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New Zealand Trip Day 3 – Dunedin to Pounawea

Yesterday we stopped for lunch at Balclutha. I’ve got a problem with my diet as my witch-doctor has told me to not eat wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, or yeast. I should also stay away from milk, though cheese seems okay. (I sort of cheat with ice cream, I think, maybe, don’t want to ask).

This makes finding things I can eat on the road rather tricky as so many cafés feature bread based meals. You see a lot more gluten free products featured here in New Zealand than I expected, but they tend to be corn based rather than the rice based products in the USA, so they don’t work for me.

The nice lady at the café though offered to make me a special salad with chicken and assorted vegetables. It was just what the doctor ordered – literally.

After lunch I went to a health food store (rare these things in N.Z.) to inquire as to whether they have spelt flour, because that’s something I can make into a sort of soda bread and makes good toast and even passable sandwiches in a pinch. No luck, but then I had to play 20 questions with her as to where I’m from, what’s the weather been like, etc. I felt like I was back at first week at university and was surprised she didn’t ask me what my major was.

But it’s nice getting that sort of consideration and attention. One thing she said though was that we’re expecting a storm and the weather should be pretty lousy for the next three days (not an exact quote, I’m sure what she said was much more charming with the proper New Zealand way of speaking).

She was right.

Today was the next day and the first day of lousy weather we’ve seen. It wasn’t so onerous as to spoil anything other than a little bit of the view out the van window though and we managed to stay out of the showers. Shorts and sweatshirt still worked.

Besides, I was pretty beat from yesterday’s excursions so it was a good day for me to take it easy.

The upshot is that’s a whole lot of words to say we didn’t do as much today as we’ve done on previous days.

When I’m spending the day recuperating I find that I want to conserve my efforts to things I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen beautiful green valleys and dramatic bays with the ocean crashing, and after all, though I’ve never been to this part of the South Island, this is my fourth trip to New Zealand and the virus that is American culture is seeping deeper into the kiwi culture more and more each year, so finding things I haven’t seen before gets more and more challenging.

Yesterday we missed out on seeing penguins because we were there in the early afternoon rather than dusk. Today I wanted to see penguins. That’s all. Anything else would be a bonus, but I’ve never seen penguins in the wild, just living their lives – and since I grew up with the impression that they live on Antarctica and I doubt I’ll ever get to that continent, this seemed like my only chance to ever see them.

There were supposed to be penguins in other locations to the south, like Nugget Bay.

But first we found a “cabin” at a campground, the Pounawea Motor Camp or some such thing (Pounawea is Maori for “Something got into the garbage can last night” I think).

The “cabin” was nothing more than a set of bunk beds, a double bed, a desk and chair in what was probably a 6 X 12 room. Community bathroom and showers and community kitchen.

After moving in we ventured off again to see the local sites, but as it was a bit cold and rainy it took a lot to get any of us to stray from the vehicle.

Finally, after killing enough time, we arrived at Nugget Bay around dusk (7pm, though it doesn’t really get dark until after 8:30).

You take about a 20 minute hike down a scenic trail to a hut that’s been built for tourists to watch the penguins (of the rare yellow-eyed variety) concealed. The penguins are people shy, apparently.

There were a handful of other tourists at the hut and they quickly told us where we could spot the penguins. COOL. There were only three of them, but it was great fun seeing them. One of the penguins had laboriously climbed up the slope to the grasses and seemed to be asking his buddies to join him.

“Dudes, come on, let’s rest up here.”

“Dude,” one of the two on the beach called back – they all look the same, “that’s too much like hard work getting up there. Come down here and let’s go out and get something to eat.”

“Dude,” I worked my backside (I think he said “ass” but this is a family blog) off getting up here just to climb back down.”

The squawking went back and forth a while, but eventually the two penguins waddled off to the water and played a little by the shore. Then a fourth penguin emerged up from the water and worked his way up to where the penguin on the slope was, taking over guarding the fort we guessed, and the first penguin hopped down the slope to the water.

The remarkable thing is it had stopped raining the whole time we were at Nugget Bay. As we left it started to drizzle and it created as amazing a rainbow as you’ve ever seen.

The drive back to Pounawea was filled with dramatic sunset colors in the sky. Here’s me at the motor camp at sunset Sort of looks like a painting in the background, eh?


We ended the evening by cooking a late meal of rice noodles, stir fried veggies and chicken in a tomato based pasta sauce in the community kitchen. Any day you can do something you’ve never done before is a great day.

2 comments to New Zealand Trip Day 3 – Dunedin to Pounawea

  • dallas

    that rainbow is awesome Jon!!!

  • Mark Fisher

    Great Land/Sea Scapes! That tree you’re leaning against looks like a tough mother. I know what you mean about the penguins “just living their lives” – I’ve always thought zoo penguins look like posers.

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