December 27, 2013
Today was spent on the Otago Peninsula outside Dunedin, New Zealand. We started early and arrived at Larnach Castle just in time to hear a bagpiper warming up to play for the arriving tour buses. The home was constructed for a man who was influential in the banking business and politics. He had a quite dramatic ending, though, shooting himself in the legislative chambers when he found out that his son was reputedly having an affair with his younger third wife. The grounds had semi-hidden Alice in Wonderland statues from a later owner, and fabulous views of the Sound.
Though overcast in the morning, the weather cleared by noon and we headed to Sandfly Beach for a hopeful glimpse of yellow eyed penguins. We didn't see them at that time, but we did spy sea lions lounging on the rocks at the end of the beach. The water was so clear-- almost turquoise-- and the hills were a vibrant green. The hike back to the car was less fun, as we had to hoof it back up a steep hill of sand. Sheep were scattered all around the parking lot (aka car park).
[...] By the time we had finished exploring a second beach, it was nearly 7pm, which is actually the best time to start trying to see penguins because they come back to shore at dusk. We decided to head back to the first beach, which by then was shrouded in a high fog. We finally saw a few of the larger yellow eyed penguins there. Only a few because they come back individually and sometimes long periods of time apart. They swim ashore and then hike up some very steep cliffs to where they nests are located. We traversed the entire beach a second time to view them from the "hide" so we wouldn't disturb them. Then back up that crazy hill of sand again to get back to the car.