Thursday, March 16, 2017

Where to find Penguins in New Zealand

The Ring of Fire trip, August 29th, 2013; Day Twenty-Six of Thirty-Two.

I must like to torture myself with rushing around as I was up at 4:45 so that I could catch a flight to the South Island for five days. I made it to the airport, returned the car (happy to get rid of the manual), and caught the short flight to Christchurch. Arriving safely I decided to hike to the car rental company instead of catching a cab, a quick 1.5 mile hike but with bags it was a little tougher. Renting a camper van they charge you a price on the Internet and then basically make you buy their insurance or put a $2–3,000 freeze on your credit card in case there are any damages. That would have been my limit, at the time. However, for car owners in NZ, it’s not even mandatory to have insurance. So, about 70% of the people in NZ do not have car insurance and if they were to hit me and take off, I’d be stuck with the bill. I think i paid $4-500 for the rental so i will definitely try to split that next time. Traveling alone has its perks but so does sharing it with a friend. This thing stuck out like a sore thumb; the designer had no desire for the traveler to be discrete.

My camper van is automatic and took some time to get use to and not reach for the clutch but it was much easier to drive. It was only noon so I made my way down the coast towards the picture perfect volcanic stone built town of Timaru. The van has a fridge and stove which makes it much easier to eat on my own and cereal was the first thing I wanted to get after not having it for a few weeks. Plus it is very easy to make and clean up.

Timaru is known for its historic Victorian buildings and was stunning. They were a white stone and were quite impressive. It is mined from the local query and is a basalt stone. The town was fairly empty on a Thursday as I made my way through town enjoying the sunny weather. But, I had also heard there were wild penguins near the town and, well, who doesn’t like penguins? They had a whole show set up to see the penguins but it seemed very artificial as the penguins waddled down this path between bleaches about 20 yards on each side. I wanted to see them more in a natural habitat so I made my way over to see the yellow eyed penguins up the coast.

I only saw three swim in from the ocean before it got too dark from the lookout point up above. The generally swim in to sleep of the night so it is near dusk. While I was taking pictures, I was talking to someone from Taiwan (Alex), who was traveling with a lady from the U.K. (Vicky) and a guy from Hong Kong (Forest). There was also French guy there who let us use his binoculars to see closer and take some pictures through the lens with our iPhone, much harder to line it up than I would think but it turned out decent. While looking and taking pictures of two on the beach the other one had made its way up the hill, somehow, and appeared about 20 feet from us which amazed us because they are normally shy creatures. He gave us quite a welcome surprise!

Afterwards, I decided to hang out with the three named above and followed them to a camp site. We made some kind of soup, pork sausages, and chips. They were really cool and fun people to talk to and hang around. Once we stepped out of the van someone looked up at the sky. It was ablaze with stars and you could clearly see the milky way. I had never seen the milky way so vivid and clear than I did that night; no wonder NZ is known for some of the best star gazing in the world. Three of us had cameras so we spent the next hour taking pictures of the sky and helping each other adjust the settings to get amazing pictures; some of the coolest pictures I have ever taken (this being the first time I tried my hand a nighttime photography). There were a few shooting stars but we missed capturing them in a picture. It was surreal to say the least and a great cap to my first day on the Southern Island.

Read the full trip chronicles, here.

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