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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Road Triping in NZ

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Queenstown and the beautiful lake soon stay behind as I hit the road on my rented Toyota. It's my first time driving an automatic gear car. It's boring and frustrating at times.

The adrenaline levels lower down as soon as the landscape changes. I'm on my way to Dunedin on the east coast. It's amazing the effect Queenstown has on the most normal of the mortals. There's simply so much to do there! If I had the money I would have done a few more things (yes Magnus, sky diving would have been one of those). And if the ski season had started already I would be hitting the slopes.

Well, back to the normal tourism, what brings me to this students city? It's not the fun, but it might be funny anyway. I am going straight to the Otago Peninsula, where I hope i'll see the rare yellow eyed penguins, sea lions, blue penguins, seals and albatros. I first head towards the albatros refuge center. It's a controlled natural reserve, where we have to pay to see the place where the albatros gather and breed. I am happy just with a cup of coffee in their great cafe and with seeing them fly. I still go down to the beach nearby, where the blue penguins apparently spend the night, but a sign says they don't arrive before 6 if they happen to come. So I just decide to head on to Sandfly beach, where I know I will encounter sea lions and the chances of seeing the yellow eyed penguins is high.

Sandfly beach is a beautiful wild beach. It's a really steep downhill trail through loose sand from the car park to the beach. On the way some cheap that are feeding on the green wavy hills that surround the coast line, look at me surprised.

As soon as I reach the beach I head towards the closest ravine. I think I saw something moving. And I had! :) walking up the cliff there was a yellow eyed penguim. He hid on the bushes looking at me but I am still able to see it clearly and take some pictures. I then start walking to the other end of the beach. 50m from me I see a penguim rushing out of the water and going into the dunes. A stupid tourist runs after it probably just to get the perfect shot. What an idiot. I continue walking and suddenly I spot a huge brown thing moving around where the waves break. As I walk closer I spot a sea lion enjoying himself in the waves. He seemed like he was posing at us. First playing around in the water and then rolling in the sand. He was still doing it when I left the beach, almost an hour later. I spent at least 15 min looking at it. We don't have these kind of things back home, or to be more correct, we don't have them in the wild within easy access to everyone. I continue walking, pass by a couple of sea lions that sleeping. They look like they had a hard day. When I reach the other end of the beach i see two more penguins up in the hill. I try climbing a rock to see them better but loose my balance and make some noise. This scared a few sea lions that I hadn't noticed sleeping on the rocks. Fortunately they just complain and look at me, giving me time to take some pictures of them and the penguins and leave. On the way back to the car I see two more penguins rushing out from the sea and am surprised with an astonishing sunset.

I was planning on reaching Christchurch the same day, but I took some time leaving Dunedin so just stayed in a small town halfway.

Remember this city. It's reallysmall but one of the most beautiful places i've ever been to. The huge mountains covered in snow crashing into the sea make this almost look unreal, like those pictures we sometimes sea in books and that make us think that such a place doesn't exist. Kaikoura is famous for whale watching (i skipped this although it wasn't that expensive) and the seal colony. As I park the car at the end of the small peninsula immediately spot a few seals, sleeping just next to the cars. I then go up the hill and follow the trail that leads gives access to the beach where the seals are. The smell isn't very appealing as I get close to them. But it's fantastic just being there watching dozens of seals swimming, resting in the sun, playing in the water. Some don't seem very pleased to see me and just dived and left. There's also a huge stone on the beach that with a little bit of imagination resembles a seal. Funny to find it there.

Back in town I start talking with an irish guy - John - and an Italian - Marco. John was on a fishing trip earlier in the day and brought lot of sea food that he says not to be able to finish. He offers me a huge cray fish. That was the best dinner since I arrived in NZ! Later that day we went for a few drinks in town. Just one final note about Kaikoura: never forget to turn off the lights of your car...

The North Island
I leave behind the beautiful southern island and take the ferry to Wellington. My plans for the North Island are, to visit the Te Papa museum in Wellington, do the Tongariru crossing (you may know this mountain as Mordor, from the Lord of The Rings) and check the volcanic activity around Rotorua, before arriving in Auckland where the road trip ends as well as the visit to NZ.

Unfortunately, the rain showed up and a huge storm made it impossible to do the Tongariru crossing and enjoy the other places as I could have.

Nevertheless, I wandered arround the great Te Papa museum in Auckland, where I learned a bit more about the story of this country and specially about the Maori people. Then I went North to the Tongariro National Park. I still managed to see the mountain but the day after when I woke up the storm had started. But it's a beautiful terrifying mountain, just like the image you have from the movie! After that I moved North, passing by the enormous lake Taupo and ending up in Rotorua, where the air smells to sulfur all the time. This is due to the intense volcanic activity present in the area. I visited some geisers, saw some mud pools and hot springs. It would have been great if the weather was good. Finally and continued my way to Auckland where the road trip ended.


Joao said...

Caros viajantes, aconselho a não visitarem o México (visto que está nos vossos planos), pois existe de momento um vírus de uma gripe que se chamou inicialmente de "gripe suina" e que agora se chama "gripe A"..
O surto da epidemia está no México por isso não convém visitarem esse país (se bem que já tenha alastrado para outros paises do mundo).
Para mais informações sobre o assunto pesquisem pela internet por "Gripe A" ou num dos periódicos de referência como o "Diário de Noticias" ou o "Correio da manhã" online.

Resto de boa viagem*

Joao said...

O México está de quarentena nos próximos dias e está tudo praticamente fechado.

RC said...

obrigadissimo, pelo conselho. o voo de regresso e na cidade do mexico, por isso quase de certeza que la teremos que ir, mas ainda faltam uns meses, ate la ou resolveu-se a situacao, ou teremos uma pandemia - a éa e a mais provavel na minha opiniao, ja que o virus ja comecou a transmitirse de pessoa para pessoa.

De qualquer das formas irei ver com a companhia aerea e a companhia de seguros se sera possivel alterar a viagem, caso haja necessidade.