Thursday, 4 November 2010

March of the Penguins

Thursday 4th November 2010

MP3 track of the day: Journey in the Dark - Lord of the Rings

Weather: Miserable and wet when I left Dunedin; bright, sunny and hot when I arrived in Oamaru … don't know how I do it!

Another early start to catch the coach to Oamaru. Having an early start today I had gone to bed at the reasonable time of around 9:30pm … only to be disturbed by two girls, turning the lights on, as they entered the dorm later than evening. Now I haven't really spoken to either of these girls as, frankly, they annoyed me even before I met them. Firstly, just like every other female who stays in a hostel, it appears that their bags were sprung-loaded so that when they opened their bags their rubbish went everywhere. It was so bad that, I think, before I had even arrived one girl had dumped all of her stuff on one bed and slept on another (very considerate). The cleaner, quite rightly, guessed that the bed the girl was sleeping on was the one with her stuff on and stripped the bed that she was actually sleeping on for the next guest who who be staying in the dorm … i.e. me!

I came in and found one bed to be full of junk and another to have fresh sheets, so I made my bed (which I do with a lot of effort as I like a nicely made bed ... I reckon you get a better nights sleep) and headed out. When I got back I saw that my stuff, and her junk, had swapped beds with mine having a little note saying that I was on her bed … ummm.

Anyway so I made the other bed and didn't speak to them at all. Getting back to me being disturbed by them putting the lights on last night, they even left the light on when they left the dorm to go back to the TV lounge (which they occupied so I couldn't watch 'About a boy' last night … doh!). However the worst thing about them is the fact that they are American, with there annoying American accent. I turned the light off and tried to get back to sleep, only awoken during the night by the guy in the bunk above me snoring. In the morning I got up at 6:00am and got ready to leave whilst singing a chorus of 'Land and Hope and Glory'.

The coach driver today was a very pleasant chap and not only did he promise to drop me off at my hostel in Oamaru, but he did commentary during the journey. As we went up the coast I got a glimpse of the famous 'Maroki Boulders', but not a great look as we didn't stop there. It was been raining in Dunedin when we left, and during most of coach trip until we reached Oamaru. The driver kept his word and I was dropped off at the YHA. Luckily for me there was no one in my dorm last night and so, at 9:30am, I could go in and dump my stuff (on the bed that I would be sleeping in).

The weather looked decidedly dodgy and so I took both my coat and fleece with me as I went for a morning stroll around the town. Before leaving the the hostel I inquired into viewing the penguins which were at two locations; the 'Yellow Eyed' penguin colony hangs out, around 6::30pm, on Bushy beach which is a forty-five minute up hill walk from here, however they are free to view. The 'Blue' Penguin colony don't sell themselves as cheaply as the yellows and, if I wanted to see them, I have to go to the MacAndrew Wharf at around 8pm and hand over $20. I decided that I would try to fit in both, starting with the 'Yellow Eyed'; however, if the 'Yellow Eyed' turned out to be ace I wouldn't bother with the blue ones.

This presented me with a slight strange problem; normally I plan in the morning, and do my days sightseeing until the late afternoon when I head back to my hostel. However, as the penguins are party animals and only come out in the evening, I had a huge chuck of time which needed filling.

As I said above my first plan of action was to have a morning stroll around the town and look at Oamaru's fascinating architecture. The area surrounding Oamaru had a few economic benefits that saw it boom in the early 1900's. Firstly it had a good size port, secondly it had no trees so the lands around the town were excellent for growing crops and thirdly it had an endless supply of workable white stone (now called Oamaru stone). These three factors, and the price of grain increasing in the early 1900's, saw the town balloon over a very short period of time. Buildings erected during the boom were made out of the Oamaru stone as there was little wood within the area; this resulted in the buildings here becoming so grand that they really are fit for a capital city and seem a little out of place in such a small town. I took quite a few photos of these buildings before heading to the information site to watch a ten minute film on the history of Oamaru.

After this I walked up and down the main street completing the circuit pretty quickly. The sun was now shinning and I was regretting my decision to bring my fleece; further more I wasn't sure what to do next and so I headed back to my hostel to produce a plan of action.

Like I said earlier, with all the attractions being late in the day I decided that my plan of action would benefit by me working backwards starting with going to see the 'Blue' penguin colony at 8pm. Before this I would go and see the 'Yellow Eyed' penguin colony getting there for 4:30pm and leaving just after 6:30pm (So I have enough time to walk to the location of the 'Blue' penguins). It's a forty-five minute walk to see the 'Yellow Eyed' and, with a lookout along the way, I decided that I would have to leave town around 3pm / 3:30pm. Also looking at the times I didn't think that there was really anytime for tea and so I decided to have a late lunch, around 2ish, and go to the local supermarket to purchase a huuugeee pizza to fill me up for the day (plus a few snacks or the evening). There, plan sorted.

I pretty much followed the above plan; I went to the 'town lookout' before arriving at Bushy Beach, to see the 'Yellow Eyed' penguin colony (after waddling there due to eating too much pizza). I must have arrived at Bushy Beach around 4:30pm and there I waited to see the 'Yellow Eyed' Penguin colony. To my amazement there were others waiting there when I arrived and it wasn't long until a lone penguin was spotted swimming around in the sea, waddling on the beach and generally larking about. This was all rosy however I had come to see a colony.

Definition of colony as found on the internet:


    1. A group of emigrants or their descendants who settle in a distant territory but remain subject to or closely associated with the parent country.
    2. A territory thus settled.

  1. A region politically controlled by a distant country; a dependency.

    1. A group of people with the same interests or ethnic origin concentrated in a particular area: the American colony in Paris.
    2. The area occupied by such a group.

  2. Colonies The British colonies that became the original 13 states of the United States.

  3. A group of people who have been institutionalized in a relatively remote area: an island penal colony.

  4. Ecology. A group of the same kind of animals, plants, or one-celled organisms living or growing together.

  5. Microbiology. A visible growth of microorganisms, usually in a solid or semisolid nutrient medium...”

So not really just two penguins then; yep I had been waiting around for three hours to only see two penguins (to add further insult to injury, I saw more in Milford Sound and I was closer to them). Still it didn't really matter as at least I'd seen some and, more importantly, I met the three very good looking ladies who I met in Christchurch again (you know, the ones that duel each other every evening using 'Monolopy' as their choice weapon). We had a chat and they offered me a lift, in their camper van, back down the hill to the location of the 'Blue Penguin' colony.

As the 'Yellow Eyed' colony consisted of two penguins, a rock and a tambourine I decided to spend the $20 entrance fee to, hopefully, see a few more penguins (oh and the three ladies wanted to go too). The signs were good, I over herd someone talking that yesterday over 250 penguins came ashore here. We made our way to a viewing platform which, on the left hand side, had the sea and, on the right hand side, had the nesting areas for the penguins. It didn't take a degree in animal studies to work out that the penguins would come from the sea, walk in front of us, and into the nesting areas. We sat down at around 8:15pm and a few penguins came a shore pretty quickly; during this time a nice girl (who wants to go a degree in tourism and wants to travel to the UK … I chatted to her a bit after the show) provided interesting commentary. However it wasn't until night fell that the action really started hotting up when loads of penguins came a shore; we could see by the use of orange lights which, apparently, these blue penguins can't see (therefore to them, it was pitch black). I have to admit that after the fourth raft (this is what you call a group of penguins who are in the water) of penguins had come ashore, dried themselves off and walked to the nesting area I was kind of getting the idea of what the rest of the night had in store; people did start to leave however I didn't want to, being British I had paid my $20 and I was going to stay until the bitter end to get my monies worth (do you know what, my mum and dad don't leave a cinema until all the credits have finished so that they get their 'monies worth'). For once this tactic paid off and the girl allowed us to go near the barriers so that we could get really close to the penguins.

I don't have any photos of these penguins due to the complete ban on photography at this show. I found out, whilst in the reception area after the show, that there is a very good reason for this ban. Apparently the camera flash creates black spots within the eyes of the penguins eventually turning them blind and making them unable to fish. I found this out as the reception lady was looking, in disgust, at a group of tourists photographing a small group of blue penguins in the parking area. I did feel a little sympathetic to the tourists as the above reason was never mentioned during the show and so I recommend to her that it be added.

After this the three ladies gave me a lift to my hostel where I said goodbye … hopefully I'll meet them again somewhere.

Toodle Pip!

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