Friday, 18 January 2013

Kia Ora

A hearty Maori welcome from our first touch of land here in New Zealand. After 2 sea days crossing over from Australia and yet another in the scenic cruising Mecca of the Fiordlands, we were more than ready to be on land once again. So, what do we two idiots decide to do? Why, take a wildlife cruise around the Otago Peninsula of course. Our two hour excursion didn't depart until the afternoon, so we decided to take full advantage of the early morning docking in Port Chalmers by grabbing the shuttle into Dunedin. No, Blue Jay fans. Not that Dunedin. That particular location is on my "still to visit" list. This Dunedin has the distinction of being settled by Scottish pioneers. In fact, they tell me that Dunedin is the Gaelic word for Edinburgh. Since we arrived quite early on a Saturday morning, (Good Shabbos, all!) we decided to wander the streets of the fourth largest city in the country and breathe in the atmosphere. As we strolled by the Cadbury factory, I do believe that The Husband was sated by a full contact high. We were very taken with the weekend farmer's market that featured everything from local produce to organic beer. Once again, we were struck by the myriad of food trucks and independent stalls just aching for anybody to sample their fare. Hello Rob Ford!! Are you still the mayor?

As The Husband and I were planning this trip, we very consciously decided that while we were interested in seeing the sites of the various cities we visited, we were more inclined to soak up the surrounding natural beauty. (I am absolutely not knocking those whose tastes run to visiting churches and castles, nor am I dissing those who would like to spend 8 hours on a train viewing the landscapes from a window, I am merely suggesting that this is where our tastes run. We've barely shopped either, so any of you expecting a myriad of souvenirs might be disappointed.) Thus our crazy and somewhat bizarre decision to board a small open-aired vessel in what felt like sub-Antarctic temperatures. The Otago Peninsula is located exactly halfway between the Equator and Antarctic, but today it really felt like we were dipping more toward the iced continent. I wore four layers of sweatshirts complete with hoodie. I looked more like the Micheline man than a tourist and I kept searching my pockets in a vain and desperate attempt to locate my little black gloves. The point of this lunacy was to espy some of the local wildlife and their natural habitats. We weren't disappointed . While we didn't get to see the rare yellow-eyed penguin, which is one of the rarest in the world, (at this time of year they spend almost 80% of their time feeding underwater) we did get to view the Northern Royal Albatross and the New Zealand fur seals up close and very personally. The albatross, which breeds only every second year at Taiaroa Head, lays an egg the size of an orange. These amazing birds have a wingspan of over three metres and can fly at over 100kph.....and we got to see dozens of them doing just that. Check out these incredible in flight shots from the photographic wizard also known as The Husband. A special shout out to our dear friend The Birdwatcher. We thought about you a great deal today. You would have loved it.

The true highlight of my day was catching the seals resting on the rocks. There were dozens of them and an equal amount of pups. If they were as cold as we were, they certainly didn't show it. The pups, which probably arrived sometime in December, didn't stray too far from their moms, and were just out enjoying the day. Several even decided to pose and preen for us. Once again from the artistry of The Husband.

As we head northward tonight for the hopefully much warmer port of Akaroa, we can only pray for as much beauty as the southern tip of the South Island has provided.

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