In case you missed it, we’re spending almost 7 weeks traveling New Zealand in a motorhome. For all of the posts from the trip in order, look here.
Dunedin was mostly founded by Scots, so it’s hardly a surprise that the city is reminiscent of Edinburgh. It’s remarkable how Scottish it feels, but I was also pleasantly surprised to be reminded of Sausalito, a gorgeous little town just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. They have really lovely Victorian architecture everywhere, and the city is nestled right on the water. Xander and I were at the low point of our colds, so we took it pretty easy during our few days here, but still managed to get a good feel for the city. After we stayed in the city for a few days, we moved over to the Otago Peninsula to take in some of the incredible scenery and see some wildlife. Always good to see Mr. Burns being properly appreciated. This statue and cathedral are right off the Octagon, which is the central shopping area in the city. I swear the sky is a paler blue in New Zealand. We couldn’t miss Cadbury World, so we stopped in just before they closed. We were too late to do a tour of the factory, but they do run tours up to 3 pm. We had plenty of time to enjoy the shop and cafe, though! This may have been the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had! Silly Kris got coffee instead, but at least it was pretty.The chocolate selection in the shop was marvelous. We had to laugh at how heavy our bag was when we walked out. It was a close call whether Xander or the chocolate bag weighed more. After that, we walked the city and soaked up the architecture.
I absolutely adore these trees. Xander fell asleep during the walk, but couldn’t seem to get comfortable in his pack. His head kept flopping around and waking him up. Everything around us was closed for the day, so there wasn’t anywhere to stop and sit indoors…so Kris laid Xander’s head in his arm and carried the pack like this for miles so the little guy could nap comfortably. My husband is a champion. The weather when we were in the city was cold, windy, and gray, so we were delighted that we got lovely blue skies for our stay on the Otago Peninsula. The drive alone is spectacular. The water is crystal clear. It’s difficult to show in the pictures just how clear, but you can see the rocks at the bottom perfectly. We drove to the very end of the peninsula to visit the Royal Albatross Centre. Before this trip, I really wasn’t into birds. In fact in my post about the Aquarium of the Pacific, I mentioned that we skipped the birds because they’re creepy. Maybe New Zealand just has way cooler birds, but I’ve definitely changed my tune. The shift in my feelings began with the adorable blue penguins in Oamaru and continued with the royal albatross. The royal albatross have an average wingspan of 10 feet, so they’re massive. They are true sea birds, which means that they live most of their lives without touching land. Once they fledge, they live entirely on the water until they reach 4-5 years of age and are ready to find a mate. It’s strange to think of birds never coming on land. They form monogamous breeding pairs and raise their chick together for about a year. Then the pair splits for the following year, flying around Antarctica separately. The following year, they meet back up on their nesting grounds and rekindle the breeding relationship with their mate. Being a storyteller, I was sad imagining a forlorn albatross who waits and waits, but their mate never makes it back. The guide at the centre confirmed it happens, sharing that a bird they nicknamed “Grandma” outlived at least three of her mates and raised her last chick at the age of 62. Hilariously, in that situation the older single female would have her pick of the strutting unmated adolescent males. I much prefer that angle to the story! We visited during the point in the season when the chicks are full grown, but won’t spread their wings and attempt to fly for another month. We got to see two of them from a viewing station at the top of the hill. They have a webcam set up next to one of the nests if you want to see what they’re up to. We didn’t get to see any of he parents because they only come back to feed the chicks now that the babies are older. Still, it was really cool to see the chicks who are just on the brink of heading out to sea for years. The view from up there isn’t half bad. Neither is the view from the short walk down to the cliffs. The seagulls are apparently at the point in their breeding season when they are extremely aggressive and territorial. We must have parked close to their nest because they circled and dive bombed us repeatedly when we got back to the campervan.
The Otago Peninsula was lovely, but it was time for us to head even farther south to the Catlins.