Sunday, November 29, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Well we woke up at 4 am and got out of the house and on the road for Milford at 5am. The ride there was pretty, it was a different route then before. We got to Milford and would you believe it it was sunny! It is rainy 300 days out of the year, so we got lucky. We drove through and wanted to make the 11:00 cruise his friend Rob works on. When we got there it was awesome! The boat was smaller but it was not as cramped. We saw more crested penguins only found in Milford, seals (which are pretty boring after you have seen so many) but after we made it out of the sound to the Tasman Sea and turned around we had bottle nose dolphins following our boat. It gives them a free ride! It is pretty rare to see them there, and even whales have been seen in the sound! I was so happy! We finished the cruise and went back a second time. Mind you this was all FREE! Nadine and I drank all of the hot chocolate there was on the boat as well. After the cruises we walked around and took pictures. We were going to look for a camp site but Glen could not find it, we also had plans to kayak out to a spot and camp the next day in the sound. We stopped by a pretty river and started to cook dinner on the side of the road. Glen forgot forks so luckily he had chop sticks in the car! We also had some unenvited guests, damn sand flies! I had to pick them out of my pasta and they were driving me crazy. After this we went to pick up his friend Rob who lives down the road where the staff have housing. There was no room in the car so we got on the top and sat in Glens kayak. This made for some good pictures! Rob said it was ok for us to stay at his place and he had an extra room there.
When we woke up the next morning it was raining cats and dogs! So plans changed and after a lot of thinking we decided to go south to the Catlin's on the Southern Scenic Highway. It was pretty the whole way there, but freaking cold!! We saw lots of beaches, animals and waterfalls! We decided to camp at the most southern point of NZ, the closest I have ever been to Antarctica. We made a really good dinner, or we were just really hungry. set up the tent but then decided to sleep under the stars outside. That was fine until I could no longer feel my toes and decided I did not want frost bite so I made my way into the tent. We woke up to rain and had to leave really early, not the best wake up call. We made a lot more stops the next day but I was feeling pretty sick, that aching feeling when you have the flu, I actually still have it kind of and not sure what it is all about. I felt so sick and the cold made it ten times worse. At one point I did not even want to get out of the car to see one of the really nice views, it was that bad. Hopefully this goes away soon! We also stopped at a hippie/ Gypsey caravan and I got a whale tail necklace made from bone...not whale bone of course! Also stopped at a house selling cocker spaniel puppies. The dog had 12 of them and you would have thought it was my birthday when the lasy brought them out in a blanket and laid them in front of me! It was a dream come true! =)
When we made it back to Dunedin that day we rented a movie called Out of the Blue. It was made a few years ago here in NZ. The movie is based on a true story about a man named David Grey who killed 13 people in 1990 on the Otago Peninsula not far at all from Glens home. It was where we had taken the monarch cruise to see the Albatross. The man had gone nuts and went killing all of his neighbors, and children too. It just goes to show that even in a nice and safe place like NZ, things still can happen. The next morning we had to say goodbye to Glen and Lily, they both had been so kind to us. We waited for the bus into town to catch our tour bus. When the bus did not show up, Nadine and I decided it was time to hitch hike. Now I know what your thinking that is so unsafe, well in NZ it is very popular. We had a woman about 60 years old or so who works as a nurse pick us up, she was sweet and she dropped us off at our stop.
We took the tour to these boulders in the water which were round and very strange. I have no idea how they were formed but it was strange and so pretty. I also got my first look at a dead seal on the beach =( not so nice. We got to visit the world steepest road in Dunedin and walk up it, it was not all that bad, but there were so many cats on the street! We made it to Omaru a very cute town known for its little blue penguin colony. The hostel here is great, they even have a cat. We met up with some other travelers and decided to walk to see the penguins and not pay the $20 fee to see them. We saw Yellow Eye penguins at one beach then walked to another area where they have the tours and waited outside near a pier for some penguins to cross. Otherwise you pay and go to a viewing area. The blue penguins started to come out of the water and it was great to see them but I was quickly put off by the way people were treating them. First off these animals are not here for the pleasure of tourists, they live here, come out of the water and need to make it back to their nests. Two girls we had been talking to and who were very sweet went down to the rocks and sat next to about 5 of them. I was very up set, I was telling them not to go down there but they did not hear me, they were way to close, they could have touched them if they wanted. They turned around and said "do you guys want to come down here" and I gave them that look like I am about to kill you and I think they got the hint and came up right away. If you bother these animals, they will not come back, they would leave their nests, their eggs, so you enjoy them from a distance! Then I was so angry and knew that my being there was only preventing them from crossing this street and getting to their nests. This tour is trying to help them they say but people leaving from the tour blind them with their car lights and the penguins were so scared to cross the street with the tourists driving away! I wanted to scream how are they protected! This is sick, they are being used like mickey mouse! Then on the way out of there one of the German girls agreed with me that this was wrong and she wanted to walk back with me. A woman drove up blinding a group of penguins with her head lights and got out and took pictures using a flash which of course blinds them and makes them stressed. So naturally I yelled at her to take off her flash, and she shrugged it off, then I threw a few more words in there for here. It was sick the way these animals were treated, and I have never seen anything about it. I have decided to write to the Department of Conservation here and let them know what I think as well as the tour company. I just don't understand why people cannot look at something with out taking a picture, touching or getting up close. Is that picture worth the life of a penguin? Ok done ranting, off to Lake Tekapo tomorrow.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Erect Crested Penguin
Mr. Leopard Seal
Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the south. I would have to disagree, Edinburgh Scotland is much nicer. Not to say that the city here is bad, but the Scottish city is amazing! We walked around the city for awhile until our couchsurfer host Glen picked us up. Glen lives a little out of town with 3 other flat mates, but we only met Lily. He works with the worlds most endangered penguins, the yellow eye penguin. It was interesting learning about these creatures and all of the troubles they face in the world. Last year he said they lost 80% of the chicks, the parents could not get enough food for them. This could be just a bad year for fish, but if you ask me I think global changes and overfishing are doing a number to all seabirds. The next day we had sort of a lazy day which you need every now and then. When Glen got out of work he told us he would take us to a boat tour around the albatross colony and we would get to see wildlife. It was $45NZ well worth it! We first saw NZ sea lions, but then saw a leopard seal, a not so good looking one. I thought the only way of ever seeing one of these was if I went to Antarctica, but because of global changes not only ice burgs are floating up to NZ but so are leopard seals. They are in search of food and the problem is that when they get here, they prey on all of the penguins that in the past have hardly had predators besides the one sea lion that takes a liking to penguins. I was so happy I saw one, Glen said he had been seeing a lot here lately. Then we saw the nesting group for shag birds, and the royal albatross. These birds are so big, I think they have the longest wingspan in the world. They can fly for 6 years without stopping once! This is the only mainland colony in the world, so I was lucky to be staying 15 min. away from them by car. We saw more seals which are always a favorite of everyone but then saw a rare erect crested penguin laying on a rock. Glen was with us on the boat and said they wanted to get this little guy to the penguin hospital because they thought he was sick. The birds are from subantarctic islands and are never found this far north. We also saw small blue penguins which are common to NZ and the worlds smallest penguins. When we went out to sea I knew we had a chance to see dolphins, and sure enough I had picked the best spot on the boat because a group of 4 hectors dolphins came right up and were swimming along side of the boat! Nadine had never seen a dolphin so she was very happy, they were so beautiful! After the tour Glen took us up to his work and took care of a sick penguin, he had to feed it to make sure it was gaining weight. Next he took us on a tour of the reserve. It is a working farm that had penguins there so they started a eco tour company years ago which really helps with the conservation there. They are replanting native forests which once gave home to the penguins when they came out of the sea. They care for the penguins in every way they can. Visitors can stay in viewing boxes so to not disturb the penguins. I got to see blue penguins sitting on a egg, as well as lots of yellow eye penguins walking home from the sea. They call out to their mate to see if they need to rush home, the other penguin will take over the nest while the one goes back out to sea. It was all so great and we are so thankful to have stayed with glen. He takes amazing pictures I might add. After this I could not help but think how precious our oceans are, how rapidly they are changing whether we want to face it or not. If we don't act on it quick these species may be lost forever and believe me after seeing them up close I would have to say they are very much worth saving!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Myself in the Milford rain
From Queenstown to Milford
We made it to Queenstown after a long day on the bus, 8 hours. Alberto and I walked around, and went and got a famous Fergburger for $10. They are huge burgers here and the place always has a line outside the door, even late at night! We ate it by the beach and he of course he had to tell me to stop feeding the ducks and seagulls which is always hard. We did not do any extreme sports while in town but had fun just walking around the gardens and water. We left to Te Anu the gateway town to Milford Sound. We stayed at Lakefront Backpackers and got our own kitchen, a very nice hostel. We first went on a cruise to Milford Sound. The ride was pretty and the driver was really boring, we both listened to music the whole time. On the way we learned about how avalanches are very common on the road to Milford, you could see the damage they do to the trees there. Teams go up and check daily to make sure the snow is not loose. We got out and Alberto and I had a snow fight, the Japanese tourists caught on and we were all throwing snow around. We also saw some more keas attacking a jeep. the water in the rivers there is so fresh you can drink it straight from the river, we filled our water bottels up. Milford is one of those top 10 places you need to see before you die, the cruise was nice but I wanted to spend more time there exploring. It started to rain on the cruise and some people never even came out of the boat, some were even sleeping....funny thing is that they will say they have been to Milford but I don't think that counts. We spotted fur seals, well I spotted them once again. We also saw two yellow crested penguins, my first wild penguins ever! Very rare, the birds are having a hard time with global warming, it is becoming harder and harder to find food. It was all very beautiful and the waterfalls were amazing. We came back to Te Anu and walked around, there are many good hikes there as well. We went to a wildlife center and saw some more native birds, even little parrots which are very rare to find. Once again we spent time on the beach, and Alberto felI asleep for awhile. I also got a stomach infection and had to go to the doctor, I got antibiotics and it was not so bad and pretty cheap. I was happy I was not dying =) Alberto was leaving the next day, we had spent 12 days together and it was very sad to say good bye but hopefully we will get to visit each other after this trip. He flies out today and visits Hong Kong for 5 days. We both were sad to leave one another but have happy memories and great inside jokes to last us for a long time. I waited for the bus at 5:30pm in Te Anu and sent some stuff home to make my bag a little smaller, I also sent the lens home that day and got a new one. I went to Queenstown only for the night, my bus left early for Dunedin. I am at a couchsurfers house now in Dunedin who works with the penguins here, he is taking us back to Milford to kayak and go camping near the penguins. It was so nice I have to see it again!