Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dunedin, yellow-eyed penguins, Moeraki boulders, Oamaru gardenss

The stats about the steepest street in the world.

Baldwin Street, the steepest in the world, in Dunedin, NZ

On the way back from Stewart Island, we took the same route, but made quite a few pit stops along the way. Our first stop was in Dunedin to see the world's steepest street, Baldwin Street. It has a 35% grade. For the sake of accuracy, and a little city pride, Pittsburgh has Canton Avenue in Beechview that has a 6m section at 37%. However, that section is so short that it doesn't count for the world's steepest. Just like at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, it is a tradition to walk up and then back down. My Achilles was still bothering me so I didn't walk it which gave Hannan a happy excuse to drive up. The way up was easy. The way down was a little harder. Hannan told us about an annual event, the Undy 500, where engineering students buy cars for under $500 and drive them from Christchurch to that street in Dunedin with lots of pub stops in between. Lots of the cars don't make it to Dunedin, let alone up the street.

This is like Where's Waldo, but you count the seals.

A New Zealand fur seal way out of the water.

Just a little scratch.

This seal had great big expressive eyes that I adored.

Our next stop was at the Moeraki lighthouse to see yellow-eyed penguins. However, we also got to see a ton of New Zealand fur seals. They were quite similar to the Weddell seals in Antarctica that just lay there all day. It can be hard to find them against the dark rocks. However, these guys would at least acknowledge our presence from time to time. It is funny how I can love a creature who does so little. When you do get to see them moving about, especially in the water, they are precious and playful.

Moeraki Lighthouse.

Two posing yellow-eyed penguins.

Penguin jail, sealed in by wire, has treated some of the penguins rough or the youngster is just molting in the breeding ground.

Yellow-eyed penguin near the Moeraki lighthouse.

Yellow-eyed penguin near the Moeraki lighthouse.

The yellow-eyed penguins are cool to see, but not as cool to watch. I think I saw one move the entire time we were there. Hannan saw one run away from the water when a wave came in. Mostly, they just were looking around. They remind me a lot of the emperor penguins in Antarctica. They don't have the fun personalities of the Adelies. However, they were cool to see none the less. They have a breeding colony that they keep fenced in, but as the penguins get older and bolder, they spread out which can sometimes give us a chance to see them up close. The first couple we saw were in a giant grass field. Growing up in the states, we never think of penguins in grass fields. We think of ice. It is surreal to see them in such a warm location.

The Moeraki Boulders.

Moeraki Boulders.

Being eaten by a Moeraki Boulder.

Our final big stop of the trip was at the Moeraki Boulders. These huge spherical stones are sitting together on a sandy beach. There are not any other rocks around which makes them really stick out. Some of boulders have come apart and remind me of the wooden puzzles we had as kids. It would be a little easier to reassemble the boulders though, if we could lift them.

Wildfire smoke in Southeast New Zealand.

Parrots(?) at the Oamaru Botanical Gardens.

Hannan strolls through the indoor part of the Oamaru Botanical Gardens.

Our final stop of the day was in Oamaru. I had been advised to pick up some cheddar from the Whitestone Cheese Company. I couldn't find any in the grocery store so we just went to the source. The cheese was as yummy as the botanical gardens in Oamaru were beautiful. We were stopping to see them because I was told they were better than the Christchurch gardens. They might be as good, but they would be better described as different. The two most memorable plants I saw were the bromeliad (photo below) that looked like it has two flowers coming up and a rose that smelled like old lady perfume. I've had the pleasure of smelling a lot of flowers and the displeasure of smelling too much perfume. Rarely have the smells come so close together. I liked the smell, but it also wasn't as strong as most perfumes either. Maybe that was the difference.

A blooming bromeliad.

A rose in the Oamaru Botanical Gardens.

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