Christchurch -> Oamaru
Today's journey would take us to the second natural highlight of the trip - oamaru and they little blue penguins. The story of the penguins in Oamaru began in the 1990s, when the world's smallest penguin - the little blue - began to build nests in the cliffs of Oamaru. The city then decided to help the little endangered penguins by giving them a protected area, where, in addition to volunteer aid workers, there would also be artificial little houses that would withstand the elements better than the fragile holes in the sand cliffs. The penguins loved the little houses and more and more penguins moved in. Today, the penguin colony looks more like a small Smurf town than a nature reserve. During the day, the penguins are out to sea to catch fish, but when the sun goes down, they come up to their little houses. So we were hoping to sit and watch these little wonders this evening. To be safe, we had pre-booked a place in the stands, as only a limited amount of people are allowed inside the area.
Since we were in no hurry, we chose to drive the inland road from Christchurch instead of the faster route closer to the coast. Fine roads took us over green meadows and mountains, with almost no traffic. We stopped by Rakaia Gorge to look at the jet boats that drove at full speed in the turquoise waters of the gorge. Looks absolutely crazy! How do they manage to steer the boat from the rocks?
As we approached Tiamaru we found a cafe and market hall with local products, so we took the opportunity to have a coffee and ice cream and stretch our legs. Enough because we had ordered a large cup of coffee, but to be served coffee out of a soup bowl, you can probably call that special...
Checked in at Alpine Motel in Oamaru. Not the most luxurious and not the most modern place we stayed, but it was clean anyway. Still long until sunset, so we realized that we would have time to both eat dinner and go to moeraki and look at the round stones. So into the car again and down to Moeraki boulders. Was being tricked into parking in a private car park which cost money, but found the nature park free car park a few hundred meters away. Walked along the beach looking at the big round bums the beach is famous for and all the foam blowing in from the sea. Some of the bumlings are almost 3 meters in diameter and weigh 7 tons, while others are considerably smaller. The stones were formed 60 million years ago and each stone took millions of years to form among seas and waves. Today, the stones look like giant cracked dinosaur eggs. According to Maori legends, the boulders are gourds washed ashore from the Araiteuru canoe that wrecked here.
Headed back to oamaru and the Victorian quarters inside the city centre. Dinner on The Last Post, which in the 1860s was the town's post office. Good food and a lot of people and we got one of the last tables. Quick dinner and then to the penguins!
The sun doesn't set until after 21pm, so we sat in the stands and waited. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to have cameras, so we have no photo evidence, but it was a magical evening! The sun barely had time to set behind the horizon before the first little blue penguin rolled in with the waves on the beach. Slowly it rocked uphill kullen, waited for their friends in and then they ran in a group to their little houses. And there were many. 183 penguins! Some penguins had found shortcuts to their house and ran very close to us, others took the safe way into the houses. We sat there for a long time watching the cute little crabs, before finally reluctantly being allowed to go to the motel and sleep. On the way to the hotel in the dark in the car, we suddenly see something moving on the side of the road – a penguin walking! It was just a matter of crossing the car and waiting until he had crossed the road.
Do you want to read more about our adventure in New Zealand? Check out the next day at Travel diary New Zealand: Day 12. Sheep farm and Mount Cook or previous day on Travel diary New Zealand: Day 10. Whale watching in Kaikoura.
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