March of the (wee Blue) Penguins
Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
371Trip End Feb 26, 2011
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Where I stayed
Trotters Gorge Scenic Reserve
Anyhow, as lovely as it is the city didn’t really hold much interest for us as being on a budget we weren’t in the position to while away hours sat in cafes drinking coffee and sampling the fine food on offer (big shame). Neither did Speight’s Brewery Tour of Cadbury’s World Tour so our first tourist attraction was Baldwin Street hailed as the steepest paved street in the world and acknowledged by the Guinness Book Of World Records. It was quite close to our camp site in the North East Valley so didn’t take us long to get there and we could tell we were getting closer as the streets to our right kept getting steeper and steeper. This place is the location for the annual Gutbuster challenge and the Cadbury’s Carnival each year where during the former locals race up and down the street and the latter chocolates are rolled down (I know which one I’d be attending). We left the Gimp at the bottom of the main gradient (you know as responsible hire people) and began the steep ascent.
There were great views from the top of the street and a thoughtful bench and water fountain for those in need which is a nice touch. Having seen and walked Lombard Street in California, the windiest (as in twists and turns) street in the world we had to do this too. We watched as jokers in their campervans sounded as if they were going to blow up their engines as they revved their way up the hill whilst the Gimp had a little rest at the bottom and waited patiently for us. There were loads of tour buses pulling up at the bottom of the street to get a picture of the street sign but not venturing up to the lofty heights
At the end of the peninsula we stopped at the Royal Albatross Centre, the only place in the world where these kings of the skies nest on the mainland. The viewing centre was closed at this time of year, as we knew, so we tried to get a look from the car park – lots of Shags etc but no Albatross that we could see – we didn’t mind though as we had seen them in Kaikoura and our main reason for the drive was to check out Pilot’s Beach below the Albatross Centre, the home to a colony of Little Blue Penguins the smallest in the world at only 26cm tall. We checked the DOC information board which said that the penguins had emerged from their days fishing last night at 8.20pm so we knew what time to return later in the day, this time without a bag of wine
With a few hours to spare we parked up outside last nights camp site to get in range of the internet signal so we could use up the rest of our pre-paid WIFI. This was great and enabled us to start planning our route around South America - not easy task – we are talking HUGE areas to cover. By the time we were chucked off we had eaten our value Domino’s pizza (£2.50) and headed back over to the peninsula to make a few detours on the way to Pilot’s Beach. Our first stop was Port Chalmers the cutsey, bohemian village nestled along the Northern shore of the peninsula. There was a huge cruise ship in the port full of passengers wandering around the deck when we arrived at the observation point and a wacky guy wearing a wizard’s cape and tooting from a fake pipe complete with cotton wool as fake smoke...cool! We left with a smile on our faces, what an eccentric place. Next we stopped off at Sandfly Bay a beautiful beach that was home to more Hooker’s Sea Lions basking in the sunshine. We didn’t hang around for too long though as it was getting nearer and nearer to dusk and the time when the Little Blue Penguins would be coming ashore so we drove over to Pilot’s Beach again and took up our places behind the fence along the rocks.
It was a gorgeous night (Andrew Edit - The sunset was fantastic) and a few other couples started to join us as time crept on
As the last few waddled passed us we headed back up the path to the car park and solved a mystery that had been plaguing the DOC for a while. One little penguin had made it all the way up the path in front of us and was half way up a wire fence climbing through a small hole in the wire. Apparently despite best efforts to keep them within the boundary two pairs were still nesting outside along the road leaving them open to predator attacks and passing cars. We backed out of the car park WITH EXTREME CARE and had picked up a hitch hiker at the colony from Canada. We dropped her off at Portobello and started our dark drive to Moeraki and a DOC campsite out of Dunedin. It took a couple of hours to do the drive and at about midnight we got to the reserve where wild rabbits were everywhere running around the Gimp. Andrew was straight off to sleep but I couldn’t resist looking back over the photographs of an amazing night. (Andrew Edit - Poor man has hardly had any sleep all week after driving miss daisy!).