Dutton Diaries

So since deciding we wanted to travel around 4 years ago, we have finally got around to actually jetting off! Been a hectic few months of planning and saving and not to forget getting married! An amazing year so far and time for some new adventures!
  • Day172

    Another Christchurch Wander

    March 6, 2017 in New Zealand

    We decided to check out the cardboard cathedral after a very chilled out morning. This hostel is far nicer than the last so it was good to sit outside and eat breakfast in the nice garden and actually chill out in the TV room without feeling awkward.

    I wanted to take photos of some of the construction being done or new buildings but in all honesty there wasn't really any worth taking a photo of just yet. There aren't many complete and most are so covered in scaffolding that they don't look like much. Be better to just revisit one day!

    The cardboard cathedral is not what I had expected. It is made of shipping containers and a corrugated plastic roof and on the outside just looks like a big triangle with large panels of coloured plastic for stained glass windows. It already looks quite impressive considering what it is made of. Inside though is most impressive. There are huge cardboard rolls/tubes that line the ceiling, all the way from top to bottom, completely disguising the plastic roof and actually making the place feel very much like a church inside. The simplicity of it is quite beautiful really. The alter and other such things are also made of cardboard and it looks like a wedding might be going on today. A very clever design that completely serves it's purpose and is made from such basic materials. They want to build a small shipping container bell tower next too as only one bell cracked when the cathedrals tower fell down.

    We wandered some more of this part of the city, a few more of the older buildings seem to have survived here but there are still big gaps where the CBD once was. More awesome graffiti covers the walls though.
    We wandered through a gap filler of sofas that are designed to look like grass and some colourful grazing geometric cows. Rob managed to bang his broken toe on a shirt metal stub in the ground so we had to sit for a while. It was just starting to get better and now it is worse again. New Zealand hates his toe it would seem as this is the millionth time he has banged it. Unfortunately flip flops are the only shoe he can wear.

    We had some food, ice cream and smoothies from the restart mall after looking for some souvenirs. We got talking to a Kiwi woman behind the till about going home and it turned out she is from Kenya (her accent would never give it away) and how nice it was after years to go back and just hear the accent and the other things that despite not seeing for so long still feel familiar. She was very nice and chatty and we ended up discussing British vs Kiwi confectionary. Apparently this is one thing we miss :)

    Back at the hostel we had a snooze...Rob banged his toe again on a chair getting out of the bunk (hopefully he will still have a toe when we leave) and then we cooked dinner and watched a movie before bed. It's nice to have a couple of days to wind down like this.
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  • Day170

    Christchurch Graffiti

    March 4, 2017 in New Zealand

    Here are some photos of some of the cool graffiti art around the place. There is plenty more of it, some massive pieces and some smaller. Some are clearly planned works and others are probably more random. All are pretty interesting to look at though and bring some colour to the place.

  • Day170

    A wander around Christchurch

    March 4, 2017 in New Zealand

    A few more photos from our second attempt at wandering around the city. Our feelings last time were quite negative. We were back in a city after weeks of gorgeous mountains and forest so we were already not really in the mood for it, but to then find that the city is so disjointed aswell, with just snippets that seemed to offer some of the life you look for in a city.

    So this time we decided to give it another go and really wander around the place. We went in on the bus and shortly before the central station there are lots.of Road closures and works and just a huge expanse of space that was clearly once home to several buildings. It is odd in a city to be able to see so far without anything to block your view. I think now that this may be the red zone, the once CBD of the city. There was some large pieces of graffiti artworks on the buildings we could see though and signs of festivities as people wandered the street either side in all shades if powdered dyes after the festival of colour that was being held.

    We arrived at a modern station and made our way around the city. I was keen to photograph a lot of the buildings that were still desolate, condemned or under demolition. It might seem depressing but it's also quite interesting and shocking to see and is really the only way to give a feel for it. A girl who lives and works here describes it almost like the aftermath of bombings and I can see what she means. Very sporadic in both the location of the destruction and in the levels of rebuild. Some areas are all go and others are just left in suspense, held up by steel bars or just a sitting sea of gravel that is only now useful as one of the many carparks that make use of old plots.

    The official figure is 50-60% of building were damaged/condemned but the non official figure that most locals would apparently give you is about 75-80%. I have to say we are inclined to believe the latter.
    What amazed both if us too was that not only were so many buildings non existent (even though you dont know what was there before you still get the sense something is missing) but that people were non existent too. This was a Saturday afternoon and the streets were empty. The shops, well, I don't actually know where they are. I headed for the high street and after the first section which houses one department store and one high street store we got to a crossing. The street supposedly continues but it just looked like more empty space to us.

    The only real places that felt alive were the restart mall where we enjoyed a nice cup of tea, a playground and the Botanical gardens.
    Don't get me wrong, there are gap filler projects all over. Little pop up cafes and random installations like a dance o mat where you can plug in your phone to a washing machine that plays your music, all to help deliver something where there is nothing. It's s bit fun for a tourist but I don't imagine it quite cuts it living here. Signs and messages of thanks and of hope show that people here don't plan on sitting around and are keen to move on and rebuild but from reading we know it isn't as easy as that and there are still people waiting for insurance and still the need for charities to raise money for those affected.

    Where there is development though it looks modern, fresh and interesting. I imagine once it all comes together it will be a fantastic place. For now though the developments add to the feel that it is still a broken city with all the fencing, street cones and cordoned off areas. I will get some photos of the new developments on our next jaunt I think.

    One Street that was cordoned off but now has new life is regent Street. Very cute pastel houses with shops and cafes underneath and the tram line which runs along it too. The trams are old fashioned and offer tours around the city whilst also adding to the feel like you have gone back in time. It will be strange I think to see the odd examples of older architecture and style juxtaposed against the new and modern buildings that will one day dominate the city.

    All in all we enjoyed our second tour of the city. Weird and eerie yes, but it isn't the cities fault and it is still interesting to see. The gardens were a nice break and a much needed dose of greenery too. Not the best we have seen in New Zealand, Hamilton wins that award, but they had a nice river where we fed ducks and watched the punters and a gorgeous rose garden, the smell of which just reminded me of my Grandads old garden, a very comforting smell now. I didnt pick the petals to make perfume though.

    We enjoyed some Lebanese Street food for dinner from stalls at the restart mall, it was the only open eatery we could find in the vicinity, despite being s Saturday night, and was next to the only bar in the restart mall so we got to enjoy a drink too.

    After feeding scraps to the very adorable sparrows, one of which nipped at my finger in the hopes it might contain food, we went and enjoyed a game of ping-pong on one of the free tables on the street. It kept us entertained until sundown when we eventually headed back to the station to catch the bus home for our last night in our Campervan.
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  • Day166

    Christchurch

    February 28, 2017 in New Zealand

    Today we went to Christchurch City. It is a bit if an odd place really, still very much in its recovery from the earthquakes and so quite a disjointed place.
    We checked out the start up mall which is made up of shipping containers brought in to help those who had lost their premises. It's colourful and vibrant, lots of fantastic smelling street food and some quirky shops too.
    We had a delicious bratwurst hit dog listening to a really good acoustic guitar busker before wandering to see the Cathedral Square.
    It was really sad to see the Cathedral in bits. So much of it is now rubble and what is left is being held up with great big bits of steel. You can only really view it through metal raikings or by looking above a big border around the edge to stop people entering. Personally I think it is quite a sad living reminder of what happened here and as much as it is quite shocking to see ad a tourist, I'm not sure as a resident I would want to keep seeing it like this as it is quite sad. Perhaps a safer and stronger rebuild that incorporates parts of the old building would be good?

    I think to be honest that we are a bit disenchanted when it comes to cities now. Wildlife and the outdoors is what we love and so without any money to really enjoy city life, such as eating out, visiting certain attractions and such like, we find it hard to love them.

    We plan on visiting quake city to hear more on the earthquake and it's impact, but aside from this we are more concerned with selling the car.

    We are at another free camp tonight by a lake. Much nicer than the other one, quieter and with a lovely view and sunset. Got chatting to a woman called Helen who has just started her journey so was able to share some advice. She is from Malton near York so not too far away from me. She starter talking to us when we apparently made her laugh with our little comedy show. It was probably a had to be there moment but Rob was being all high and mighty about how I should open the rice box so as to be able to reseal it. Of course that would mean that when shaken *Rob shakes box* nothing will......*rice bags all over the floor* haha! 😂 funnily enough we never actually shake rice anyway so I think my methods worked just fine thank you! Anyhow this amused Helen quite a bit and was a good excuse to start chatting.

    Now we just watched the international space station whizz by and caught a other couple of shooting stars too. Bed time now I think.
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  • Day164

    spoonbills and steampunk

    February 26, 2017 in New Zealand

    On the advice of the checkout lady from four square we headed back south to Kaiteriteri to see if we could see some Royal Spoonbills. Lucky for us there were about 10 of them in the estuary feeding. They are a lovely white with a very funny crest on top that makes them look like punk rock stars. They also have a rather creepy yellow spot above their eyes which, when they look at you, is all you can see so they look a bit like demons.
    Their funny long black bills obviously look like spoons and they spent most of the time with them in the water. We caught them all having a little break to do some preening through and it was pretty hilarious to see about 6 of them swishing their long black bills from side to side to rid them of water whilst their crest of feathers flopped from side to side on top of their heads.
    They looked pretty awesome in flight too, flying low enough too that Rob got some really nice photos.

    Next up was a drive back North again to Oamaru. When we arrived last night I forgot to say how much of a creepy horror movie set it looked like here. The sky was getting dark and stormy and this whole part of town by the docks was deserted. The buildings are all Victorian in style and it was bit like they had been frozen in time. Rob half expected a load of Zombies to appear lol. One of the penguin workers actually said that it is used for sets sometimes and we are not surprised.
    Today it was far less deserted, in fact it was quite busy. This is the Victorian precinct with all the roads named after rivers in England, including Humber Street! The buildings now house workshops, art and craft shops, antiques, knitwear and steampunk outfitters. It turns out this is the location of the steampunk HQ and as you can imagine it looks pretty cool. There is a huge steampunk train outside, lifted as though about to launch unto the sky and although it looks impressive enough like that, when I put $2 in a box it blasted out engine noises, steam blew from the organ like exhausts and the chimney produced a flame. Awesome!
    We were keen to check out the inside so we paid $10 to have s look around the exhibits. They were really weird and so interesting. Some were interactive like the organ they had and a really cool room of mirrors and lights that put in a display that seemed like it went in for miles. Some of the sculptures of wildlife were pretty incredible considering what they are made from, it's amazing how they do it.

    We spent a good while in this crazy little place before heading out to wander the old streets some more. A very very surreal place, especially so when you see people rocking corsets in their Victorian steampunk getups.

    We couldn't stay all day however and so we decided it was time to finally head off on one of the last legs of our New Zealand journey. Off to Christchurch!

    We took the scenic route there, however have since realised it is actually mainly just farmland, so not so scenic compared to the rest of New Zealand. It also took so long that we have stopped at Raikai Gorge for the night with plans to see the gorge in the morning and then head to the city. We were greeted with more of the brilliant blue water of the river as we arrived, a sight I have missed this past week! It astounds me every time.

    Anyhow, time to wrap up and visit the bathrooms by torchlight (no lights here) and head to bed.
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  • Day163

    Moeraki and Blue Penguins

    February 25, 2017 in New Zealand

    We didn't get up in the end for the sunrise over the Moeraki Boulders. We were absolutely exhausted and besides, the sky looked pretty cloudy anyway. We were so glad we didn't in the end as it really was a cloudy morning and so the light wouldn't have been any good, plus thus campsite had the wonderfully late check out time of 12:30, so we got to have a really nice relaxed morning instead which makes a change!

    When we did arrive at the Boulders I almost had to leave Rob behind with the Alpacas at the car park, may end up with a Lama and Alpaca farm when we get back! We headed down to the beach for the boulders and they really are very strange.
    Lots of spherical rocks just sitting there, some on their own and others in clusters. They sit where they have eventually fallen or been left behind due the erosion of the mudstone cliffs that are very brittle.

    They are really smooth except for where they have cracks that run along the outside. The cracks form almost hexagonal ridges over the surface and these contain an amber coloured calcite crystal. They look a bit like alien eggs.
    Apparently they are hollow in the middle and then this calcite crystal forms s large layer which then radiates out to the edges and shows up in the cracks we see. The boulder itself is made up of silt and some calcite also and it is strongest on the outer part. This means that there are some boulders that have either cracked open or have been eroded somehow and just left with the outer shell. One like this was a bit like a fish bowl, it was buried in the sand with just dome of the boulder protruding and the hollow centre had become a beautiful little rock pool on this vast sandy beach. It was filled with all sorts of sea weeds and algae, all greens and pinky reds.

    After taking some photos and admiring these strange 60 millions year old formations, which scientists still don't fully understand, we decided to head back to the car after s bit of shell and crystal collecting. Poor Rob had to walk uphill and discovered that for a broken toe this wasn't very fun. It looks even more swollen and purple now too.

    On the recommendation of the very nice campsite owner we decided to treat ourselves to some fish and chips for lunch from a place called Locking. It had great reviews and is known for its fantastic blue cod and chips. As the weather was getting colder it was nice to think about eating something warm and delicious and we really hoped that for once the hype lived up to the goods as we have had a few disappointing fish and chips here. Many places use McCain oven chips which is just wrong!

    The guy was really nice and told us of a couple of local places to visit including Shag Point and Kaitiki Point for wildlife. So far so good. After not too much time we had the fish and chips in front of us. No fork, just a box of chips with five delicious looking battered fish fillets and our fingers.

    Boy oh boy...these were some fantastic fish and chips! The batter was delicious, not sure what type it is but it was so light and tasty and complemented the fresh cod so well. The cod was also so so good. Tasted ridiculously fresh and was very meaty. Makes me sad not to have this as my local lol. Oh and they had proper chips too!

    After feasting for lunch we followed the advice of the owner and went to Shag Point to kill some time before our planned trip to try and see more yellow eyed penguins at Kaitiki.
    It was raining on arrival so it took us a while to get ready. We thought it would be more rocky bays with seals viewed from up high. Instead we were treated to seals just laying on rocks only a few metres down from where we stood. It is the closest we have been yet to the New Zealand fur seals and they were so much fun to watch. We have seen them play in the distance before now but seeing them close up was amazing. Some sleeping the day away and others leaping in and out of the sea, jostling and playing and waving their tails out of the water. Magical!

    The rain got quite a bit harder and so we set off instead for Kaitiki Point, fingers crossed it would pass and we would see more penguins.

    With little rain we headed along the low cliff point that took us through some grassy land and shrub, perfect for yellow eyed penguins. We were then taken once again by absolute surprise when there were some penguins just there on the grassy cliff slope below us. Again just metres away. Five in total, three standing and two laid down. In the daylight you could really see all their colouring although these guys were moulting by the looks of them which explains why they were not in the water.
    Rob then pointed out that on the other side of the point you could look down on a mass of little seal pups! They were adorable! We couldn't stop smiling and gawping.

    We wandered further along toward the end of the point and excitedly exclaimed when we spotted yet more penguins! Even closer to us this time. Rob was now in his happy place I think. They might not have been doing much like the ones we saw leaving for the ocean (still our favourite penguin moment) but it was so amazing to see them so close and yet still wild. We counted 10 in total which from other comments is a really good number!

    We carried on again and as we got to the crest of a little hill we noticed a seal that was up here with us, by the path and shuffling towards a lady ahead of us. Looking around I then noticed more mounds on the grass that also turned out to be seals just chilling out, not a care in the world for the excited passers by.

    Walking to the edge from up here we could also see more rocks just below and even more seals. I noticed a pup that was suckling on its mother which was beautiful, before another seal decided to come down and try to attack the seal pup. At this point the mother quickly defend her pup and fought with the other seal before eventually shuffling off with the pup. The other seal looked like he might try again before settling down.
    We saw another fight too, one seal that was clearly in the mood for a fight and at one point hauled himself in group of about five seals, three of which couldn't be bothered and just flopped away. It is so incredible to be witness to all this behaviour so close to us and wild. We absolutely love it on this coast.

    Next up was a drive to Oamaru in the hopes of seeing a different species of penguin, the little blue penguin. It's the smallest species in the world. There is a large viewing centre there but we hoped to catch them without paying and without the massive crowds using some online hints and tips. We put on our layers and waterproofs and braved the rain and wind. We were waiting by a boat ramp that they apparently make their way up. There is a tunnel under the road too for them to use so we were fairly certain we had the right place, just had to wait for then now. It was around 8 when we arrived and they could be as late as 10! Not so fun when standing in the rain and dark.
    At around 8:30 to 8:45 Rob spotted the first arrival making its way. It ran up the little rocks in such a cute manner before stopping for a while and then going back in the sea. 15 mins later and he was back, this time running and hopping up the ramp to take shelter under the boat.
    We asked the two women who were working to keep them safe about them and they explained to us about how hard they have to work to prevent them being pestered too much. They were really informative which was great and told us about how much better it was having the new tunnel for then to use, despite having trouble with them trying to nest in it!

    We saw another two arrive before we decided to head home. They were so so cute to watch but it was dark now and the rain was really coming down so my glasses were just blurry and we still had to get dinner and get to camp.

    At the car we heard some very strange and loud noises and I decided to investigate as I had heard the penguins can make lots noise. Turns out there were two just standing by a building by the railway tracks. I was reminded not to get too close by one of the women who spotted my excited waves to Rob. She was again very helpful and pointed out a chick waiting for its mum. She arrived shortly and my word he didn't leave her alone! She explained they weren't really fighting but that the chick wanted it's dinner right away and the mum was having none of it. Apparently neither was the chick because it chased her all over the place. Yet another amazing bit if animal behaviour that we got to see. I was also glad to have been so chatty with the woman because she shooed away lots of people back to where we had been before so it was really only us that saw this. Unfortunately gone 10:30 they won't get any help from the women and they just have to hope they are left alone.

    Having had yet another amazing day and having now seen 18 of the worlds rarest penguins and 7 of the world's smallest we were ready to get out of the rain, grab some food and get to camp.
    One McDonald's and Dominos later we were at camp and snuggled up with the sound of rain against the car.
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  • Day162

    More of the beautiful Catlins Coast

    February 24, 2017 in New Zealand

    I am in awe of this absolutely gorgeous country and the wildlife treasures it has to offer. Birdsong is everywhere, the most strange and interesting of calls that you feel you could sit and listen to for ages. The Tui has such a melodic call and there is some sort of warbler that I love to hear in the shrub and forest (note I now know this is the bell bird). The wagtails flitting about are so fun to watch and the noise of all the birds and cicadas as you drive is definitely one I am going to miss. Just a reminder to ourselves of some of the littler things that have made everyday here so wonderful.

    Last night I reluctantly headed out the camper into the cold and dark to brush my teeth. What an amazing surprise in store when I did though...the stars! Couldn't help but exclaim excitedly to Rob to take a look. It was a darker night than in Queenstown and no moon whatsoever with uninterrupted views all around us. Even whilst waiting for Rob to put some layers on a join me I saw two shooting stars! The milkyway hung vertically in the sky and Jupiter sat above the horizon shining brightly. A perfect chance for more star gazing and night time photography.

    Rob got some amazing pictures again and with the zoom we could see the star clusters that made up two strange clouds to the right of the milkyway that we had seen before in Queenstown too. We also got to see Jupiter and four of its moons, amazing! Plus more shooting stars. Even south America didn't have stars like this due to the moon so it really was incredible. Oh and we may have heard a Kiwi too!

    It also meant a much later night than planned so we were setting an alarm for 5:55 at gone 00:30...hmm.
    Once again in the morning I had to get a sleepy and reluctant Rob to get up. It was a little misty out and with the condensation on the windows visibility wasn't the best. We chambered into the front seats from the bed though and set off to find the penguins!(Writing a blog on find penguins about finding penguins has amused me slightly by the way!)

    I managed to find a quicker route to the Roaring Bay hide and so we arrived at around 7:00, which turned out to be fortunate as they actually leave their nests before sunrise, which was at 7:20. The road was windy and unsealed but the view of the pre sunrise sky, all soft pinks and oranges, over the rocky beaches was beautiful.
    After a short walk down to the hide we arrived to find two penguins waddling to the water from the bush that bordered the edge of the rocky shale and sandy beach. We were pretty excited and they were so funny to watch, it was especially nice seeing them enter the water and bob off too.

    Rob then spotted another one emerge from the shrubs where they sleep at night and again head to the sea. He stopped for a bit and shook himself off before he also entered the water. We were treated to two more after that, both the same, waddling like old men and shaking themselves off as though preparing for the day ahead. We were the only people there and with the sky lighting up over the water it was such an intimate experience. So so happy we got up for it.

    Feeling very lucky and happy we then headed to Nugget Point lighthouse. A few people were walking back who had clearly gone to catch the sunrise over the rocky nuggets. We think we chose better!
    We wandered up to the lighthouse and the view was really great, plus once again it was just us two. The nuggets are massive cliff like rocks sticking out the water and they look like sculptures really. The sun was too bright for a great photo though. It was a slight shame that we had such still weather too, it is renowned for feeling a bit end of the worldly due to the winds and roaring waves, but it was pretty still.

    I spotted some movement in one of the pools high up on one of the nuggets and with some zooming in we realised they were seals. There were so many in this pool, probably young judging by their behaviour. They were leaping out of the water and running out then jumping back in again and rolling over each other. So fun to watch. And then we started to spot more and more as we stared at all the rocks that we had first thought were empty and they started to move! There were loads, on the rocks and in the sea too. They started to bark and they sound just like a sheep! So noisy!

    We pointed them out to a couple that arrived and then headed back to the car, spotting even more on route.

    Next up was Cannibal Bay, strange name, I didn't try to find out, but here we hoped to find more sea lions and find them we did. As we walked onto the beach there was one ahead which had just come out of the water. He was so shiny and dark and he did some very typical poses for us.
    The same couple we had seen at Nugget Point told is there were many more up the beach and so after watching thus sea lion walk about on his flippers (very amusing to watch) we headed down the beach to see them.
    There were so many! They were all sandy lumps, some which had entwined themselves in the massive fronds of seaweed on the beach too. Rob spotted the flipper tracks in the sand so could tell where each had come from, some from the sea and some from the shallow sand dunes behind the beach. It is wise to keep an eye out in case they come out and surprise you! We kept a 10m distance as advised, but even this is just so close. They mostly slept but it was funny to see them flick sand over themselves or give us a wave.

    On the way back down the beach we stopped again as one was returning from the sea.Turns out he wanted a bit of a square off with one of the others. We thought he was a pub running out the sea to his mum but we realised this wasn't the case when they started to bash their chests together, roar and lock jaws. It was like watching a David Attenborough documentary! He kept trying his luck and the other was having none if it. Finally he seemed to decide to just sleep again, but no, he went for another sea lion instead. Boy did he make the wrong choice. When this sea lion got up he was enormous!! He roared and bit out and very soon put the little guy in his place. So impressive to watch this all play out just in front of us.

    We couldn't stay all day though and Rob needed to stop walking on his broken toe, so eventually we left and headed for Dunedin.The roads were like English countryside here and it was a pleasant drive.
    Dunedin we decided though was nice, but nit what we wanted right now. We entrered on the first dual carriageway we have seen in weeks and the amount of traffic was a headache. Even walking around you spend half the time waiting for lights to change. If we had more money it would have been great to enjoy all the bars and restaurants that looked very inviting, but we didn't. We thought about viewing more wildlife on the Otago Peninsula (they have albatross here) but in the end decided we proffered the free and intimate experiences we had already had and didn't feel the need to pay for a guided tour.

    So after a long walk in search of a cash point, which was ridiculously hard to find and left Robs toe in yet more pain, we left for Moeraki.

    Another early start for sunrise tomorrow so off to bed now!
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  • Day161

    Day two of the Catlins

    February 23, 2017 in New Zealand

    The warmth of the bed was a huge pull when the 6:30 alarm went off this morning but the thought of possible dolphins frolicking in the waves and a lovely sunrise had me wrapping up warm in my layers whilst tactfully remaining under the warm Duvet.

    Rob was too sleepy and so I left him in bed to explore and let him know of any dolphins. I thought I might have seen some from the cliff edge, a 30 second walk from the camper, so let him know and then headed to the sand. It was a gorgeous morning, mostly clear skies and the tide half out, leaving behind a long flat expanse of smooth sand dotted with rocks. I was completely alone save for the oyster catchers that really remind me of creature comfort characters. They are so funny to watch, sticking their bills into the sand and chasing each other put of their territories. I couldn't spot any dolphins but the sun was coming up behind a collection of rocks that made up the East of the bay so I watched for a while and then chambered along the rocks to watch as the huge waves came crashing in from the Southern Ocean. The spray was huge and it felt pretty awesome standing there alone in it all.

    Eventually Rob appeared with his camera. I tried waving but not sure he could see me for the sun. Eventually I made my wave over and we enjoyed a little stroll along the beach before going for breakfast. We had bought eggs too so we didn't even have to have peanut butter and jam!

    Showering was a pain, they took two dollar tokens and as the office was closed I couldn't get a second for washing my hair (each only gave 5mins hot water). The showers had no benches either so everything got wet and then I stupidly decided to wash my hair anyway. It was painfully cold in my head! Brrrr!!! I returned a bit flustered but ready to drag Rob back to see the dolphins 😀 (there was of course no dragging...they are dolphins, who doesn't want to see them!?)

    Sure enough there they were, just around where the waves were breaking. We saw them surf in the waves again and a fee did some fantastic leaps and backflips, it was incredible! I tried not to let the people swimming in pursuit of them ruin it but it really was quite sad to see, especially as they always swam away. I even told a girl who was thinking about it about the signs and why she shouldn't in the end.they should probably make the signs more noticeable.

    We watched some more whilst wandering up and down the beach and I had to be torn away for some lunch, during which I learnt that the yellow eyed penguins are the rarest in the world and they are here because there is still a large amount of tall vegetation in the dunes and cliffs, so we are pretty lucky.
    We made sure to have one last gander at the dolphins before we left for further up the coast.

    On route to our current camp near Nugget Point we stopped at several waterfalls. There are lots on the drive on the Catlins coastal track. The first was a ridiculously muddy walk, it turns out it isn't really an officially signposted waterfall and two people have tried to just make it more accessible with the placement of logs, stepping stones and balance beams over water. It is still precarious though and involved clambering over slippy rocks to get to the falls. It had such an enchanted feel to it, a mist hung in the air from all the moisture and every surface was wet and covered in some sort of green moss. It felt like a fairytale forest, so beautiful.

    After cleaning our shoes we headed to the next water fall, McLean Falls. Another beautiful forest and a huge waterfall. It fell metres into a big pool and then down more cascades. I managed to clamber over some rocks in the big pool to get a bit closer, it was very very slippery though, perhaps more so than ice, and I ended up stepping on the mosses and clinging to them on the rocks by the edge to avoid slipping all the way down. Coming back down the cascades from the big pool Rob managed to lose his footing on landing (he will insist in wearing flip flops on these walks) and now he thinks he may have broken his toe...again! Last time turned out to just be bruising but now he is limping and it looks a lot worse than last time 😥.

    Next up was Purakaunui Falls. To get here I got to drive along some great unsealed roads, one of them a detour from a closed bridge that took us all the way to the source if the river and around, it was ridiculous! Apparently I did a Scandinavian flick in the car, not intentionally at all, hit some hidden gravel and the car did a lovely little drift. Rob was jealous, I nearly had s heart attack and drove like a snail thereafter.

    These falls were a very shirt walk and like another enchanted forest. Rob commented on how could just really picture the Kiwi running around on the forest floor here and it kind of felt like dinosaurs could be lurking around here too. The falls were three tiers of really wide cascades. I think our favourite so far. They fell into a tranquil pool surrounded by trees that stretched horizontally over the waters edges, covered in moss and with leaves that dangled a little like rags. Rob has once again got some beautiful photos today.

    Walking back gave a new angle to all the trees we had just walked passed, some totally hollowed at the bottom with roots like bars that you could step inside and some trees were only about the thickness of a branch and yet ridiculously tall, it seemed to defy physics to me that they weren't all bending over.

    Finally we arrived at the camp, pretty small and basic and therefore nice and cheap. Lovely owners,the guy is from Derby and after 19 years still sounds it. We chose to get pizza from them as a treat and are now settled down. Fingers crossed the sheep in the field are quiet in the night, we have an early start to catch the sunrise and hopefully more penguins tomorrow.
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  • Day160

    wildlife, wildlife, wildlife!

    February 22, 2017 in New Zealand

    So I am currently sat on a beach, which also happens to be a petrified forest, waiting for yellow eyed penguins to come from the sea. They may have just arrived so my idea of sitting here writing might have been silly.

    False alarm! No penguins, my eyes keep trying to convince me that a pesky seagull is one of them though!

    The petrified forest is pretty cool, lots of stumps that contain the wood from the trunks in the centre and they are surrounded by what looks a bit like mud that has cracked and become solid around them.

    Back to the day we have had. It has been a day of driving along some of the Catlins coast in a quest to see rugged coastlines and wildlife. It has delivered!

    First stop was Oreti Beach. 26km of driveable beach. We drove a little way down and enjoyed the freedom of being able to weave lots...very fun! Really nice beach, huge and flat. We then found out that the beach is home to Paua which are sacred shells and struggling at the moment to thrive, because people drive high on the beach during high tide. This made us feel very bad, I think this warning should be with the rest on the big sign as you drive on the beach, not in the car park that we only visited to try and find a bird if prey we had seen.

    Next up was Bluff. This sticks out from the coast and is extremely windy! We visited the international signpost here and I drove up a very steep hill to get to the lookout. Surprised the car even made it!

    We then drove to Waipapa lighthouse. Beautiful lighthouse on the top of grassy dunes next to a crash my waves. This coastline is so so windy it is ridiculous! Everywhere has wind...just no shelter! We walked along the cliffs and looked for New Zealand sea lions, one of the rarest species in the world. We were looking out at the beach when Rob suddenly spotter one right at the Base of the cliff where we were standing! He looked half dead, and very big too! Half covered in sand where he has been laying for some time clearly.

    We carried on walking towards the lighthouse and then followed the edge as it lowered towards the beach. The dunes looked so golden against the rocky shore and deep blue sea. We spotted people on the beach taking photos and lots and behold there were two more!! Right there infront of us. The signs say keep at least 10m distance, but there would have been nothing to stop us getting closer. No fences, just common sense :) they were gorgeous...as far as sealions go, once again barely moving and half covered in sand.

    We took photos and watched them a while before wandering further around the point. It was so windy that seabirds practically hovered in the air, more good photos ops!
    After taking in the sights and sounds of the crashing waves we....(OK so penguins just happened! I will continue now from the warmth of the camper) returned to the sea lions and sat from the dune to watch them. They barely moved but we couldn't stop watching them. So incredible to be so close to them here in the wild and it was just so humbling to sit and watch. I decided to try some filming too and we waited for quite a while for one to do something a bit more interesting. Finally after waiting for what seemed like ages the big guy moved. In fact he didn't just roll over or shuffle more sand on him like the other, he did the whole pose like a sea lion stunt. Yay!!! We think it may have been because some idiot boys were leaping off the dunes onto the sand right near them (some people will always be stupid) but it was still awesome. After a couple of yawns to show off his gums he flopped back onto the sand, clearly that was an exhausting couple of minutes.

    After this we visited the most Southerly point of New Zealand called Slope Point. Again it was very windy, so windy in fact it was hard to breathe. I managed to act the child and use my jacket as a sail to stop me falling and Rob was very happy to throw a stone into the Southern Ocean :) another one to tick off the list.

    Finally we came Curio Beach, which is where we are now, and it has been amazing... It has made a true dream of mine come true! Seeing dolphins in the wild...up close!!! I have seen them before from a boat, here and in Portugal and even Wales. As amazing as those experiences were, this was just...ahhhhhhhh!!!!! I was leaping with excitement and I'm not ashamed to say I cried a little with joy. We got to see Hectors dolphins right in the surf by the beach. They were surfing the waves right infront of us, in the very water I was standing in and leaping high into the air. Just incredible! They are gorgeous dolphins, beautiful colours if black, grey, silver and white. They enjoy the bay here and I think are here most calm days, about 20 are resident. They are threatened by people though, lots of people who try and swim with them, there were people doing it today. I don't think it's an issue if they join you as you swim (they can be curious) but people and kayakers purposefully try and seek them out which isn't helpful.
    Talking of which we saw two naked men run into the sea in front of us and considering how cold it is they were in there for ages. We looked back from the high dunes and watched as they were surprised by a dolphin that surfed in the wave right next to them.

    I could have watched them all day (the dolphins not the men) but we wanted to try and see the penguins too.

    We ate dinner and then headed to the petrified forest beach I already mentioned. And now that I am in the camper and my fingers are warm enough to type again I can say that we saw three yellow eyed penguins. One jumped out while we had quite a but if light left and stood for ages grooming himself. There were a fee people trying to.walk where they shouldn't (again people not respecting the nature) but mostly people were watching patiently and from a distance.

    As dark drew in and the sun went down Rob regretted not bringing all his warm clothes. We didn't want to leave the beach though so we huddled like penguins and I tried to take the wind seeing as I had been sensible and worn all my gear. It meant we lasted a lot longer and once there were only about four couples left watching and the light was only shades of blue, two more penguins joined us.

    You have to remind yourself it isn't on TV and they are really there. They always surprise me as to their size, always bigger than I imagine and they are such fun to watch when they waddle and hop up the beach.

    Eventually we could barely see them save for the white bellies and it was getting very cold. We made out way by torchlight over the rocks and back to camp.

    Rice pudding, tea and a hot water bottle later we are ready for sleep!

    What an amazing day of moments we will treasure forever.
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  • Day159

    Milford Sound

    February 21, 2017 in New Zealand

    Early rise this morning for our tour of Milford Sound. There was a lovely sunrise though so it made it a little easier to get up.
    Our transport was a very nice Mercedes van with leather seats, not too many people, just 13, which meant less time faffing waiting for people at photo stops.

    The morning was overcast in Te Anau where we departed from, it made for very moody skies and the tinted windows helped make for a nice scene. The first part was mostly hills and a farm, owned by one family for quite a few generations and home to thousands of sheep. This was flanked by mountains apparently but it wasn't all to clear at this point due to cloud.

    The landscape changed as we headed into the national park and we drove through lots of beech forest. There was red beech and silver and the whole forest and park is protected so that they mustn't be touched for wood, even if they have fallen from natural causes. They have traps for pests like possums (there are over 70 million!) and stoats, which kill the native ground birds, so as to try and return the area to a more natural state too.

    We stopped at Mirror Lakes, some very small lakes/ponds which if it is still enough reflect very well. We had some wind so not perfect, but they are more sheltered than Lake Matheson so saw the effect a bit better. Another couple of buses of tourists though which makes getting a snap more difficult. Thankfully we were actually on the road earlier than most tours so where we only had to compete with a couple of buses, at times there can be around 30!

    Next stop was one I remember from last time I was here. It is where are huge Valley opens out, formed by a Glacier, and it is covered with golden grasses as far as the eye can see, with mountains shooting straight up around it so that it feels quite enclosed. It's a very dramatic landscape here, especially with the clouds.
    We stopped at Knobs Flat further down the same Valley for a break, I just wanted a picture if the sign to be honest though.

    There was a lot more cloud as we headed through more of the mountains and toward the fiordland so again we found ourselves missing a lot of the view. We could see just forest and bush and then mist. The driver told us there are over 20 avalanches a year on this road, which is insane considering it is a rainforest! Just can't really imagine there been snow up top and jungle and ferns down here. Very odd.

    Another stop was to see a large Chasm that one if the rivers has carved. Again a sight I remembered from before. It was through some beautiful forest, the trees all moss covered and lush green. The chasm had lots of interesting shapes where the water and stones had eroded the rocks to make holes and wells all curved in shape. The water was gushing despite not being at peak levels.

    As the mountains are mostly rock, barely any soil, the waterfalls here come and go very much with the rain and it has been dry up until yesterday here for quite a few days. We are glad the rain arrived as it wouldn't have looked the same otherwise.

    Next was the Homer Tunnel which was very long and built in the 1930's during the depression as a way of accessing the Sound by road. It was mainly to create jobs and took over 20 years. It was an awful job, very little pay, and was dangerous too. Avalanches, cold weather and minimal sun in winter due to the mountains.
    The tunnel itself is very basic too, just one lane, no bare and rugged rock walls and very dark, with the few lights just from the cables that run along the ceiling. Pretty cool as far as tunnels go.

    The weather the other side was very different too, apparently often the case. We still had cloud but we could actually see the mountains now and it was beautiful! Huge peaks of grey stone and mossy bush with waterfalls running down the sides. The cloud that was there looked awesome and eerie as it moved over the tops and down into the valley. Beautiful.

    Next stop Milford Sound. We boarded our boat and got our buffet lunch to begin with. It was mainly Asian style food which is kind of annoying, even the ice cream was ginger and lime, so you can see who the main tourists are.

    Once fed it was up top for the rest of the trip where Rob found out open hot drinks on a windy boat are a bad idea when his went all down his arm, oops!

    The mountains in this Fjiord (it is incorrectly named a sound) are awesome, so so high and they just tower out of the water. Until you see another boat it is hard to judge the scale. The waterfalls are beautiful, some very big, some very small, some that are so small that as they fall.they catch the wind and the water loops back up and onto itself again.

    The narrow part of the sound was very windy, actually making it hard to breathe, but we stuck it out and headed to the front. When we got to the Tasman Sea it got choppy and was really fun, lots of lurching up and down and stumbling a little.

    Heading back from the sea it was easy to see how Cook missed the sound. It us very well hidden and the entrance only appears as you get much further inland. It is breathtaking when the view down the Fjiord opens up though.

    On route back we passed a large cracking in the mountains where more water pours from, this is actually a fault line which is pretty awesome!
    We also headed for a waterfall 150m high that the boat took us right next to. He warned of the water but the people on the bottom deck were too focused on pictures of the boats bell and soon got a surprise!
    It was awesome, so much water!!! The spray absolutely soaked us, very refreshing and again, beautiful. Also Maori legend says we should now feel 10 years younger tomorrow....yay!

    Our journey back from the sound was more direct, just another couple of stops, one on the other side of the Tunnel as the clouds had now gone, an old Bridge and a waterfall.

    We were all pretty zonked to be honest, although I tried to keep my eyes open for the gorgeous views of the hills and mountains that we missed on the way in. The mountains now looked liked shadows, all different shades of purple grey as they overlapped. With the golden grasses and moody sky it looked very dramatic. (everything here seems be beautiful, stunning, dramatic, breathtaking - can't help but overuse the words!)

    After the trio we drive to our current camp, a free camp near Invercargill. Very open and flat landscape, lots of cows and sheep and again more eagles. We saw another one clip a power line! I wondrer if they eat wood pigeons, they gret drunk as berries ferment in their berries so maybe the eagles like it.

    Rob got some nice photos on route, can't wait to choose them for our walls eventually and the last half an hour was just like being back home, rolling low green hills and sheep, felt like the dales!
    Now we are in the camper in the rain, having fortunately had time to enjoy dinner before it arrived. Rob is fast asleep despite the time (20:56) and tbh I am about ready for bed too.
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