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Day 20 & 21- Our Dunedin Welcome & Penguin Party!

City Tour & Bird watching!

We waved farewell to our camper, it’s been a great way to travel around and see the country; particularly, the countryside. We wouldn’t have been able cruise around and see the things we have, it would’ve been too restricted by plane, train or bus.

On our way to Dunedin we had a few stop offs to see the sights. We drove up the remarkables, and then had a "short hike". Kiwi's have a different definition of short, plus Andy and I were not prepared for this wearing shorts, flip flops and a borrowed Christmas jumper. We got so high we found snow! It was like Christmas back home. However, flip flops would not be our shoe of choice there! They really are beautiful mountains.

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With our morning stroll over we hit the road for our 5 hour or so trip to Dunedin. We stopped for lunch and at a few wineries to stock up on Christmas booze, plus we got a sneaky tasting session. The wine here does live up to its international reputation. They even had a red that you serve chilled... If that doesn't demonstrate how differently they do Christmas here nothing will. We whack ours in a pan and heat it up, they put it in a 'chilly bin' (coolbox for those not in the know!). Once finally at our home for the next 6 days we relaxed with dinner, a beer and a Christmas film. Although it felt wrong watching a wintery classic here.

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After the best night sleep we had since Michaela's it was time to meet more of Izzy's family. Diane and Peter (Izzy's great aunt and uncle) showed up to take us on a whistle stop tour around Dunedin. We saw the beautiful city complete with railway station, university and every school any member of the family had attended. In addition we stopped off at Baldwin Street, arguably the world’s steepest street; although the Welsh are challenging this.

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There were two cruise ships in, which apparently meant town was busy... again I feel this is a point whereby our opinions on busy differ quite drastically. We ate lunch at a picturesque viewpoint over looking the harbour. It is weird that although Izzy had only met them a few times when a lot younger, you instantly felt comfortable. Plus we got a good history lesson of Dunedin from locals that had lived here over 25 years.

In the evening we had booked tickets to go and view the albatross and little blue penguins on the peninsula. This is something we both had on our NZ bucket list and we were very excited. The Otago Peninsula is the only place in the world you can get this close to the Royal Albatross, making it a unique experience. Usually these birds opt to lay their eggs high in the mountains which cannot easily be reached by humans.

Firstly we were given some of the history of peninsula and a range of facts about the birds and their lifecycle through a mix of a really passionate guide and a short video. Some of the astounding facts we heard were; their wingspan is up to 3 metres long, they can fly at speeds up to 75mph and they weigh between 8-10kg! We also learnt that after birth they spend 5 years purely at sea, only stepping foot back on the ground to find a mate and attempt to reproduce. They are also extremely affectionate birds and mate for life.

After was our chance to head to the observatory, but before we were even inside you could see 3 adolescent birds flying around. They were so graceful and majestic, not even flapping their huge wings just gliding through the air. It was a marvel to watch them swooping around. You could tell their impressive size when you saw them next to a seagull. Also on the cliffs you could witness a number of albatross sat on eggs and we were treated to a loving exchange between two partners, a rare site.

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I could have watched these beautiful birds all day but unfortunately our time was up and we had to vacate. While we waited for the penguin tour to start, Elliott and Kirsty had the great idea of enjoying some beers on the cliff face. This sounded idyllic, but what they didn't tell you was it involved a clamber through some difficult and questionable terrain. But you can't deny the view was worth it and it felt like we were the only people in the world as we looked out into the vast emptiness of the Pacific and watched birds hunt for their fishy dinner.

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Under the cover of dusk we wandered down to the viewing platform just in time to see the first wave of little blue penguins emerging from the sea to make their way back to their nests; after a busy day fishing. These little guys and gals were by no means graceful as they hopped, waddled and stumbled their way over rocks and up the beach but they were adorable! We spotted a seal hanging on the beach and we all had the same concern, but fortunately it was not an elephant seal and this fellow was just curious about the penguins instead of posing a threat. We stayed for around 2 hours watching in awe as wave after wave of penguins made their way home. The smile on Izzy’s face was a sign that we didn’t want to leave; but as the night got colder, the rain heavier and with the knowledge we had a 40 minute drive back, we decided it was time to say goodnight to the penguins. Although I wasn’t entirely convinced that Iz wouldn’t try and smuggle one back with us under her coat.

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Both the birds were captivating in their own way and we feel lucky to have been able to witness these natural spectacles. It is experiences like this that make travelling such a drug for us. These one-off encounters that you can only experience in certain parts of the world make all the getting lost and lack of home comforts worth it!

Posted by Bears on Tour 22:49 Archived in New Zealand

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