Dunedin and Mt. Cook
11.01.2011 18 °C
We have not blogged in a while. I suppose the rain has slowed us down and cut out a lot of wonderful sights to see, so our apologies for making you wait so long, but here it is.
The adventures outlined in this blog actual start on January first, New Years Day, with us packing up our tent and heading towards the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Our destination this time is the city of Dunedin. Originally a Scottish settlement, Dunedin (meaning Edinborough in Scottish) is a picturesque town located right on the coast. The town is filled with beautiful architecture, wonderful museums, quaint shops, delightful places to eat, and of course is a gateway to the Otago Peninsula, the place that we really wanted to explore.
We stayed for 4 nights in Dunedin at the Top 10 Caravan Park; in a tent. The first day we were there the tent had partially blown down and required and extra 9 guy wires to hold it in place. It was a windy and rainy four days at this park but this did not stop us from exploring.
The Otago Peninsula is home to seals, penguins, northern royal albatrosses, and many, many beautiful beaches. For us, one of the must sees on this peninsula was the northern royal albatrosses. These massive birds have colonies in only two places where humans have access; the Otago Peninsula and then on the Chatham Islands which are about 500 miles out in the ocean off the coast of Christchurch NZ. So we figured this would probably be our only chance to see the Royal Albatross. The colony of albatross is actually located on private property. The owners have an agreement with the Department of Conservation in that the DOC monitors the colony and the owners of the land get to charge a fee to allow the public into a viewing platform where they can observe the massive birds. So, along with 15 other people we dashed through massive numbers of sea gulls and made our way to the viewing platform where we could see Albatrosses sitting on eggs or soaring through the air. There are about 150 Albatrosses in this colony, however because the birds can be away from land for up to 5 years often you would only have up to 25 birds in the colony at one time. Although the chicks were all still in their eggs, the interpretive centre had abundant information and pictures. A piece of information that we all found rather interesting is that when a chick leaves the colony it will leave for about 5 years. This is its actual first flight. During this time it is a water bird thus landing only on water. After this 5 years flying over and landing on water, the bird will then return to its home colony to find a mate. When it returns its’ landing on the land is rather interesting to watch for this is the first time this bird will have ever landed on land. It will hover, fly in for a landing, and then just drop to the ground. Its legs are not strong enough to walk on or take the impact of a landing. We were quite lucky because it was windy and this encourages the adult albatrosses to fly around. So we saw two flying albatrosses and a few that were nesting. once the babies hatch, the chicks will be fed fish oil for a while and then fish to fatten them up. They will reach a mass of 10 to 11 kg at which point the adults will start them on an exercise program. This consists of making the baby walk to them for their food, but just as the baby is about to feed the adults will scurry away and make them walk farther. At this point in time the chicks are actually 3 to 4 kg heavier than the 7kg parents. That’s right, they are bigger than their parents. The exercise is a way to get them ready for their 5 year journey without parents around to help them out. The chicks must teach themselves to fish and fly from water.
Another Albatross; Royal Norther Albatross
After the albatross, we headed to Sandfly Bay. Although the name of this beach area does not sound appealing, it is actually relatively free of sand flies and a very beautiful spot! As you walk down to the bay you must first walk through a series of sand dunes. Here Ayden and Claire enjoyed jumping off sand dunes. Gwen also tried jumping off sand dunes and she seemed to enjoy it too.
Do you think it is windy at Sandfly Bay?; Jumping from the Sand Dunes; Sandfly Bay, Otago Penisula
Although the sand dunes were a blast, the real attraction was the sandy beach. As we walked along the beach we were entertained by sea lions frolicking in the water and romping around on the beach sand. At the rocky outcropping at the end of the beach there was a group of about 10 sea lions lounging on the rocks. We were about 20m away from this group of sea-lions before we truly noticed them on the rocks.
See if you can count all the sea-lions in the picture below. Look carefully as they are very well camouflaged. Go to the photo gallery to see the same picture with the critters outlined in red.
Sandfly Bay; How Many Sealions Do You See?
Our second say in Dunedin we visited the famous Cadbury World. Now, doesn’t just the thought of touring a factory where chocolates are made make your mouth water? When we first walked in the door we were greeted with a mountain made of personal size Chrunchie bars.
This along with the smell of chocolate was a little slice of heaven on earth. Although we would love to grace this blog with picture after picture of delicious chocolates unfortunately no cameras were allowed on the tour so we will have to leave you to your imagination.
After our tasty tour at the Cadbury Chocolate factory we thought it might be a good idea to get a bit of exercise. Since the sun was shining we headed to Dunedins’ botanical garden. What a beautiful place. We particularly enjoyed the aviary and also the forest where they had named examples of trees native to New Zealand. We got a parrot to say “want a cup of tea?”. It was fun to see other people trying to get the bird to say the phrase over and over again.
Feeding the Duckies; Botanic Gardens, Dunedin
Still needing a bit more exercise, we decided to head to Baldwin Street in Dunedin. This is, according to the Guinness Book Of World Records, the steepest residential street in the world. At a 35% gradient you can sure feel this in your legs as you hike up and down this street.
Steepest Street According to Guiness; Ayden, Gwen and Claire before they trek up the world's steepest street.
Our next day in Dunedin was drizzly so we headed in doors to the Otago Museum. I think this is now Ayden and Claire’s favourite museum in NZ. The “Your Face Here” exhibit at the museum provided us with hours of amusement and from the photos below hopefully some amusement for you as well.
This exhibit starts with a person, if they choose, sitting down behind a computerized camera and having a picture taken of their face. This image is then associated with a card that you then carry around the exhibit with you. At various points during exhibit you can place your card under a scanner and then with the use of a computer manipulate your face in various different ways. For example, you can make your face look perfectly symmetrical, or you can age your face to look like you would look if you were 72 years old, or you can see what your face would look like with sun damage.
Painting of Ayden; Decoupage of Claire; Old Paul
All very entertaining and interesting and indeed the best interactive exhibit that we have ever experienced. Our day was concluded with dinner out at D’Etrusco’s. Here we shared a large salad along with pizzas: one with blue cheese, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese (very tasty) and the other with smoked beef, blue cheese and artichoke hearts (also very tasty). We capped this delicious dinner off with dessert...the best lemon cake and pecan cake we have ever tasted!
When we awoke on our day of departure from Dunedin, the sky was thick with clouds and a misty rain was already falling. We are now experts and taking down our tent and got ourselves all packed up as quick as a blink and without getting dumped on by the rain. THANK GOODNESS! From Dunedin we then drove towards the interior of the South Island to a town called Omarama. As we drove the rain was, yet again, pelting down. On our drive we did stop at the Moeraki boulders. As we sat in our car at the beach where we could view these amazing spherical boulders, we did hesitate...wondering if we really wanted to walk along the beach in the driving rain. BUT interest in these geological wonders won out and off we went. Although we got soaked, we were very impressed with what we saw on the beach.
The Maori legend around these boulders is actually rather interesting. Legend has it that during a terrible storm a Maori waka (canoe) out on the ocean was capsized sending the people to their watery graves and the supplies in the waka floating to shore. On this particular beach baskets containing kumara (sweet potatoes) were washed ashore. With time these baskets filled with kumara became the moeraki boulders.
When we arrived at the Omarama Top 10 the rain was still coming down, but fortunately it would ease up every once in awhile. Taking advantage of a light rain moment, we hastily set up our home for the next three nights. Our reason for coming to the central part of the south island is Mount Cook National Park. From this park we were hoping to see Mount Cook(Aoraki), New Zealand’s highest mountain, and also do some hiking.
Our first night we went to bed and the rain was coming down. We woke and the rain was still falling. Hearing the rain pelting on our tent we all just rolled over and had a nice sleep in. Lazy mornings are the best thing to have on rainy days. After brunch and showers we decided to drive to the local town of Twizel and see what it was like. On the drive we stopped at various galleries along the way...perfect rainy day activities. Dinner came and went in the rain....we were not impressed.
When we awoke the next morning we were surprised to see sun shining! Hip Hip Horray!! There was no lounging around this morning! We jumped in our kiwi car and head to Mt. Cook National Park, thrilled that the sun was out and our hopes were high that we would actually see the peak that had been hidden behind cloud the last time we tried to spot it (while visiting Franz Josef Glacier). As we approached the National Park...guess what started to fall on our wind shield? No, not bird poop, RAIN! UGH!!!! At times the weather in NZ truly does boggle our brains. How can we go from brilliant blue skies to rain!!! As the rain pelted down we toured the information centre that contained some wonderful exhibits on the life and times of Mt. Cook. For example, did you know that in 1991 there was a rock slide on Mt. Cook? This resulted in 10s of thousands of cubic metres of rock sliding down the slopes at 300 km/h. The rock, stone and debris race across the Tasman glacier and 70m up the next mountain range.
After educating ourselves in the visitors centre we did see a few patches of blue in the sky and the rain was now intermittent so we decided that we were just going to give the Hooker Valley hike ‘a go’ and off we went. Fortunately the ‘rain, rain go away’ chants that Ayden and Claire (well, Paul and Gwen to) did in the car worked. The rain did stop! As we hiked along this incredibly beautiful valley we were blessed with sunshine, very strong winds, and amazing views of the Mt. Cook range that is the home to at least 8 glacier tongs.
Mt Cook Range; Weather is Clearing!; Swing Bridge; Great Views to Come
It was simply magnificent to view. After hiking for about an hour we rounded a corner and to our amazement there was Mt. Cook in full view!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even a cloud hiding the very top!!!!! We were ecstatic!!! Of course our cameras were clicking away.
After completing the Hooker Valley hike we headed over to Tasman Lake, the lake that is located at the terminal end of the Tasman Glacier. Here we were able to see the evidence of the massive amounts of rain that had fallen in the form of lake water that was full of silt and therefore tan in colour. We were also able to see icebergs floating on the lake. A great view to end our day in Mt. Cook National Park.
Ayden, Gwen and Claire in Tasman River ValleyIce Berg in Tasman River
As the contented and relaxed Allore family drove back to their campsite they marvelled at how a day (or part day) of sunshine can so quickly erase the glum feelings that days of rain can bring on. They also wished that everyone could experience the view that they had witnessed that day.
Next we are off to Christchurch, which is where we will be when this blog is posted. Hope to get a couple more blogs out before we leave, but will be back in Canada in less than two weeks!!!