Day Twenty-Two & Twenty-Three: Rest & Penguins

Today in Te Anau was a complete rest-day as we got in very late last night from the Star Gazing and so had a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast in a nice cafe. Grabbing a coffee we just had a wander around before spending most of the day, reading and relaxing. It was very chilled out and much-needed for both of us. It also gave us chance to plan our next few days and we decided to head to Dunedin, so we woke early the next morning and said ‘farewell’ to Te Anau (grabbing another pie for breakfast – Miles Better pie shop was amazing) bound for Dunedin.
It was a bit of a trek, a 3.5 hour drive to the Top 10 campsite located just outside of the town. Once we were checked in, we drove into the town to explore.
Dunedin is a nice enough place, but being a bigger city than some in New Zealand it felt quite touristy with lots of shops that you could see in pretty much any city around the world. I’m definitely happier in the countryside than I am in the city, but I knew that already.
Whilst sat in Starbucks, next to the fireplace, Laura was checking out the local attractions and happened on a cafe/restaurant called Nova, which were famous for their ‘inject yourself’ Doughnuts! Now, I’m rather partial to a doughnut so I was up for it straight away and we hurried off, with me nearly jogging, not that I was excited!
I opted for a ‘traditional’ jam filling and Laura went for apple, which surprised me as Laura doesn’t really like ‘sweet’ things (other than me of course!), but with a box of two doughnuts in hand we hurried back to our van to sample these delights.
AMAZING – No other words needed from me, although Laura was a bit shocked by how sweet they were and we were both in for a serious sugar rush!

There was no time to waste though as we’d booked ourselves on the Yellow Eyed Penguin tour, so sugar high in tow, off we went down an extremely winding coastal road which would have been awesome to ride on the motorbike, but throwing a motorhome around the bends was not so enjoyable, on the plus side, it was a good workout!
We arrived at The Penguin Place (it’s real name), which is privately run and located on the Otago Peninsula and is dedicated to the conservation of the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins and their habitats.
The guide began by giving us a short lecture on the penguins and it turns out that the Yellow Eyed Penguin is extremely anti-social…or fiercely independent, depending on your outlook, even with their own kind, which is obviously tricky for mating, but also bad news when you have an invasive species such as us, commandeering the territory and effectively wiping out the natural habitat. Basically, the species is in massive decline and it’s mainly due to Human interference, with breeding pairs on the Otago peninsula declining from 36 pairs in 1996 down to just 3 pairs last year.
It’s hard to see a future for these cute little penguins, but the Penguin Place is doing all it can to help, with a rehabilitation centre on-site and also plowing all the money from tourism straight back into the conservation efforts.
With all that said, you’re probably now thinking that we’re not helping by going on a tour to see them, but it’s cleverly done by creating a series of covered trenches and hides, so that the penguins can’t see us fully so they aren’t worried – providing noise is kept to a minimum.
On the way round we saw seals about 10metres away from us but more impressive was the fact we saw 9 of the little Yellow Eyed penguins coming back from their fishing trips and waddling up the beach.
Feeling very honoured to see these rare creatures, we then proceeded to head back to Dunedin in the dark, playing chicken with the fuel light on the motorhome – we eventually made it to a fuel station with about a litre of fuel to spare!
The final stop of the day was to a Nando’s which is pretty rare in New Zealand – it was good, a big feed to finish the day!

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