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Adventures in Flying by the Seat of my Pants Conquering Aotearoa One Day at a Time

Life in the Roaring 40's

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 13 April 2011 | Views [426]

So the South Island has been a weather roller coaster; my arrival in Dunedin was a greeting of gloomy grey skies, unpredictable rain showers and chilling winds. Felt a bit like begin back in Chicago except for all the Edwardian architecture and mercilessly steep hills. 

One thing I had been warned about, but hadn't actually processed, was that home in Dunedin - specifically student homes - are pretty much just walls with ceilings. High ceilings, huge rooms, but zero insulation. It ends up being colder inside than out and the best spot in any home is right in front of the fire. I slept with several layers, in my sleeping bag, with a blanket on top in front of the fire, and I was still freezing. 

Luckily, the Otago Peninsula is pretty close by and other than by car, is easy to get to with a wee bit of ingenuity. It is also probably one of the most beautiful places I've seen so far. There's an albatross sanctuary at the point of the peninsula, which is their only mainland breeding ground and you can see these massive adults soaring overhead and the winds start to pick up and become more like gales. Over the side of the cliff, you see the deep, rich blue green Pacific crashing onto the rocks and immense seaweed clinging to the rocks and dancing in the current. It's amazing.

Other than the coastline and the albatrosses, the peninsula is also home to the endangered yellow-eyed penguins and a small town called Portabella. I love the fact that there's a place sharing a name with a delicious mushroom. And the adult penguins were mostly at the end of the moulting season, so most of them were just hanging out near their territory, for easy viewing from a good distance. The seals sharing the land with the penguins didn't seem to care whether there were humans around or not, and continued their sunbathing unperturbed by us. 

Upon leaving Dunedin, I headed south through the Catlins, a rural, scenic area known for it's unusual landscape and marine life. If you're ever passing through the Catlins (and you should), one reason to visit Owaka (other than  it's one of the few places to refuel and pick up groceries) is to admire the bizarre that is TEAPOTLAND. An entire lot covered in teapots of varying sizes, styles and colors to create a very strange landscape and attraction. Don't worry, I took plenty of photos, and once I can connect my computer to the internet, I will post them all! 

I decided to stay a bit longer than planned in Porpoise/Curio Bay, which is stunning, also has yellow-eyed penguins, a variety of seal species and hector dolphins. At low tide, the world's oldest petrified forest is revealed from beneath the Pacific waves as are small pools in the rocks which have some of the strangest ecosystems I've ever seen. Humongous seaweed that's so thick that it feels like it's made out of leather. Pink seaweed that look like a cross between sea urchins and carnations. Gastropods out the wazzoo and other things that I hope are visible in my photos.

As of yesterday morning I've been staying in Ivercargill, which really has nothing to offer other than it's proximity to the Catlins and Stewart Island, which is where I'm heading to tomorrow. After that... I think it's the West Coast with Milford Sound and the glaciers.

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