I went to the Centre, left my luggage for safe keeping (free!) and then went to look for Green Room Café. It was on Irk Street next to the cinema. The coffee was good and the café was a cozy place which protected me from rain and cold which came about an hour later. It was blowing very cold arctic wind and I didn’t want to go to the bus stop.

My bus was late and it wasn’t just me who was freezing on the cold. I bought a pie to warm my hands up.

From Gore to Invercargill is just one hour. The weather wasn’t as bad as in Gore, so when I checked in at the Southern Comfort Backpackers (a VERY good one! Like home), I went to see if I can find any familiar places which I had seen in a facebook album of “Two Little Boys”, a new film by Robert Sarkies with Hamish Blake and Bret McKenzie. And I think I found something!

In the evening, I watched “The World’s Fastest Indian” about Burt Munro and his motorbike. He was from Invercargill and you can see the motor at E. Hayes & Sons Ltd, one of the hardware shops. I didn’t go to see it, because it was too late and the shop was closed.

I really admired Burt’s determination to persue his dreams.