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Entries about penguin

East coast towns

Oamaru, Hampden, Moeraki, Dunedin

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

We had heard nice things about the town of Oamaru and soon realized ourselves that everything we had heard was true: there were nice buildings, a very positive atmosphere and a bit of funk. After all, Oamaru is also the location of the ‘Steampunk HQ’, a gallery dedicated to all kinds of fun metal exhibits.

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From there it was just a couple of steps to get into the old town featuring the first buildings of the settlement dating back almost 150 years. We were thrilled to find a good bakery and browsed through some of the galleries, workshops and stores. Eventually we ended at our usual destination of choice: the local skatepark.

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When trying to extend our parking ticket, Sam realized that we had gotten fined for parking in the wrong area of the carpark, where it is permit parking only. Given the two equally unsuitable choices of paying by check (something I have ever used a single time in my life) or NZ internet banking, I headed to the office to get the fine sorted right away. After paying the fine, I also wrote an appeal explaining that our mistake had been a misunderstanding. Carols, the helpful lady at the desk, referred me to the head of the respective department. I explained to him that I would have parked correctly if it had been clear about the difference between ‘permit only’ and ‘pay and display’. And he agreed that this might be difficult from someone with a different mother tongue coming from a different background. I was pleased to get my 40 NZD fine refunded and very happy – life is fair after all.
As we left Oamaru a bit later, we took the scenic drive along the coast instead of just following the highway. A good choice, as we got to see long empty beaches and a very nice coastline.

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Once we had secured the last powered campsite at Moeraki Boulders Campground, we followed the recommendation of the friendly Swiss owner to go to Katiki Lighthouse. And we were in fact lucky to see four of the very rare yellow eyed penguins up close. They were on their way from the beach to their hides along the steep coast. Underneath them were a couple of New Zealand fur seals lazing in the last rays of sun. And there were even a couple of little pups around as well. We loved our excursion and were happy that we had gone.

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After a couple of unsuccessful trials in trying to locate the Southern Cross, we finally succeeded that evening. It was the first real clear night since we had arrived in New Zealand and we just had to look up to see the signature constellation that is also featured on the flag.
The next morning, we hiked from our campsite along the beach to the Moeraki Boulders. While the beach was deserted, the boulders were crowded with tourists making pictures with and on the boulders from all possible angles. And indeed, the boulders make for a great photo motive. Still, we did not mind heading back and having the beach for ourselves again after a hundred meters. And anyhow, we did not want to linger too long to avoid getting trapped by the tide coming in.

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Lucky us that we returned early enough. Otherwise we would have been hiking back in the rain. We enjoyed a quiet afternoon, reading and writing in the campervan while Max was playing outside with his new friend Basili.
The weather forecast for the next day did not foresee much better weather, but at least it was dry until we left our first stop at Shag point where we got to see seals again. From then on it was raining heavily.

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At least that way it was easy to decide what to do in Dunedin: we headed to the Otago Museum and had a relaxed and dry afternoon discovering the many exhibits and watching a show in the planetarium called ‘We are stars’.
A short spell without rain tempted us to head into town to sit in a café and do some shopping. As expected, we got wet on the way back to the car, but at least we were well fed and had new stuff to wear. Even though we passed lots of beautiful buildings, the weather was too miserable to take pictures of the otherwise very beautiful town. That evening we stayed in a suburb of Dunedin at the Wingatui racecourse - essentially a parking lot with an adjacent amenities block located next to the race track.

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Surprisingly enough, we woke up to a beautiful day the next morning. After some grocery shopping and lunch at the local skatepark, we headed into Dunedin once more.

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And what a difference vs. yesterday: we got to see the beautiful railstation, the churches and Victorian buildings around the main square Octogon and were blissfully soaking in the afternoon sun. Given the Scottish heritage of Dunedin, a young bagpipe player provided the perfect ambience.

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A pair of Chinese dragons reminded us of Chinese New Year with the Year of the Rooster starting. That made us realize that the Chinese holidays might be the reason for so many Chinese people traveling. Initially we had assumed that the Chinese just prefer New Zealand vs. Australia, but it might in fact rather be linked to the period of the year.

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Eventually we headed to the Beachlands Speedway. Intrigued by a sign entering Dunedin ‘Races every Saturday, we had found out that there was a stockcar race with following demolition derby going to be taking place. That sounded like a lot of fun. After all, we had tried already in the US to see if we could see a stockcar race, so this was the perfect opportunity.
We were there early enough to be able to take a tour of the pit area where the teams were getting their cars ready. Some of them looked nice and polished, whereas others had obviously been part of a number of crashes already.
We picked front row seats and were anxious for the races to start. At first we only got to see trucks making round after round to prepare the track. But after an introductory grand parade of all race cars, the first race started with the 'streetcars'. It did not take long for us to realize that our front row seats might not have been the smartest choice. As of the first round, we were bombarded by pieces of dirt flying at us. And despite the strong fences between us and the track, we thought it might be a good idea to get a bit more distance to the track. After all, the racecars tended to get into battles. Looking at the cars, this was pretty obvious that this would be happening. And as expected, some of the cars ended up slamming the concrete wall lining the track. That was very loud and we definitively did not want to be in the trajectory of any parts flying around.

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At the end of the first race for the streetcars, we also realized that those cars that are not able to leave the track anymore, do not necessarily need a tow car to tow them out: usually there's just another one of the racers pushing them out. The tow trucks were busy enough with the more severe cases anyhow. As next classes started their races, we soon learned to distinguish the stockcars, mini stockcars or saloon cars. In total, there were seven classes. Each of them got to go for three races, such that by the second and third round we already knew what to expect.

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There was always something going on. In some classes like the saloon cars, it was exciting to follow who's leading the race and how the second and third were battling to lead of the race. In other classes, like the streetcars, it pretty much did not matter who's leading and who not. There all was about the crashes. And sometimes it was a mix of both, like in the mini stockcar class.

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At the end of those 21 races came the demolition derby in which five blue cars fought five red cars to the point when only a single blue car was functional and able to take the checkered flag on a winner’s tour around the track.

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Even though it got pretty late by the time we left, we all agreed that it had been an awesome day and something we would have had a hard time to see back home. Long after all other campers, we arrived in Wingatui. But as we had been there already, we knew our way around and soon fell into a deep night’s sleep.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 15:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rain penguin town museum race seal rail boulders stockcar Comments (0)

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