Today was an easy and quiet day of driving that started off overcast but pleasant. We drove through rolling green hills of sheep and cattle pasture for the most part.
We made a brief stop in Dunedin because I wanted to have a bit of a look at some shops. Unfortunately the parking machine would only accept one of our coins, kept spitting the others out, so we only had half an hour to look around. And then we headed away from the shops instead of towards them – darned circular streets! That was soon remedied, but we only looked in a few shops before we had to head back to the car. That was more than enough of being in a city after not seeing so much traffic or hustle and bustle for the past 3 weeks. Stephen did want to take a photo of me standing in front of the big gold door of an old building until I pointed out that it was a brothel and I really didn’t want my photo taken in front of it! We were 10 minutes late back to the car and saw the parking inspector just a few cars away as we drove off. There seemed to be parking inspectors everywhere so we felt lucky not to get a fine!
Late in the morning we made a stop at the Moeraki Boulders. They are these big spherical boulders that lay on the very pretty Moeraki beach. They are quite amazing, like big balls that have been left lying on the beach. We had lunch at the restaurant overlooking the beach, sitting out on the deck and watching some dolphins cruising close to shore. By this time the sky was blue and the sun was warm so it was really nice to be sitting beside the seaside eating our lunch and watching dolphins play.
From there it was more rolling green hills (though most of the day there had been quite a heavy mist/haze) until we arrived at our destination of Oamaru. They are having their annual Victorian Historic weekend this weekend in Oamaru and there are people all about dressed in Victorian outfits and riding penny farthings and driving vintage cars. They get right into it and we seem to be staying at the heart of things in the old Criterion Hotel in the Historic Harbour district.
Many of the buildings in the town, both old and new, are built from the locally quarried limestone, Oamaru Stone, and the town is crazy about penguins!
At around 5:30 we drove over to the Yellow-eyed Penguin colony to see whether could see any of them come ashore but it was a bit early. We only saw one in about 45 minutes. We had tea in a very nice restaurant on the waterfront and then went to see the Little Blue Penguins come ashore at the nearby penguin colony. This is a very controlled penguin viewing area and over 200 of the little penguins came ashore. They are very cute to watch as they surf in to shore, then stand about cooling down before they waddle up the rocks and into their burrows. There’s lots of penguin noise and milling about socialising on the way. These penguins have been out to sea feeding all day (at least) and have chicks in their burrows that they’ve come home to feed. The people that run the whole blue penguin information centre and who are the guides for the viewing are very strict about not allowing any photography at all. There’s special yellowish lighting set up that the penguins can’t see but that allow us to see them. If the returning penguins are frightened or startled by camera flashes they’ll go back to sea and the chicks won’t get fed. For that reason we have no photos of the Little Blue Penguins.
There was quite a lot of noise at the pub when we returned and went up to our room, but by the time we reviewed the maps and the lonely planet guide for tomorrow and got ourselves ready for sleep things seemed to have quietened down. We had no trouble falling asleep.