Met for breakfast at 8:30 and walked down to the waterfront. Akaroa itself is in the middle of a volcanic crater where one side blew out letting the Pacific in. It’s used as a huge cruise ship port in the summer with 5,000 people descending and being taken on buses to Christchurch and elsewhere. Shame since it’s a lovely little city on a nice bay. Had breakfast and then walked around taking pictures until we loaded up and left at about 10:30. We didn’t get to Kaikoura until a bit after 5:00 given stops along the way for pictures, lunch, potty stop, and the fact that the main road to Kaikoura along the coast had been knocked out by the earthquake last year and is only accessible one-way on certain days. We can take it when we go back to Christchurch tomorrow.

So, not much more to say other than we saw some amazing scenery along the way and experienced long and winding and new and temporary roads to get here inland which reflects how far the earthquake’s damage was. In town here, many buildings wiped out or under reconstruction. Had dinner at mediocre Thai restaurant. Back at motel about 9:00.

Left Dunedin at 7:30 AM and pulled into Akaroa at 7:00 PM. Long day. Lots of stops on the way. About 90 minutes from Dunedin are the Moeraki Boulders, a strange set of ball-shaped boulders along a beach. Some whole, some split apart. Spent an hour or so shooting images. It’s a wonderful site. Had been here in 2012 on my trip extension after Stewart’s trip ended. Went into the café there and got a super breakfast.

From there, we drove a couple of hours to Oamaru which has two great attractions. The first one is Steampunk HQ, and eclectic collection of strange and wonderful objects and experiences. The best part is The Portal – a room about 15x15x15 covered in mirrors on all  walls with lights hanging down. The mirror effect is almost infinite in all directions. Then there is a 2 minute light and sound show. We did it three times. Jeff videoed one. Cool! Other displays in there were great, but this is the highlight.

From there, we walked around the corner to the other thing the town is known for: a Victorian district with all sorts of shops. Galleries, folks in Victorian dress, etc. Again, had been here five years ago. Saw the restaurant where we had lunch then. Fun. Grabbed a sandwich around 1:00.

Then off we went about 1:30 for the longest drive segment. Before we left, Stewart was interviewed on the local radio station. We listened in the van. Stopped in Timaru for potty break. We’re moving north, past Christchurch and out onto a peninsula to a harbor town, Akaroa. Very winding road in here the last 50 miles or so. Got here about 7:00, dropped off our luggage, and a few of us went to the local fish and chips shop … had kumara fries!

So, I seem to be coming out of my cold. Still coughing a bit. Jonathon got more cough stuff for us. Donna is just starting down the cold route and is feeling crappy.

What a day! My iPhone says 8,000+ steps, but 43 floors climbed. Saw yellow-eyed penguins, sea lions, fur seals, Royal Albatross. Climbed and walked. Endured strong winds, steep climbs up and down. Quite an experience.

Up at 7:00, breakfast, left at 8:30 from Gore. Went through Clinton, stopped in Milton for sandwiches to eat later and cough suppressant for me. Beautiful drive over rolling hills with frost covered fields. Got into Dunedin around Noon. Quick unloading and stuff to our rooms (Motel on York, Room 14 on the third level – walk-up).

Van with two naturalists (Tony and Donna) met us and off we went not returning until 6:00. Went way out on the Otago Peninsula to the Royal Albatross Centre. I’d been here in 2012. Got the full history of the birds. Saw four or five young chicks close to the observation enclosure. Really special place and sights. Oh and it’s a very long and steep walk from the base to the observatory. Long. Steep. Windy, too.

Around 2:30, we headed overland on the peninsula to private areas maintained by the tour company. Then long walk, I mean long walk, downhill to a beach area. On our way down the path, we spotted a female yellow-eyed penguin in a sheltered area. Then coming up the path in front of us was a male. We backed up quite a way. He stopped, spent time preening himself. He was pretty close to us and went into the shelter with the female. We continued down the path to the beach and walked up the beach past sleeping sea lions. At a shelter (sort of like a “blind”) at the end of the beach, we waited to spot yellow-tailed penguins coming ashore after a day of feeding in the ocean. They came back in ones and twos. Climbed out of the water ad walked and hopped uphill. We saw quite a few.

Since it was late and the light starting to fade, we walked back up the beach stopping to take pictures of sleeping sea lions. Got pretty close to them. Would have had to really move fast if they got up and chased us. Walked way back uphill and, thankfully, did not have to traverse the steepest and longest part of the road since Tony, one of the guides, had his four-wheel truck there.

In groups of three or four, he ferried us uphill and to a spot where we walked down a long, long, steep path to an observation point to see a colony of fur seals. Lots of pups and females. Did not see the bulls I had seen in Kaikora last trip. We stayed until the light was almost gone, trekked up the long, long, steep path to the waiting 4X4 to be taken back to the van and the long ride back into the center of Dunedin. Yowee!

Dinner was in town at Etrusco, and Italian restaurant. I was really fading by then with my cough coming back from all the cold and walking. Oh, while out there on all these adventures, the wind was howling. Almost blew me back from time to time when I was trying to walk uphill. I did find out that my red hat does not blow off even in very strong winds. Guess it’s because the brim is soft and flexible.

Tomorrow is a free day to wander anywhere we want in town. 

Actually slept on and off until alarm at 8:00 and downstairs to the van at 9:00. Drove down to Taste Nature for breakfast – high-end natural foods. Excellent. Walked from there right next door and down into an amazing basement. You have to look up Van Brandenburg Architecture in NZ. We were with the son of the founder. He showed us the most beautiful 3D models of fantastic buildings. The prime one is in China and we could see images of it under construction. You will have to look at our images to get an idea how far out of the box their designs are. Fabulous.

Next across the street to look at the ornate ceiling of the casino and then back to motel to get our gear and head out walking. Jeff, Donna, and I walked downhill to the Railway Station. It’s a gem as my images for 2012 and now show. Spent quite a bit of time there since it was a prime thing we wanted to do.

Met up with Sharron and others there and took a van/taxi up to Olveston. This is a house (now museum) built for the Theomin family, Jewish, originally from England and Australia, importers. Their daughter, Dorothy, lived there until her death in 1966 and everything is just as she left it. We were allowed on take photos, a special concession to us. Grand old house, beautiful furnishings, art, ceramics, silverware, etc. Stayed there until about 3:00 and then walked downhill back to motel to rest until supper.

Dinner was at Two Chefs. Elegant high-class food. And Sharron had arranged with the baker at where we had breakfast for an organic pear, ginger upside down cake. It was outrageous … even had thick whipped cream to put on top. Back to motel. Load luggage tomorrow at 7:15 for 7:30 start. Will be a long driving day tomorrow given distance and two important photo stops.

I will begin with my cough. It’s disturbing to me and to the others. While I am better, I still have fits of coughing. Jonathon, our resident physician, says what I need now is just a cough suppressant and that the cough is the end of this thing, but will last for several more days. If it gets worse, I will seek regular medical help here.

Yesterday, we left the motel at around 8:00 and got down to the ferry landing at Lake Manapuri for what we thought was 9:15 ferry departure, but schedules had changed and boat left at 9:45. It’s an hour to cross the lake. Then we boarded a bus and it’s another hour to go over the pass to get to Deep Cove for our boat. The forest along the way and its trees, especially the beach, were the inspiration for the Ents in the Lord of the Rings movies. Lots of good views in the various stops we made.

The boat we were on is run by Real Journeys, and I think it’s the same boat I was on in 2012. Great crew with David as the captain and Jackie as crew and chef. To say we ate well is an understatement. Lunch of seafood pasta followed by baked cupcakes later. In between, David put on wet suit and scuba gear, Jackie took him out on a dingy, and he went underwater to get the allowed limit of male crawfish (NZ lobster). There was also a futile effort to fish later. And David took us out of the sound to the edge of the Tasman Sea where we circled an island with lots of fur seals on it. Rougher water out there. Then back into the sound.

Supper consisted of a cheese platter, tomato soup, half a lobster (and OMG are they wonderful), salad, blue cod (they had caught some earlier) w/potatoes, warm pudding w/whipped cream. After dinner, we continued our conversation from the previous night where we all shared how we got into photography. Now we discussed what we want to do with our images, what our goals are, and things like the question of what is art. Got to know our group quite well being with them in a boat for 24 hours.

I was in a cabin with Jeff and Donna … I had the upper bunk. Slept fitfully. Had to climb down several times to pee, trying not to step on Jeff in the dark. Not bathroom in this cabin, so had to go to one on the back deck.

Now, all this while we cruised on the sound with its snow-capped mountains and waterfalls. Been here before, but one cannot get tired of the grandeur of the place. At night, we were moored and it was very clam.

Got up finally at 6:30. This far south, the Sun does not come up until 8:20. Visited with a few others who were also up. Then it was “first breakfast” of cereals, yogurt, and toast. Around 11:00 we had “second breakfast” which included lobster scrambled eggs. Around 3:00 we had fresh scones, whipped cream, and jam. As I said, we were fed well and often.

The weather the day before was drizzly quite a bit. Today it was mostly sunny and we got great views of fresh snow on the mountains, lots of low lying clouds, waterfalls with rainbows, etc. Hard not to take a zillion images. Pretty stunning experience.

Back to Deep Cove at 3:00, bus over the pass, ferry across the lake … arrived around 5:00. Fiona and Sharron were waiting for us and we drove two hours to Gore and the Heartland Croydon Gore motel. Had a very strange buffet which included cold sliced ham, beef curry, sort of a paella. Need I say more?

Back to my room to write this and do some laundry and download images. Then a shower, shave, and bed. Luggage has to be ready tomorrow at 8:30 for our drive to Dunedin. 

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