I love penguins. One of the bucket list items coming to New Zealand was to see them in the wild along with a whale. One down, one to go!
Driving towards the southern coast, an area called the Caitlins, we traveled over more rolling hills that were so very green, and since it is autumn here, the bright green contrasts with the golds and yellows. The hills look a bit like Napa/Sonoma, if they had a lot of rain. We also drove through what I would call hedgerow valley. The people who lived here have planted rows and rows of hedges and most of them you cannot see through at all. They are made of different trees, mainly poplar and I think they did it to mark the farming lands. Made for an interesting drive. We found out later that they are wind breaks, so I guess it gets really windy here.
A stop for Shawn on the way to the penguins was the Croydon Aircraft Museum where they specialize in building and restoring de Havilland aircraft, the world famous Tiger Moth Airplane being one of them. They even had a train, making this the perfect guy museum. They had quite the collection for a town that is in the middle of nowhere!
We also saw a lot more cows than we had seen up until now, and sure enough when we hit a small town on the way it had the biggest dairy farm we had ever seen! Quite the production. There was also a coal factory nearby and the air was full of the smell of burning coal. This is also the first time we have seen railroad tracks here on the south island, giving us the impression that there is a lot happening here in farmland.
Our next stop was Waipapa Point to see some sea lions, but it appeared that they had accommodations elsewhere. It did have a cool lighthouse and one of the biggest NZ maritime disasters happened just off this coast. I imagine it was caused by seaweed. The beach had the biggest seaweed I have ever seen!!!
Curio Bay, our final destination for today, is where the rare yellow eyed penguin nests and lives. At dusk and dawn, the penguins come and go into the ocean, so we lucked out on our arrival just before sunset. We walked down a set of stairs onto some petrified wood and rocks, when we see…one penguin! We were all excited about that but we keep waiting for more….surely they would be done feeding for the day and would want to come back to their warm and snugly nests. There were about 15 people watching and the penguins blended in really well so someone was always looking in the right direction. Overall, we saw 6 penguins, hopping about and waddling over the rocks. They are so darn funny to watch as they hop around, but we had hoped to see a whole bunch jump out of the water onto the rocks giving us that National Geographic moment.
Most people stayed away from them, but there is always that one person. You are supposed to remain at least 2 car lengths away from them so they will return to their nests unafraid. One guy with a huge lens stood right in front of them. Really, just enjoy them! Alas, it was getting dark and we had to walk on some slippery rocks so we decided to leave.
We are staying in Waikawa for only one night as we just came this way to see the penguins. We arrived at our destination in the dark, no one to great us and we hoped we were in the right place! No one kicked us out and the moon was looking good, so a few more pics and off to bed.