We arrived yesterday afternoon in Dunedin under clear skys and are quite pleased with our room at the Bluestone on George. It’s large, has Sky Sports so we can watch Olympics, a washer/dryer and a nice big bed, plus a bonus couch. The only down side is the shower is awkward because it includes a jacuzzi so it’s difficult to get your head under the water. And I haven’t decided if being up from the road is a good or bad thing. You don’t hear the road as much, but it can seem like a long walk up.

Yesterday was a laundry day, followed by a walk down to the visitor’s centre to book a trip to the Penguin Place, where we’ll be seeing yellow eyed penguins this evening. After that we had supper at the Speights Ale Brewery Pub, then walked the rest of the way to the rugby gate at Carrisbrook. We got a bit disoriented thinking that the dock lights were the arena lights and took a bit of a detour. Then we had to figure out which gate to get in. Of course it was on the opposite side to wear we arrived. We finally found the right line for the “will call” but it wasn’t moving because it was also the EFTPOS line. Luckily a woman came out and called for anyone who had pre-ordered their tickets.

Highlanders vs. Blues

Our seats were in the front row in the main stands, but the whole arena is dated. You could see that each section was added over time, resulting in a 35,000 seat stadium that makes Landsdowne look good. Now, I have to confess I’m not that knowledgeable about rugby, but I do like that it’s faster than football. Well, that didn’t happen last night. The ball was stuck in some areas of the field for 10 minutes at a time, which made it a bit too defensive for my liking. And the team we were rooting for didn’t win.

It was a 45-minute walk back to the motel, and my feet were a bit sore from the urban walking. But at least there were no detours.

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Our morning started with a trip to the Otago Farmers’ Market which takes place every Saturday morning at the Dunedin train station. Vendors include farmers, growers, bakers, butchers and even microbrewers. After loading up on produce to last us to our Milford Track next week, we returned to the motel and got ready for a hike at Sandfly Bay Beach. The carpark is located at the very end of Sandymount  Road, and we’d been there last time but walked the Lovers Leap/Chasm walk. The walk today was interesting. We knew from doing the boogie boarding on the sand dunes in the North Island that walking up sand can be a challenge.

GozzyGirl climbing back up the sand dune. This is about halfway from the beach.

It took about half an hour to walk down. We didn’t see anybody the whole way down and weren’t sure what to expect. The way down was like a big ski run with luge chutes made of sand. When we got to the beach, about a dozen or so people were spread out on the beach, in the company of a sea lion and a fur seal. Some of them clearly had no idea that you shouldn’t get too close to a sea lion. I wondered whether I would be taking a photo of something being eaten, if you know what I mean.

We ate our lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, bananas, and orange juice and explored around the beach. You really don’t want to sit too long because of the sandflies. You can see the holes in the sand and my shorts were feeling a bit short when I saw theholes. Just above us was a yellow eyed penguin hide and then the path started for the ascent back up, because of course unlike a ski hill there was no lift.

Our half hour descent converted into an hour climb back up. Thankfully a light breeze blew in our face which compensated for the complete lack of shade in the midday sun. The climb was long because you have no view, except for trying to walk in somebody else’s footsteps, which can save about 20% of your energy. For a while it felt like the hill was growing ahead of me and no progress was being made. Near the top you push your way through flax before reaching a path about the width of a road.

Late this afternoon we drove back to the Otago Peninsula for our visit with the penguins. We’d done this last time and you never know if it’s going to be as good. I can honestly say that both second visits with the penguins were well worth the money and time. As we were driving along the shore, I spotted a cruise ship leaving the harbour. It seemed so big against the islands and it seemed odd that it would be leaving when the tide was fairly low. As we wound our way around bays and inlets, I kept looking for it again. As we arrived at the Penguin Place, you could see it again, with all the passengers on the top deck waving, as a band played music. Interesting, indeed.

This time our penguin guide was “Kevin” and he introduced us to New Zealand’s two penguins: the blue penguin, which is the world’s smallest, and the yellow-eyed penguin, which is third biggest and most endangered. The yellow-eyed penguin (or YEP) is only found along the southeast shores of he lower South Island and on two islands off the coast of the South Island. After our briefing in a small theatre near the office, we boarded a bus that barreled down the twisty gravel road taking us to the penguin hides. A series of trenches have been built and covered over with wood, mesh and plants so that you can view the penguins up close without disturbing them.

A yellow-eyed penguin

I’m not sure that Kevin was his birth name. He was Chinese and it took a while to understand his accent because he’d learned kiwi English. Nonetheless he was a good guide and enthusiastic about what he was seeing. Although he saw the Great Wall of China, but we saw WWII trenches. Along our tour, we saw fur seals, which can climb quite high up the hills onto the grass amongst the sheep, adult YEPs which were moulting, a YEP returning from a hard day’s fishing, young YEPs waiting for their dinner, a few blue penguins in various stages of molting, and two blue chicks.

Once we were done our tour we returned to the office to speak to the guy who had greeted us. He had suggested that we call ahead to the fush n chups place in Portobello to make sure they were open. The original guy had left but his replacement found the number for us and handed NosyNeighbour the phone when it started to ring. Our order was ready waiting for us (except for the chups). The girl at the counter kept apologizing for everything, but she was really sweet. Once our chups were ready we sat on a bench in the bay and fended off the seagulls that crept closer and closer. Once I’d chased them a way a few times they eventually moved on to other fush n chups eaters.

It was a great day. Tomorrow we’ll revisit Tunnel Beach, then stop by St. Clair Beach. Still have some shopping to do too.

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