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New Zealand - Oamaru (penguins)

Written on: Thursday July 9th, 2009

When we arrived at Oamaru we had a hard time finding somewhere legitimate (but free) to stay. We drove around and around and eventually came across an empty wool factory carpark, except for one VW kombi van (although we don't think it was inhabited). We thought we'd risk it as it was getting late, and decided to head off early or assumed we'd get a "move on" knock in the morning as they factory staff arrived. We woke at 9:30am to a completely full carpark, and nobody had made a sound or even bothered about us in their staff carpark. We opened up the curtains and drove off as quickly as possible for fear of total embarrassment, before finding somewhere to have breakfast!

Oamaru is a very English feeling town surrounded by rolling farmland reminiscent of Hobbiton in Lord of the Rings, or Teletubbies!

In the afternoon, we went  to try to spot some yellow-eyed penguins, and it was absolutely great watching them coming home after a hard day's work. After that we stopped at a different point to see a colony of blue penguins (the world's smallest penguins) return home. Unfortunately no photographs are allowed at this point, which is such a shame. We stood for about three hours watching them struggle to get a footing on the rocks being knocked about by the waves. Some of them rushed ahead up the cliff, then realised they weren't with their friends and came back down again apparently to encourage the stragglers. At another point there seemed to be some kind of meeting going on with one chairman. Then the noise from the flatter land where their nests were started, and the partners and young started emerging. They are quite vocal. It was so amazing that we hadn't realised we were the last men standing, everyone else had been defeated by the cold, our feet and hands had pretty much frozen solid, and it had been dark for a good few hours. We only saw about 18-20 adults coming home, but the activity was hours of entertainment.