After leaving Nicole's we went into town and picked up the camper van which was to be our home for the next few weeks. I jumped in the driver's seat, and had only a little trouble adjusting to the fact that it was on the right-hand side. We drove for a few hours down the east coast of the island before turning west and heading for the mountains.
|Lupines by the Lake|
From Moeraki we headed south onto the Otago Peninsula just outside the town of Dunedin. The peninsula itself is spectacular with rugged, windswept hills and jagged cliffs plunging into the chilly waters of the southern Pacific Ocean. The landscape is a lot like how I imagine the highlands of Scotland to be and in fact, so many Scots immigrated to this part of the island in the last century that many of the inhabitants roll their "r's" a bit like their ancestors. The peninsula is also home to an enormous amount of wildlife, from seals and sea lions to many endangered species of penguins (Blue-eyed, Yellow-eyed and Fiordland Crested). We spent an afternoon watching the curious-looking tuxedoed birds hop up from the water to their nests in the dunes.
|Sandfly Bay is named for the intense winds which blow over it making the sand fly up in all directions|
We spent the next few days driving through the pastoral hills of the Catlins on the southern part of the island. One of the most amazing campsites we found (so far) was at Purakaunui Bay where we pulled our van right onto an amazing surf beach surrounded by tall cliffs and fragrant eucalyptus. We hiked to several beautiful waterfalls in the area and even made it to a petrified forest. Millions of years ago, huge rainstorms washed volcanic mud down from the mountains, covering an ancient forest. The silica in the water quickly replaced the organic material in the trees leaving stone monuments in their place. In addition to seeing actual trees from the Jurassic period, we also got the rare treat of seeing a Yellow-eyed penguin feeding her young. Although regurgitated fish guts does not sound like the best dinner to me, the chicks ate with relish and squawked for more.