Around Dunedin (part 2)

Well, our stay in Dunedin is coming to a close and it has been a truly lovely 6 weeks here. After the initial “oh crap, it’s colder than Scotland” weather in the beginning, we ended up with a very pleasant summer. At times it was even hot! Mr. Velcro has been totally awesome to hang out with it. It wasn’t that he was just easy to take care of, it was that he was a joy to be with … even if he snored a lot.

Here are a few of the other things we did while we were here:

Sandfly Bay: Out on the Otago Peninsula was a place called Sandfly Bay. All of the guide books and various websites said it was a wonderful place and you would almost for sure see lots of sea critters. Sounded good.

We drove down the road to the car park, which in itself had a lovely view of the ocean, gathered our stuff, and headed down the trail toward the beach. The trail down was pretty steep and sandy once you got past the lookout. You could see sea lions on the beach.

A bit of slog back up

I noticed the waves breaking in the cove and thought “wow, that’s a nice surf break and nobody is there!” Just then a dude with a surf board came into view slogging back up the loose sand trail. There you have it.

There were signs telling you were to go and not go as I guess there are some yellow-eyed penguins in the area and since it was nesting season they didn’t want us dumb humans over bothering the poor dudes. We head left and onto the beach as directed.

Right away there were a number of sea lions sleeping on the beach. Super cool! I pulled out the 70-200 mm lens and started to take some pics. A guy headed back up to the car park pointed and said “here comes a big male.” Sure enough, from behind us was a huge sea lion heading, or what appeared to be, straight toward us. It was very impressive to watch.

Yep, those are sea lions on the beach
Big guy on the move

As I was photographing the two smaller ones, I took my eye off the big guy. Then I heard Susanne say “heads up!” He was closer than expected and I had to quickly scamper out of the way. Luckily, he didn’t so much care about me, but rather the hot babes that were on his beach. There are warning signs all over the place telling you that you will be surprised at how fast they can move and to keep your distance.

“When the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”

In your mind you think “yea, sure,” but then you see them move and suddenly your tune changes to “keep clear, man!” Plus they are huge and when you see their teeth, the thought of one clamping onto your leg becomes distinctly unappealing. Or mistaking you for a hot chick of a sea lion and lying on you. Nope. That’s bad.

It was super cool seeing the sea lions so close. One of the sea lions was tagged and my photo was crisp enough to read the number, so I found the website where you report such things and uploaded the sighting info. I am citizen scientist! Overall, I think there must have been 15 of them on the beach. We cruised up the beach to the far end, watching and photographing them as we went. I was now very glad I had hauled all my photo gear back from the States in December.

As a side note, you might not know the difference between a seal and a sea lion. Seals have small flippers that cannot rotate, hence why they seem to be slow and wallow around on land. Sea Lions have hips and can rotate their flippers to act as almost legs. Hence why you get all the warning signs to keep your distance. Plus ears.

At the far end of the beach where the headlands dropped steeply into the ocean and created a rocky shore was where all the fur seals were hanging out. They are much mellower and quieter as compared to the sea lions. I think they are equivalently cool and far less scary. Although, keep your distance as well!

It was a great place to go and I would definitely go back anytime. Highly recommended outing.

Moana Pool: After getting frustrated by having to dodge all manner of annoying people in the St. Clair Saltwater pool, I looked around for another pool and found the Moana Pool. It is a more traditional pool facility and reminded me of EPIC in Ft. Collins. It was huge. It had an 8-lane 50-meter pool (usually split into two 25 m sections), a 6-lane 25-meter pool, a diving pool with a 10-meter platform, a kiddie pool, a huge play pool complete with water slides and other devices of joy for young kids.

Both times I swam there, I had the 8-lane pool mostly to myself. No big dudes doing water kickboxing to avoid. So when in Dunedin and overcome by the need for a swim, go to the Moana Pool. Not as pretty, but much better swimming experience.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary: We drove out north to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary which was supposed to be a pretty cool little private reserve where they were trying to help the native birds and bush. If you go, it will set you back $22 per person, but at least it goes for a good cause. There were some hiking paths and some places were they had feeders so you were likely to see birds. It was a afternoon, so not the best time for bird watching, but we ambled around the trails enjoying the native forest. We did see some Kakas, Tuis, and few other birds. The Kakas are cool and surprisingly big. The photography was really tough as it was quite dark in the forest and I don’t have a $25,000 super fast telephoto lens. If only I had won the Powerball. In general, it was nice and probably worth the money, but didn’t completely blow me away.

Kaka eating grubs

Sandymount: We decided to drive out and see the light house at the end of the peninsula where the albatross colony is located (Harington Point). We didn’t feel like paying for the tour of the colony, but we thought, based on some of the maps, that there was a trail you could hike up to the lighthouse. Nugget Point had been so cool, so we thought why not?

It was about an hour to get out there and it was clear it was a major tourist attraction to go see the albatross. There is also a blue penguin colony out there as well. There were cars and buses and camper vans filling the lot. We got out and walked through the bird poo over to a lookout point. You could see the light house perched above the big cliff. We headed back toward the albatross place to find the trail up to the lighthouse. Negatory. You are only allowed to go with the paid tours. So this phase of the day was a bust.

Long drive for some bird poo and this
Spoonbill Yoga

I suggested we go do the loop hike at Sandymount which was out near Sandyfly Bay and had some good reviews on Alltrails. Plus, I had seen some spoonbills along Hooper’s Inlet when I had ridden that way a few days before. We headed back to Portobello and up over the hill toward the inlet.

The spoonbills were still were I had seen them the day before and I had even hauled my 600mm lens along just in case. They are super cool looking birds. This had been my first chance to get a photo so I was pretty happy I had thought to bring the gear.

We drove up the dirt road to the parking lot for Sandymount Reserve. There was one other car there. I suggested we climb to the top of Sandymount first and then do the loop trail after that. I thought it was just a couple of kilometers.

Not sure why Susanne insists on asking me heaps of questions about the trails that we are about to go on. No worries mate, she’ll be right.

The climb up to the top was a bit of a slog, but we both thought, based on the glimpses of the surroundings, that the view was going to be amazing. Well … it wasn’t that great. The vegetation is pretty tall so you can only get peak-a-boo views of the amazing surroundings. If you go, don’t bother with the climb to the top. We headed back down and found the loop trail that circumnavigated the mount. The views kept getting better and better as we progressed.

Oh, the crowds!
Improvement over the lighthouse debacle

We worked our way around to a view point called “The Stack.” Just the walk down to it was amazing. We happened to be there in the later afternoon, so the lighting was really good. The views were out of this world. We made our way back the 1km to the car and concluded that there was no point in doing the loop (other than exercise). Just do the out and back to “The Stack” and “Lovers Leap” and skip the sandy boring sloggy stuff.

Pretty amazing sheep ranch
Sheep mustering shed
Just yowzaa …

Botanic Gardens, again: Ok, I know I posted about this in the last blog, but we went back and this time I took my camera. I had a great time practicing with the macro-lens and taking photos of all the beautiful flowers. It is a great botanic garden.

Aurora: Susanne did a bunch of research on the Aurora Australis as we both wanted to see it. We had seen the Northern Lights once in Boulder, but that has been the extent of our experience. There is a facebook group that posts all sorts of information on when the aurora will be visible and lots of people post pictures there. The first night we tried, we didn’t really get anything.

A few stars but no Aurora

We continued to research both when it was going to happen and how to actually get a good picture of it. We set up in the yard again and let the camera shoot all night. When I got up in the morning, I loaded the pictures and was sure there would be nothing. As I scrolled through I started to see a number of them with bright magenta auroras on them! Woohoo! It works. Now I am really glad I dropped the coin and got a wide angle lens.

This type of display is called “picket fence” and I guess is pretty uncommon in January (summer here)

So, we have been enjoying our stay here in Dunedin. Some days it feels like we just hang around and do nothing and maybe that is true, but when I then write up the blog I realize we have done quite a bit. Emmitt gets his morning walk .. .or else there is hell to pay and we enjoy doing the little outings. I did a little photo shoot with him the other day, although he was not a very good model. He kept wandering off or falling asleep. We even saw a cool parrot at the house the other day! Susanne is getting good with that Iphone photography and videos!

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