Leaving Lake Tekapo was not easy, especially with a long drive ahead…
We head south, stopping at a few small towns along the way, to our destination for the night of Oamaru, which Lonely Planet sums up as a place “where nothing moves very fast, tourists saunter, locals linger and penguins waddle”. Couldn’t have put it better!
The penguins are one of the reasons we are here so, to find out where they are, we call in at the local iSite tourist office and get the lowdown on when and where to find the Blue Penguin and Yellow Eyed Penguin colonies. Upon discovering that there is a charge of $40 pp for the Blue Penguins we decide that we don’t really want to see them that much and instead set off in search of the more budget friendly (i.e. free) Yellow Eyed Penguins.
Apparently the Yellow Eyed penguins usually come ashore in the late afternoon at Bushy Beach. They are very shy and are easily scared away so the beach is closed form 3pm onward and visitors are directed to hides on the cliffs above. Sadly the penguins decide not to not in an appearance that day – somethings are just not meant to be! Instead we set off in search of our freedom camping site for the night, carefully following the directions from the lady in the iSite centre.
Either I wasn’t listening ( entirely possible) or she sent us in totally the wrong direction, but it takes us two hours of driving along narrow country roads through several small villages and dead ends until eventually, in pitch darkness, we find the campsite set amongst some trees right by the beach. We park up and settled in for dinner and a bottle of Pinot Noir and sat just listening to the surf breaking yards away and feeling the wind rocking the camper – it is winter after all”
The next morning, after a wonderful sunrise and getting a glimpse of the elusive penguins, we return to Oamaru to explore the town. It really is a very quiet, but very pleasant place. The town was built by the Victorians and much of the original architecture still remains. The Victorian Precinct is close to the harbour and is one of the best examples of victorian architecture I have seen, almost Dickensian in appearance. Jam packed with antique shops, galleries and secondhand bookshops in the area a nice place to spend an hour or two.
Also worth a look is the Steampunk HQ – a very quirky art project built around old industrial revolution machinery but almost like a Doctor Who set.
After staying around for a couple of days we set off further south down to the university city of Dunedin.
Timing our departure perfectly to coincide with the low tide we stopped off at the Moeraki Boulders a collection of spherical rocks strewn along the beach like a set of kids marbles. Quite a sight.
We arrive early on a Friday evening and already Dunedin’s student population are well into their Friday night partying. Even at 7.30pm there are students staggering all over the place and we see a number of hen parties REALLY enjoying themselves.
Our original intention was to park overnight at one of the freedom camping places in the centre of the city. Eventually we find it, but unfortunately, it turns out it is in the car park of a very rough looking pub, right in the city centre. Rather looking forward to a night of undisturbed sleep, we decide to move on to the Top 10 Campsite out in the suburbs.
We follow the sat at and eventually we arrive at the site and settle in for the night. On the way to the shower block we notice that the place is full of estate cars, all with built-in cat cages in the rear. There are a LOT of cats around. Speaking to a few of the other guests it turns out that this weekend is New Zealand’s premier cat show in Dunedin!
One of the main reasons we are here is to stock up with provisions at the famous Dunedin Farmers Market so we head on down to the market which is held by the magnificent Victorian Railway Station. Food producers from all around the region are in attendance with stalls selling all manner of meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese and we come away from the market with quite a haul. All the produce is of amazing quality, although the prices are not the cheapest.
Walking through the stalls I get a waft to the most amazing smell. Following my nose I arrive at a “Who ate all the pies” stall. Apparently famous in New Zealand, I ask the guy to run through the myriad varieties he has for sale before deciding on a “steak and bluff oyster” pie. Even though I had not long eaten breakfast, it was too much to resist. The pie? Absolutely outstanding!
Shame they don’t export them to England.