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VagabondsUSA "TRAVEL IS FATAL TO PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY AND NARROW MINDEDNESS." MARK TWAIN

The Dark Times Are Upon Us

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 27 March 2020 | Views [29]

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

THE WEATHER IN DUNNEDIN WAS A PORTENT OF THE DARK TIMES to come.  It’s a charming city, often compared to Edinburgh, but on both occasions when we visited, it was cold and gloomy.  The first signs of the impending shutdown of the country — other than the empty parking lot of our lodging — was the surprise closure of Orokoni Ecosanctuary.  Our little car groaned up the winding road outside of Port Chalmers to the gate and — Surprise! — it was locked.

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  Mixed Messages 

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                                Royal Albatross Centre

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                                                          Even the chicks are huge

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                                                                               Royal Albatross

We had better luck at the Royal Albatross Sanctuary at the end of the Otago Peninsula except for the sticker shock.  When we last visited 15 years ago it was free.  Now the entry fee is $60 for a guided walk.  I surely do miss the good old days.

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   Moeraki Boulders

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                               Moeraki Boulders

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                                                            Moeraki Boulders

On the way to Oamaru we stopped at the Moeraki Boulders, dozens of perfectly spherical boulders scattered along the beach like a giant’s marbles.  My friend Paul, the amateur geologist, emailed me an explanation.  They are called a septarian nodules.  It is "fossilized" cracks in a concretion that have been metamorphosed and hardened.  He’s a great teacher but this is why few of us have ever been interested in geology!

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  Makka's social distancing sign

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                               Oamaru Victorian District

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                                                             Oamaru Victorian District

Oamaru’s McDonalds was open for lunch — drive-through only, of course — so we took our BigMacs to the Victorian District.  It must be charming normally with bars, restaurants, quaint bookstores and even a bookbinder.  In its un-peopled state it was easy to take photos.

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                Dark Times, Oamaru Victorian District

We hardly had time to move into our room in Oamaru when it was time to go out to Katiki Point.  Up to 15 Yellow-eyed Penguins have been reported coming ashore to their burrows in the late afternoon.  At first we saw nothing happening.  Then we started noticing the New Zealand fur seals lying on the rocks and on the beach.  Wait!  Is that a penguin?  Sure enough, one was standing in the bushes.  

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    NZ Fur Seal

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                                    Footprints on the Beach 

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                                                                   A windy vigil

An hour later another surfed in and sprinted across the beach and up the hillside with more agility than one would expect.  A bit later another, our favorite, trudged up the beach leaving footprints that would have excited Robinson Crusoe.  He (or she) alternated climbing, squawking and posing until the cold wind finally chilled us.

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              Yellow-Eyed Penguin, Katiki Point

Back at our lodging the TV scroll said New Zealand would go to “Level 4” at midnight.  Warick, the owner, called to tell us that meant where one was at midnight was where one would be for the next 24 days.  If we left after that he was obligated to notify the authorities.  We immediately made reservations back at Airport Palms in Christchurch and drove the 250 km.  We figured it was better to be near the airport in hopes Saturday’s flights would proceed on schedule.

So here we are.  We went out to the grocery yesterday morning and bought enough microwaveable meals for a hopefully short stay.  I was surprised how empty the store was — not of food, but people.  Kiwis don’t appear to be as greedy as Americans.  Another benefit of socialism I wonder.

 

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