Thursday 14th May
Oamaru is famed for its colonies of Blue Penguins, and Yellow Eyed Penguins (the world’s rarest!). However, being from Yorkshire, we refused to pay £20 each to go into the YEP (not Yorkshire Evening Post) reserve, especially as 3 coach loads of Japanese tourists had just gone in. Instead we opted to stay around the campsite on the harbour which is home to the Blue Penguin, after assurances that the Penguins actually walk through the site! Anyway, fairly predictably, we saw zero penguins. Nil. Bugger all. An area devoid of all forms of penguin life. Not even a nun.
Not to be beaten, we have headed to Moeraki, and Katiki Point lighthouse, where there are many areas to see YEPs. And after wandering around at lunch time….. we have seen ONE penguin! Admittedly it was a very nice penguin, with a beautiful yellow shading over its head. I suspect that this was Pedro the Penguin, who had been delegated the duty today of showing himself just to keep the bloody Englishman happy. So while all his mates were happily underground playing poker and smoking big fat reefers, Pedro was sullenly wandering around on top, muttering to himself “Sodding tourists, I hate the bastards. Why can’t they just go to the zoo. That’s it. I’m getting the union onto this (Penguin Overall Opportunities Union, or just POO-U for short). Oi!!!!” shouted Pedro on seeing me. “Piss off with yer camera! Penguins have rights too you know!!”. Abusively flicking his flipper at me, he stumbled off into the undergrowth for a sneaky joint…..
Anyway, obviously we’ve arrived here at the wrong time. As any keen penguin watcher would know, late afternoon is the optimum time for penguin related antics, so we’re just going to have a couple of hours sleep in the van, and then return for Penguin Fest!!
A classic Charlotte-ism today – following directions which said “turn west at the junction” I said to Charlotte, “That can’t be right, must be a mistake, must be east”. Charlotte replied “perhaps they were travelling from the opposite direction?”. So apparently East and West are interchangeable, dependant on whether you’re travelling North or South. Sometimes I despair…….
We’ve also visited Moeraki Boulders. These are ridiculously large perfectly spherical balls of rock on the beach. Once again we’d arrived at the wrong time, being high tide, and the boulders partially submerged. The inevitable net result was me with wet feet…. However, it’s a very strange natural feature. In the nearby cafe I tasked Charlotte with reading the info on the wall explaining the boulders’ presence while I visited the Gents. On return I asked “So, did you read it? Tell me all about it!”
“I got bored” was Charlotte’s disappointing response, similar to that of an eight year old. Never mind that this was the only place in the entire world that this phenomenon has occurred. Perhaps she should have tried reading east to west to spice it up???
To while away the time before Penguin Fest I’ve made some soup. I’ve also had a vain attempt at sewing up the hole in my shorts in order to eradicate the current testicle-ventilation system that has appeared! Most men would have a wife to do this for them. But Charlotte just laughs and takes photos of me.
So far I’ve only had one brave volunteer to join the forces of ARSE. Finch, with his military background has wisely pointed out the need for someone to clear up the path of death and destruction afterwards, and has offered his services as Captain ArseWipe. Good man Finch! I knew I could rely on you! It’s no wonder you’ve risen to those dizzyingly high ranks!
It’s now getting towards penguin viewing time and I’m very excited! Charlotte might say that I’m over excited! I have visions of them all mustering now in their underground bunker, having a briefing from the Chief of All Penguins –
“Right lads, it’s nearly show time! Get your make up on. Peter, no pissing about today like you usually do! (Peter stubbornly lets rip with a very loud postern blast). And today we’ve got the Rocks from England coming to see us, so let’s make it a good one!”. I’m expecting them to perform the Mikado, followed by an interlude of Chopin and Wagner, before a finalé of the 1812 Overture with full cannon support and a laser show. I don’t think this is too much to expect after the wait I’ve had…..
Bloody hell. I haven’t even had a beer yet! How can I ever return to work when this is becoming normality?? Back in uniform, if I get sent to a missing person report from a psych ward, I’d never get out! Actually, doesn’t sound too bad…..
Oh. My. Goodness. Oh Flipping Heck. Oh. Good. Heavens. Blinking Flip!!!!!! We’ve just spent 2 hrs watching the Yellow Eyed Penguins!!! The rarest penguins in the world! And we saw them for free, in their natural environment. I think it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, not just on this trip, but EVER!!! I really mean that! Completely mind blowing! The most amazing, and most comical creatures I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing! I could just list a string of superlatives! And so close! Some only 3m from us! Even better, very few other people. We saw about 25 of them in total, which according to one of the regular viewers there was a very large number. He said how lucky we’d been! It was just hypnotising to see how they behaved, coming out of the water, playing, bickering, fighting, and generally just pottering about on the beach for well over an hour! And then, as if on an unheard signal, they started to climb the massively steep cliffs to their nests. Mesmerising! We were then able to walk along the top and see them at their nests. I have honestly never seen nature like it. Even beat the whales which I never thought could be done.
The icing on the cake was to discover that Moeraki is such a great little village that we’re going to stay here tomorrow night too. So penguins again tomorrow!!! I’m still excited! We’ve even booked in to the fantastic restaurant, Fleurs (highly recommended in all our travel books) for a seafood tasting session tomorrow evening! We had a couple of drinks there this evening, and it was lovely. Perched on the harbour, very oldy worldy ski chalet type. And we got talking to a great couple, Vince (English, retired RAF pilot) and his partner Suzie (Australian) who live in Christchurch now. They’ve invited us for a night out in Christchurch when we reach there in June! I just love this country!!!!
The video below shows a brilliant scene of two blokes arguing over a woman, a fight, and then the victor being shamelessly flirted with by the easily pleased bird. Could be Newcastle on a Friday night out….