Leaving Dunedin in the dust we headed north on Route 1 (Highway 1, whatever), stopping at a Maori Pa for a quick stretch of the old (now feeling very old) legs, and then stopping again at Moeraki to see some great big boulders on the beach. There is some astonishing geological process that gives rise to these enormous marbles, but I am not clever enough to understand it, nor sufficiently sure that you are interested enough to read an explanation. Lets just say there are some big spherical boulders on the beach in Moeraki.
Back in the car and lunch ar Omauru, near an urban penguin colony, another amusing "penguins crossing" sign. And then there was nothing else for it, but the 4 hours up the most boring stretch of road in the south island to Christchurch.
We arrived and got into the hotel (Hotel So, so cool its erm cool) and I got a call from Peter (Dunne, you know from Vava'U, you have been paying attention haven't you?). We arranged to meet for some drinks and dinner in a couple of hours. What I had failed to grasp was that it was cup day, apparently a bit like Grand National Day in UK but on a Tuesday and in Christchurch. A large part of the nation stops to listen to the main races, and lots and lots of people get gussied up and go to the racecourse and get lashed. We saw the aftermath stumbling along the street, in their suits and summer dresses, hats and short skirts.
P&P arrived to take us away somewhere more civilised (a belgian beer house) and then somewhere less civilised. It was great to catch up with them, though I fear my alcohol tolerance has been sharpened over the past weeks and once I cross some (unknown) watershed I turn into a (greater) babbling fool.
In the morning The Six Million Dollar man prevented us getting an early start (it was the episode where Jamie Summers is reconstructed into The Bionic Woman) and we didn't have time for breakfast before shooting off to Akaroa for another wildlife experience. (Its worth looking on Google Earth at the Banks Peninsula and Akaroa, and Milford whilst you are about it to see just how unrealistic New Zealand's geography is).
This time we took a speedy catamaran out into the harbour and were hounded by dolphins (Hectors Dolphin), they were really playful and small. We saw a mother and calf and a whole load of crazy juveniles. A few porpoised and one even jumped clear of the water. Pretty cool.
Saw some more little blue penguins, some giant petrels (relative of Albatross, >2m wingspan, big bird!), and of course the fur seals.
We had a couple of hours in Akaroa after the cruise and then off we went again to a farm in a protected valley where they have a large colony of white finned penguins. We fed some of their lambs. Donned camouflage fleeces before hiking up into the penguin colony.
We watched as they monitored the nest sites, saw some eggs and some hatchlings, but the best bit was at dusk when the adults who have been fishing all day come ashore. Very cool.
A couple of hours driving back to Ch'ch during the night and our last night in NZ was over.
ADDENDUM: Spent the day doing the tourist thing in Christchurch, walked around and around climbed the cathedral tower
, visited the botanical gardens
, viewed an exhibition at the art centre
Heading for Auckland and then Hong Kong this evening. See you there.