Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wizards, sea lions, and penguins...oh my!

By the 14th, we left Timaru and never looked back. We journeyed 2 hours south (without mechanical breakdown!) to the city of Dunedin. We didn't know much about the city before arriving other than it was a college town and home to the brewery of our favorite New Zealand beer, Speight's Golden Ale. But as we descended the first of what would be countless hills into Dunedin, we soon discovered that our days in the coastal city would be filled with absolutely gorgeous scenery.

We checked into a hostel atop another of Dunedin's enormous hills. This was no ordinary hostel, however. No, this one was called Hogwartz and was completely Harry Potter-themed. For these two dorks, sleeping across the hall from the door to Gringotts was almost as exciting as meeting HP himself. That evening we walked around the downtown area until it began raining. This confirmed our tentative plans to return to Hogwartz to watch one of the Harry Potter movies.

The next day we took advantage of the sunshine and drove the the Otago peninsula just outside of the city. This turned out to be one of the best days we've had since arriving in New Zealand. The very narrow and windy road along the coast of peninsula was a bit terrifying at first but the view was breathtaking. We drove for about 45 minutes (making several stops to take pictures) until we arrived at New Zealand's one and only castle. There we took a self-guided tour of the inside of the castle and the gardens. From the tower at the top of the castle we could see all of the peninsula and Dunedin.

A half hour drive from the castle took us to the very tip of the peninsula where there is a huge albatross conservatory. "Alba-what?," you say? We'd never heard of them either. Albatross are basically enormous seagulls and they are nearly extinct here in New Zealand. The birds themselves aren't exactly exciting to look at but the cliffs they live on along the coast were incredible.

Instead of driving along the coast on the trip back to the city, we took Highcliff Road which provided us with a totally different view of the peninsula. It was amazing. Ignoring the insanely windy roads and dangerously huge cliffs with very few guard rails, this trip was one of the coolest things we've ever done. Beautiful green hills speckled with sheep and newborn lambs passed by our windows and in the background lay sandy white beaches and the deep blue water.

About halfway back, we stopped at Sandfly Bay. Here we took a 40 minute walk down to a beach where you can see sea lions and penguins in their natural habitat. The walk begins at the top of a hill (next to a green field filled with sheep, of course) and leads you down to the beach where the sea lions are burying themselves in sand after a long day of hunting for food in the sea.

You can pass them (giving them plenty of space and not disturbing them) and walk to the end of the beach where you hide in a small wooden shelter to view the penguins on the rocks at the bottom of the nearby cliff. These penguins apparently scare pretty easily and so you must be very quiet inside the shelter. We stayed there for about 45 minutes and ended up seeing only one penguin (thanks to some loud and obnoxious people scaring them off). Nonetheless, it as quite an experience.

On our second day in Dunedin it was raining again and we were pretty sure that nothing could top our day on the Otago peninsula. We were wrong. In one glorious day we toured a chocolate factory and a brewery. Both tours were complete with plenty of samples which made for big belly ache at the end of the day. Totally worth it.

By the morning of the 17th, it was time to begin our trip to the west side of the south island. After a four hour drive, we arrived at our new home in Te Anau. We are renting a room in a small house that we share with 3 other girls. Our roommates are backpackers like us and are all very nice. Cody and I are in the master bedroom with the master bathroom, so luckily Cody doesn't have to share a bathroom with 4 girls. The house is in a new development near Lake Te Anau and is surrounded by mountains. It is really cool to be surrounded by beautiful scenery the second you step out the door.

We met with our bosses and began our new jobs the very next day. Our bosses, Franz and Maria, are German and immigrated to NZ about 6 years ago. They own the Naturally Fiordland Cafe and Settler's Steakhouse in downtown Te Anau. Our shifts are split up between the two restaurants. Our first week on the job has been...interesting. But that is another entry altogether.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like you are really having fun guys! Is that place real? Please continue posting new photos and comments, it's funny to follow your experiences. We miss you. Lots of love Ariel, Franco and Gaby.
    PS Remember my best friend Zulema, she is just here in Carmelo we are sharing your views. She sends you greetings. Of course she found Cody as nice as we did, we told her he is even cutter in person. Do not forget to save money to visit us in Uruguay soon. Love again!