Dunedin & the Otago Peninsula

We woke this morning to a very chatty host who filled us in on many aspects of her life as we ate breakfast. Time to move on! In my haste to skedaddle I inadvertently backed into a stone rampart surrounding the house column. Oops. Well, it’s a good thing we’re driving an old rental car that already has lots of “character”. I’ve just added to it.

Into the car we went and off on the road from Invercargill to Dunedin. We chose to take the main road rather than the scenic coast along the southern shore just to speed things up a bit. Not that the main road was very main or not scenic. It was a two lane road, up, down and all around past fields and farms and sheep and cows along with random lakes and rivers with one lane bridges. After three hours we approached Dunedin with our main goal of finding a supermarket. We located our favorite chain and went in search of dinner and cold supplies, as somehow I’ve come down with a bad cough and a stuffy nose. Yuck. While at the deli counter, finding our favorite vegetable stack pie, the clerk was giving Dian a restaurant suggestion for lunch when another customer came sidling up to me and quietly mentioned that we ought to ignore that suggestion and instead go where she recommended. Sounded good to us.

So off we went, out of the city and out to the peninsula. Talk about a narrow, winding road! But it followed right along the edge of the water and aside from all the road work, it was a beautiful drive. We stopped at the Portobello Pub for fish and chips, per the whispering woman’s suggestion.

It was then off to the end of the road at the tip of the peninsula to the Royal Albatross Centre. It’s a non-profit that supports the only mainland albatross colony. After a short video about them we walked up to the top point through some outrageous wind to watch the birds in action. Amazing! They are huge and we were told we were fortunate to come on such a windy day as the birds love it and we’d see a lot more of them soaring. Incredible! We saw some birds sitting with fledglings and were told that at two weeks they would weigh 1 kg, at 5 weeks they’d be 2 1/2 kg and by 4 months 9 kg with a wing span of 3 meters.

After that we went back down the road a bit to the Penguin Place, which began as a farm, but the farmer turned it into a non-profit to support the yellow eyed penguins, which only exist along the coast of NZ between Christchurch and Stewart Island and a few sub Antarctic islands. They support the nesting and rehabilitation of injured animals. We walked along through the woods and fields to several areas where we quietly hid behind wood slats to view penguins in the midst of molting. It was amazing to see some completely through the process and some still with downy feathers in tact. We continued along the edge of the cliffs, seeing seals resting on the rocks. Back at the center we saw the “hospital” area where the had 58 penguins they were tending for various reasons.

By then it was time to head off to find our Airbnb. It’s an old house that the owner grew up in and he and his wife now live just a few houses away. His wife, who came from Tanzania, came by just after we arrived with a huge bag of lettuce to feed her chickens that are behind the house. She came in to chat and show us around the house, which is really a throw back to another era, but totally charming. The toilet room used to be the outhouse that they accessed from outside! The more we spoke with her the more fascinating the story became. We were charmed.

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