Lot's of ground to cover today.....hang on for the ride!
We headed east from Queenstown to the Catlins, an area on the NZ coast a bit off the main tourist circuit. Beautiful rolling hills, predominantly used for sheep and dairy farming (what a surprise!!!). Just inland of the farms are dense rainforests, full of flowing rivers and waterfalls to explore with short hikes. Great stuff.....
We saw large "New Zealand sea lions" on several beaches. The big bulls when they weren't trying to score with the harem, would lay in the sand and flip sand on their backs to keep off the sun and flies. And then they wonder why the females aren't more receptive??? (it likely also has to do with the fact that they mate in antarctica before migrating to NZ!!!)
|Nugget Point lighthouse, the oldest in NZ.....1870|
We entered the Catlins from the south, and headed to camp at Curio Bay, where we had heard about a possible yellow eyed penguin rookery. These penguins are quite rare, with an estimated 6-7000 remaining. Curio delivered the goods, as we hiked from the campsite over to the beach to check out the action. Let's just say we weren't the only ones who had penguins on the brain.....lots of penguinistas from all over the world were here with big lenses, ready for the show.....
There were two penguin chicks. Now 4 months old, and nearly full grown, the chicks have about a month to go before they first take a swim. So their parents go out fishing twice a day, staying out for hours at a time. The ranger told us they head out to fishing grounds around 20 km offshore. TWICE A DAY !!!!! That's about 25 miles every day, to keep themselves and the monster chicks fed.....amazing!
|Where's my dinner???|
It was getting pretty dark by the time mom waddled ashore for the feeding, so the main event could begin....
This area of "beach" was really interesting in itself. It's the site of a ancient forest, and the lumps you can see in the photo above are fossilized tree stumps and trees. On some, we could even see rings in the stump. This is one of the least disturbed examples of fossilized forests from the Jurassic period found anywhere in the world, estimated at around 180 million years old!
|Fossilized tree stump|
But back to the penguins.....
|Unwelcome seagull waits in the wings for any "scraps"......mmmmmmm....tasty.....|
|"Mom always liked you best......."|
|Tufts of permanent feathers appearing on the chicks' necks|
As it got dark the dad finally came in from his afternoon fishing expedition, and reluctantly coughed up the goods for the chicks second course. A great evening!!!
One of the popular attractions of the Catlins is Cathedral Caves. Only accessible at low tide, the caves are about a 1 km walk from the car park ($5/person for access). Well worth it, the caves are beautiful, on a terrific beach.
Far to the back of one of the caves, we came upon 2 very small blue penguin chicks, obviously waiting for their parents to return with the evening meal.
Lost Gypsy Bus Gallery
We had to stop to check out what has been awarded "Best Gallery in New Zealand" for the last two years.....the Lost Gypsy Bus.
The bus is the opening act for this amazing quirky assemblage of "gadgets and gizmos" that artist Blair Sommerville puts together from found objects to amuse and delight anyone with half a sense of humor. Blair calls it "the worlds largest collection of rustic automata", I guess as good a description as any! Check out this BBC video on his website, which also gives a good flavor of the Catlins: http://www.thelostgypsy.com/?page_id=2369
All of the gadgets are really whacky kinetic sculptures, so video is the best way to view. But here are a few examples before you head off to watch the video!
|ceiling of the bus|
OK, Blair's crazy bus and museum is a pretty good segue to another whacky stop we made on the South Island's east coast, the small town of Omarau, home of the Steampunk NZ National Headquarters.
So what is this "Steampunk" you may ask ????? (I know we did!!!)
"Steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy—also in recent years a fashion and lifestyle movement—that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery."
or this, from "The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences":
"Steampunk is modern technology—iPads, computers, robotics, air travel—powered by steam and set in the 1800’s.....What others see as junk or scrap parts, steampunk artists transform it into something new and expressive, be it an original creation or a modification of a modern convenience."
No doubt some mind altering substances come into play as well!!!
So, what does it all mean??? Well, the photos tell the story best, so here are a few shots from the amazing Steampunk NZ HQ:
|Old steam locomotive, been in continuous service since 1924.|
|Uses 1/2 ton of coal daily....the train may have green paint, but that's about it!!!|
Oamaru was indeed an interesting stop, with a great historical center of late 19th century limestone architecture, nicely preserved.
|The whisky store across the street from the brewery.....we like this town, we do!!!|
|Cindi working her way through a flight of whiskys......tough duty! (Actually the only tough part was picking which to buy, they were all so damn tasty!!!)|
Next stop, Stewart Island, south of New Zealand's South Island.......see you there!