Some crazy days... we travelled from one side of New Zealand to the other in a day, from Fiordland to near Dunedin. The countryside became flat farming land filled with alpacas and sheep. The grass was golden and patchy and the mountains were warmed by the setting sun. Henry drove on. Then I took over. The worst thing was having to periodically stop for drivers to pass. It was dark, the roads winding and getting hilly. We reached Gabriel's Gully, an old gold mining valley at around 9 pm. There was a caravan in the DOC picnic area. We got out and stared at the sky, crowded with stars, the white band of the Milky Way clearly visible.
Dunedin blew us off our feet. Truly scary driving a large motorhome in a gale. Still, once parked (and free as it was a Sunday), we had a more relaxed time round the Otago Settlers Museum, admiring the Flemish renaissance-style railway station - from which tourist trains run - and visiting the art gallery. To bring it down to earth, we ate lunch in Subway, which suited our budget.
The reason the pace was slackened was not just passing time in the hope that the wind would drop, but we aimed to see yellow-eyed penguins just up the road near Moeraki. This had to be timed with when they came ashore in early evening. Then it became a bit of a dash. Having to stop for more food (two young people in the family) put us back. We got to the holiday park at Moeraki and the friendly owner came out from the back in his socks. After booking us in, he asked if we wanted anything else. ‘Yes’, we said. 'Penguins?' he volunteered, and got out a map, drawing a line to show our route and telling us we had to go straight away.
He was right of course. After a ten-minute drive, half of it on a gravel road, we arrived to see people leaving the Moeraki Lighthouse nature reserve and thought the show was over. The reserve closed at 5.30 pm so we had less than an hour. However, we were in luck. I spotted a penguin! Then another couple, who had come ashore onto a grassy outcrop. They sheltered in amongst the bushes but came out to give photo opportunities. New Zealand Fur Seals were everywhere, in fact we could not go past a certain point as they lay across the path - about twenty of them. They were adorable, but not animals we wanted to get close to. Satisfied, we returned to camp.
Back at the holiday park we were next to a chap who had a self-built motorhome, which he had had since the late 1970s. He and his wife had been all over New Zealand in it.
The tide was in and the light gone anyway, so we had to wait till next morning to see the Moeraki Boulders.
It was busy on the beach first thing, being by a hotel. The challenge was to take a photo without people in. They were posing on the smooth, spherical boulders that look like dragon's eggs.
Off again, still in the gale, up the coast, we headed for Mount Cook, an almost impossible task that would involve three more hours of driving, then four hours to get back to Christchurch, where we had to be by the following morning...