It was difficult, but I managed to shake myself off sleep early enough to be at Sandfly Bay for sunrise. On this remote beach, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) leaving its dwelling for the sea, but the bird was far away. Like the evening before, there were a few New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) resting in the sand. Ironically, in this wild place, I only made pictures of common birds: gulls, oystercatchers and shelducks.
In Dunedin, I met Karen Connor, coordinator of the volunteer program in coastal Otago. I will be a volunteer at Sandfly Bay next year, welcoming the public to the area, so she explained me the job.
Then I drove to the Catlins, the rugged coast between Dunedin and Invercargill. My first stop was at Nugget Point, a picturesque outcrop where sits a lighthouse. Nearby, Yellow-eyed penguins nest, and I was lucky to see one come to shore, hopping from rock to rock back home.
After nightfall, I went to the tip again to make pictures of the stars. I wanted to capture the Milky Way, but guess what I found? That’s right, Southern Lights! I didn’t expect them at all, but here they were, first revealed on a long-exposure before showing up loud and clear to the south, forming a tall band with high pillars. An amazing sight, what a surprise!
Finally, on an adventure again! I spent the last three weeks in Wellington, but today I hit the road. And with style, for I was driving this time! I bought a small van, a Toyota Estima, which will allow me more freedom than when I was hitch-hiking. I can cook and sleep in it, and so I can be wherever I want for sunrise or sunset.
From Wellington, I drove north along the Hutt River, over the Wairarapa Range, and walked in wetlands by Lake Wairarapa. It started to rain as I cooked, first a light drizzle that increased in intensity as I made my way on the scenic road to Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island.
I hitch-hiked from Matamata to Rotorua, where I settled at Heather and Roger’s place. I had met them in Tiritiri, and they had invited me to stay at their place… so I did!
Rotorua is a thermal town, with steam coming out of the ground in many places, even in the center, and a constant smell that punches you in the face when you get out in the morning. The museum is a picturesque building, much more recent than it looks like, but it’s unfortunately closed due to ongoing earthquake-countering work.
After leaving the shorebird center, I’ve spent this week with Celia and Victor, helping them with their tasks 4 hours each day. In return, they offer me accommodation and food; that’s called wwoofing (willing workers on organic farms), even though I use a different website, HelpX.
I did some water blasting, removed some branches (and some cow poo) from the fields, emptied sheds… In the afternoons, I worked on my pictures and wrote on my blog. It was an interesting experience to be part of a new household for a few days.
On this last evening, we went to eat fish and chips in Kaiaua. Tomorrow I’ll hitch-hike to Coromandel Town, before a new helper stay in Hahei, on the other side of the Coromandel peninsula.
15.09.2018 Coromandel Town
It took me two hours, and three different drivers, to arrive to Coromandel Town. From Thames, the road wound along the rugged coastline, or climbed steep gradients to get to a pass and dive again on the other side. It was truly spectacular, and I saw a large pod of dolphins in the water. I checked in at the Anchor Lodge: ok for a night, but the facilities at the backpacker (the kiwi word for “hostel”) are not great.
After coming back from Tiritiri, I’m staying at the hostel all day, sending email and trying to sort out my close future.
I couldn’t help but notice how omnipresent rugby is, for there’s TV running in the living room, and it seems there’s always a documentary about the All Blacks on.
Today, a guest at the hostel told me I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not sure how to feel about this…
Great day today, I hitch-hiked for the first time! I went to the Australasian gannet (Morus serrator) colony in Muriwai; it was gorgeous, and I captured the picture I was looking for.
Australasian gannet (Morus serrator)
19-21.08.2018 In the air
I boarded the Emirates Boeing 777 in Lyon around 21.30. It looked nice, with soft lights and a scent akin to the one at the “Bombay”, my favourite Indian restaurant in Grenoble. The 6-hour flight went well, I slept a bit. The 15-hour flight from Dubai to Auckland was much longer, but the Airbus A380 was comfortable as well once I had overcome my stomach ache. I watched the latest Avenger movie, and also the last Harry Potter movie.
I arrived in New Zealand at 10 in the morning. I passed the biosecurity check with ease, and took first a bus out, through green pastures. Seeing people drive on the left of the road was profoundly unsettling. It still is now.
I didn’t want to take the direct bus to the city but go with the cheaper way, with “normal” urban transportation. After the bus, I took a train in Papatoetoe station. Trains are really slow, they open their doors very slowly, and take their time before leaving the station. Chill… Oh, and they still have people manually checking your ticket, like in Budapest. They also still have phone booths in the city.
My first spendings: a bus ticket, a bird book and a burger. Then I walked to the hostel.