Saturday, August 10, 2002

Queenstown day 2. After a leisurely start – Nanma & Pop had breakfast in hotel restaurant at 10 – we got in our van and headed back “downtown” to catch our 3rd boating day of the trip. I was going to say 3rd boat but we had 3 boats on our Doubtful Sound day alone! This time it was an old steamer – burns 1 ton of coal an hour – very attractive boat (except for the black smoke trail it leaves behind) with wood and brass etc. The Earnslaw I think it was called. What was especially nifty is that they left the center open down to the engine (?) room and you could even walk thru on kind of a horizontal ladder thing for a closer view – and watch the guys shoveling in the coal and tending the machines. Pop held Aidan up so he could look over the rails – they must have spent at least 45 minutes watching. I looked out the window (and opened the windows) and said hi to the birds perched on the escape boats at the sides for a free ride. Quincy liked them too. I don’t really know how long the ride was – an hour maybe? Maybe less. Across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm Station. A beautiful absolutely clear day – no wind on the ground either. At the farm a somewhat unassuming and rather amusing gentleman met our ship for the farm tour. He showed us some Highland Cattle (shaggy brown with horns) and some deer. We fed them if we chose with cow or deer or sheep pellets (really all the same thing). Aidan chased some ducks and picked up yet more sticks (his latest is “what can I hold in this hand?” – he can’t bare to not have a stick or stone in hand – and prefers that we also hold some of his offerings). Then into the house for some tea and finger foods. Quite tasty actually. I liked the thick toast topped with cheese and onions. After a bit of puttering time the “show” began. He called down his Strong Eye dog (looked like a Border Collie to me) and sent her up the hill to bring down some sheep. It was a mixed bag and we got to touch them and he told us some of the differences between breeds. Apparently Merino are only sheared once a year. That was the main breed on this farm as they had high dry land which Merino like. The Romany gets sheared 2x a year and its wool mainly goes to carpet manufacturing. Some other breeds are better for eating, some are decent for both wool and meat. And so forth. It was interesting. He then had the dog put on a show and bring down some other sheep from further up and direct them around a bit. Always fun to see. Next came the shearing demonstration. This guy was quite a bit older than the guy in Rotorua and certainly no where near as burly – but he made it look positively easy (almost). Then a quick time watching some spinning while in the gift shop and back to the ship. On the return trip the pianist played tunes to sing to – and had song books to hand out. So we returned to the likes of I’ve Been Working on The Railroad, Waltzing Matilda, Daisy Daisy and many others. We all agreed that it had been a good idea to take another boat ride after all. Wandered around Queenstown a bit then back to Winnie Bagoes for more of that yummy apricot chicken pizza.

We set off at around 10 for Dunedin. A drive of about 5 hours. We had plans to do a couple hours in the a.m. Stop for lunch and a playground and then finish up in the p.m. and hope both boys would nap then. A successful plan! I haven’t a clue what our stop was called – a tiny little town but they did have 2 “tearooms” and a park with picnic tables and playground. Quincy enjoyed standing and “driving” an old tractor or machine that was there in the playground as much or more than Aidan. You should have seen the grin on his face. Quincy is SOOO eager to stand. He is still mister wobbly legs, but he is happiest when standing. He can support himself pretty well – he likes coffee tables where he can prop himself on his forearms and still use his hands to play with Aidan’s toys. He is also using Pete & myself if we are sitting on the ground as props – he crawls over and then pulls himself to standing. I digress… We had mince and cheese (hamburger meat and cheese) pies for lunch among other things. Ubiquitous around here. Quincy enjoyed the filling. He is eating quite a variety of things these days. I give him celery sticks to chew on – thinking that he couldn’t get through them. Well he can’t, quite – he does get the ends down to just the strings so he has a little fan. Anyway, the drive was much more attractive than any of us anticipated. We passed by some lakes and a dam. There was interesting fog / low clouds drifting in and out of some valleys. We saw more snow peaks near the beginning of our journey and came close to snow line (although on rolling hills more than mountain peaks) after lunch in a wonderful shale outcropping area. We enjoyed the usual sheep and deer in the pastures. We went through fruit tree country. All in all very scenic. We headed into Dunedin just as the sun was going down. It surprised us with its’ size – it was a real city (although guide book says just a bit over 100,000 population), we had gotten used to small towns.

It seemed to be our coldest place yet! The wind was up and I am sure it must have been in the high 30s. Brrrr. We had a funny little motel and a room that hadn’t been updated in several decades – swirly brown carpet, avocado green things in bathroom etc. The kids and I were upstairs where we had 3 twins and a double to ourselves. No heat but electric pads on the beds… worked out fine though. We bundled up and walked down the street a few blocks back toward city center and had dinner at a Cambodian place – although I think it was just general Asian really – a lot of satays etc. Quite good and fast and we shared round our foods. Pop liked it so well he went back the next night. Dunedin is a big student town – the university was almost next door to us although we didn’t realize it for a while as we kept heading out the “front” instead of the back next to our unit. It looked like it had some very attractive buildings. There are also quite a few Victorian type residential buildings that reminded me a bit of SF. Thanks to the students there seemed to be quite a variety of restaurants – good and inexpensive – to choose from. The next day I spied an Italian bakery – Il Panifico I think it was. Scrumptious. We didn’t do too much wandering on foot as it was still cold the next day. Instead we headed off for Otago Penisula.

A small and very attractive peninsula just outside of Dunedin sporting a variety of wildlife – Albatross in nesting season (not quite yet), Yellow Eyed Penguins, Hooker Sea Lions, Fur Seals, Hectors Dolphins. Our goal was to see penguins. And New Zealand’s only castle Larnach (?). The road hugs the twisty coastline – and I mean hugs – you have a couple feet before you would fall in. We were impressed with the bus stops. Each little nondescript hut had been painted inside and out with murals – one would be astrology based, another would have a boat in the sea, another sea creatures, another lots of flowers, another Wallace and Grommet. Fun. After 45 minutes of stomache churning roads we decided to try to make for the castle. It was just as windy only now the road headed up steep pasture sided roads. We had some amazing vistas along the peninsula and coast. The castle was perched on the ridge at the top with views over the water in both directions from the upper floors. Aidan and I toured the inside – very nice – rather like a grand mansion. Apparently the castle had been left for ruin until 1967 when chanced upon by some ambitious fixer-uppers. They raised their 2 kids there and still own it although I don’t think they live in the castle proper anymore. They did a great restoration job. Seeing how Pete and I had trouble just stripping a bit of wallpaper and doing new baseboards and crown molding in one room – it wouldn’t have been a project we would have undertaken! The Dave and Quincy joined us for a very nice lunch in the ballroom next door. For $5 US I got a whole Hawaiian pizza for Aidan (he kindly shared with Pop). I had a Ploughman’s lunch (cheese, cold cuts, pickles, breads) for the same cost. I have expected the restaurants attached to “attractions” to be poor in quality and or expensive – but so far have found the opposite to be true. We have had some of our better or more interesting lunches at exceedingly reasonable prices at these places. Dave almost ordered the special of the day Hagis Pie – until I told him what Hagis was… ick. The guy who worked there said he had never had it – the smell alone was enough to turn his stomach. Dunedin has strong Scottish ties hence the Hagis. Phyllis took a “wee” nap in the car and recovered from the drive then joined us and had scones and cheesecake.

After fortification we headed off to drive to Penguin Place, about 40 minutes away further up the peninsula. We had been told the penguins appear around 4 p.m. so our tour was scheduled for 3.45. We pulled in just in time – followed by a big tour bus we had passed a couple of km before. The penguins have a colony on a private farm. The farmer in 1985 decided to set aside the land in trust and to have it run in a conservation manner – tag the penguins and also provide more / better habitat and set up blinds for people to come and view them to help pay for it. I am sure it is a nice money maker for the farmer at this point. There was a good turn out when we were there on a weekday in the middle of winter, and they said they have tours all day during the breeding season months when one of the penguins has to hang around and sit on an egg all day or tend to baby. They had 4 or so medium sized old buses that we loaded onto with our respective tour guides and off we went over the farm fields down a dirt track. Our guide was a woman who lives on an adjacent farm. In addition to us Websters there were 2 others in our group. Other groups consisted of whole tour buses worth of people so we felt very fortunate. Apparently these penguins spend their days in the balmy waters off Dunedin eating and come in to spend the night at their roosts with their spouse. The penguins find the water a bit warm and after they get out are quite pink under their wings and on their feet. They stand at times and spread their wings to cool off in the breeze. Guess a lot of their relatives like the water at 60 degree latitude and we were closer to 45 degree. They also like to roost under trees or bushes. There weren’t a lot of those around as I think they had been cleared in the past for farming. The society had built little triangle huts for them to claim. They also added a pond or two and had a whole bunch of very small trees planted (and protected from munching mouths). There was a series of blinds built – dug down a bit in the sand so that your eye level is only 3 feet or so about ground. Above ground there was slatted wood structure with sort of military netting on it. We did see a penguin wander by at only 6 feet away or so. I am betting they could see and hear us at times but they certainly didn’t pay any attention to us. The blinds worked well and we could follow an individual’s progress along if we wanted as they waddled over dunes and along tracks. It was a great experience to get so close and see them in their mostly natural habitat. We certainly saw natural behaviors. Our guide could identify penguins by their home location. One of the 1st penguins we saw was either Emma or Ed. She told us a story about old Ed… He is a father 14 times and grandfather 8 times. He was 1st married to Ann (I forget most of the actual names – or maybe I have changed them to protect the innocent…). After 6 years or so she didn’t come home one day. So time to get remarried. The next one too met with a fate unknown. Then came Veronica. Guess he didn’t really like her too well as he was off having an affair with Julie from another roost. Then he came home one day and beat up Veronica then moved in with Julie! I don’t remember if she kicked out her husband or if he did it… So then one day SHE didn’t come home… So now he is married to Emma. He married her at age 2 – and he an old man of 12! Who knew penguins could have such soap opera lives?! We got to see one couple cooing and billing or necking – I don’t know what it was called, but apparently not behavior often seen by us tourists. Also a penguin go in for a plunge in the pond. And a lot of penguin callings. Very cool. A very good day.

The next morning we had a tour of Cadbury’s chocolate factory to look forward to. I got Aidan all primed with his breakfast at the Italian bakery – banana and cream cheese panini (grilled sandwich) that they topped with shaved chocolate and served on maple syrup with a side of yogurt. It looked pretty good. Phyllis & Dave helped Aidan finish the plate (they had boring old scrambled eggs in fresh baked croissants). We parked by the old and very fancy railroad station (and had a quick walk thru) and off to Cadbury’s. A good time! Plenty of free samples although of their weird stuff mostly with marshmallow fillings etc. We had to wear hair protectors – even Quincy! He wasn’t so keen on the idea but did manage to keep it on. We mostly saw the stages of manufacturing where they are boxing and packaging things although we did see some DVD of the molten chocolate stage etc. I forget how many thousand Crunchie bars per hour… And tens of thousand of tons of chocolate they use. They have 3 or 4 silos filled with chocolate crumble waiting to be made into the chocolate they use. At the end you go in one and they open the flood gates above and this very loud gusher of chocolate comes whooshing down – over a foot in width and molten – cool. Quincy was a bit startled by the noise. He was also not able to take his morning nap thanks to the tour. He did great though. Aidan still doesn’t realize he didn’t get back most of those free samples he got… There was a huge warehouse as you might expect. And they are in the midst of making Easter candy – we saw the Crème Eggs and Hollow Eggs being wrapped. From June to January they make easter candy on one floor (out of 4). I don’t know why they stop in January. Ditto for Xmas candy although its months are obviously different. Then we hopped in our car and made it as far as the Botanical Garden on a bit of a hill above town. Nice. We had seen blooming Rhododendrons and Azaleas in town and hoped we would see them there too – they weren’t quite in bloom yet. Then it was time to head out of town.

Another very pretty driving day. We hooked up with the coast at times. We stopped for a late lunch at Moeriki Beach. They have these very large spheres on the beach. They are sort of like naturally formed concrete as far as I can tell – they formed under water then ended up embedded in the ground which one day became cliffs and eroded around them leaving balls on the sand… Too bad at high tide the water laps at the cliffs thus you can’t access them. We enjoyed seeing them from the restaurant and the beach access stairs. The nice ladies at the restaurant brought over a whole box of toys for Quincy to play with. Toys don’t really compete well against the lure of silverware and glasses of water to drink, but we tried. We did a quick drive through Oamaru. Dave and I were very taken with the town. The old section is all local limestone buildings. Very attractive. We also drove out to the point where penguins (little blues) come ashore – apparently they come in ½ hour after dark though. We didn’t wait around. We did check out the huge crashing waves on the breakfront though. Then onward to Timaru for the night. Our halfway point to Christchurch. We enjoyed seeing snow capped mountains again off to our left as we drove. The Southern Alps.

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