29 January 2011 – Oamaru, South Island, NZ

Very windy & overcast again today when we got up. We spent the morning at the hospital going over our list of drugs with Betsy of Qayaq, who has been working there as the GP since last year. As a fellow cruiser, she was able to point out any deficiencies in our arsenal of medicines & suggest additions. It’s nice to have someone available who understands our needs. Thanks, Betsy!

We walked back up to the house, picked up Richard & left at noon, lunch in a bag. The four of us drove south toward Ngapara & Duntroon. On the way we passed a field of sunflowers that seemd to go on for miles. We had to stop to take photos. It was so beautiful. I love that color of yellow….

Next stop was Elephant Rocks. We stopped here last year when touring with BB's mom, but it was rainy, so we only went to the edge to see what it was. This time we messed around in the rocks for an hour, climbing to the tops, posing, & taking silly pictures. This is the site where some of the scenes from The Lord of the Rings were filmed.

   

We drove past the flour mill in Ngapara, then stopped at the Fossil Center in Duntroon to see the rattling rocks on display there. It’s a weird phenomenon where a small rock gets trapped in a hollow in a larger rock. I had admired the rattling rock that Betsy & Richard have on their mantel & wanted one of my own. So we went to look for rattling rocks in Maerewhenua River, but we didn't find any. Only broken ones.

Then we drove on further south to Moeraki Boulders, which I visited when I was here 20 years ago, & remember very clearly. I've never seen anything like them before or since. Strange how these round boulders just appear out of the hillside & gradually migrate down the beach to the ocean. We took more silly pictures there.

    

We drove back to Oamaru via the Old Mill Road (a scenic tiki tour road, as they say here), stopping for ice cream in Hampden. The day had cleared up nicely.

We had champagne & our hand-picked scallops for dinner, then went to see the blue penguins.

BB's mom took us to see the blue penguins (smallest penguins in the world) at the bleachers when we were here last year. Little did we know that it isn't necessary to pay, & in fact, you can get much closer to them if you just know where to find them. Betsy & Richard know, of course, since they've been here for nearly a year. As soon as we reached the rocks above the water, Richard noticed a penguin standing just beside a short wire fence right next to the road. The fence was only waist high, so I could lean right over & look at the penguin from only a couple feet away. If I crouched next to the fence, I was about a foot away. The penguin didn't seem to notice at all. The temptation to reach out & pet him was difficult to resist. He was so still & placid that it seemed he wouldn't mind, but who knows? He looked right back at us the whole time we stood there talking, as though he was listening to the conversation - taking it all in. They are so darn cute!

After about 20 minutes, during which time we saw other penguins emerge from the water & hop their way slowly up the rocks, this penguin began walking along the fence until it ended, waited there for a while, walked around the end, again waited, then waddled quickly across the road. Then he stood on the other side of the road, perched on top of a rock, seemingly posing for photos for the two Japanese girls clicking away, before he finally went into the nearby bushes. All the penguins we saw moved in a similar fashion - only a short distance at a time, then waiting for several minutes before moving again. Are they looking for predators? Warming up after their day in the cold water? Digesting their fish? Thinking about what to do next? They are not bothered at all about humans being nearby. They walked right by my feet if I happened to be in their path. Their predators are the local feral dogs & cats. The only time they hurry is when crossing a road - any road, with cars or without. It was cold, but a clear night with lots of stars & no moon. There are signs asking that we not use a flash, as it disturbs them, so we didn't take any photos, but there are plenty of post cards with better pictures than I could ever get anyway. There were only a handful of people there the whole hour or more we hung out watching them.

When we returned to the house we played Scattergories. Betsy was anxious about the game, but then won, beating BB, which is hard to do.

We got lucky with the weather today – a beautiful day & night despite the overcast morning.

says ADR