Dunedin and the Surrounding Area
While in Dunedin our gang enjoyed a several-hour tour of the Speight’s Brewery. This six-story gravity-fed brewery has been around since 1876 and is truly the pride of the south. Well, after a tour provided tasting at the brewery it only seemed right to eat at the Speight’s Restaurant. Speight’s Restaurants can be found throughout New Zealand and could be considered a chain restaurant, but the food is of top notch quality and the presentation is impeccable. One could expect to find venison, several types of fresh fish, lamb, beef, and several vegetarian dishes on the menu as well as the ever present green lipped clams.
Another highlight, while in Dunedin-proper, was our visit to Cadbury World. Greeted by what could only be described as a very excited oompa loompa tour guide dressed in bright purple overalls, we put on hair nets (and beard covers for some of us) and began our two hour tour. He guided us through the chocolate making process, beginning with the cacao beans followed by the cocoa nibs and cocoa butter, adding some sugar and finally the liquid chocolate product. The tour then continued into the different chocolate product processing lines; we saw where they made Cadbury Cream Eggs, Jaffas, and numerous other chocolate concoctions all while inhaling chocolaty goodness. The three nerds in the group were in processing equipment mecca. Most of the processes were done by machine; my favorite machine was the one that had the “eye” to grab a single piece of candy and place it into a slot in a box. At each stop along our tour we were either given a sample (i.e. liquid chocolate) or one of the chocolate products made at the factory. By the end of the tour our bags were full of Cadbury products and Michelle and I were smiling.
Sorry folks, they don't allow photos at Cadbury World
|At the aquarium|
The following night we made our way, a bit earlier, to the little blue penguin viewing area. We were again met by a closed gate, but were also lucky enough to find a volunteer climbing over the gate just as we arrived. We followed him down to the fence line which protects this, the world’s smallest species of penguin. These penguins come in at dusk and are often difficult to see; about eight bird lovers were already watching as at least two had made their way ashore. As the light dimmed we could hear the gentle calls of the penguins surround us. Four of the twelve inch tall birds were found hiding in the bushes just below the fence line. The volunteer would occasionally turn on his red light flashlight to better show us little ones. Neither flash photography nor white light flashlights were allowed. Every so often one of the birds would scuttle up the hillside to what could only be their roosting area. When the dimness of the cloudy night sky made it almost impossible to see our feet, we decided to make the hike back up the hillside to our vehicle. We turned around took a few steps towards the pathway when we realized we couldn’t see much. Beau pulled out his flashlight, covered the end with his hand as to not disturb any sleeping penguins, and turned on the light. To our surprise, two feet in front of us was one of the little penguins; he looked to be just as surprised as we were. He waddled as quickly as a penguin could, and made his way into the cover of the nearby bushes. We safely, and without interruption to any more penguins, made it back to our vehicle with no acceptable photos but only fond memories of the little blue penguins. As an afterthought, it would have been better to view the penguins in Oamaru; this viewing location has dim lighting which allows visitors to better view the little ones. Photography is not allowed, although the lighting is dim enough that almost every camera/lens would have difficulty capturing an acceptable photo.
While exploring some dirt roads along the south coast of Otago Peninsula we came across a remote beach access; we walked along a short trail which took us through a green field full of grazing sheep, across some rolling sand dunes filled with flowering shrubs and grasses, then onto a gorgeous crescent shaped beach with long white clouds in the bright blue skies above. Just 100 meters to our right was a mother Hooker’s Sea Lion and her two pups dozing on the warm white sand. The pup’s smooth blonde fir, seal sized heads and pointy snouts were in stark comparison to their mother’s dark fur and large round head with a blunt snout. Hooker’s Sea Lions are only found in New Zealand and are endangered so we felt quite privileged seeing several of these goliaths on the beach. Mom kept one eye open to watch us as we moved around her (at a safe distance) to take photos, but soon relaxed as she realized we would cause her no harm. While taking photos of the dozing threesome and a 1000 pound male sea lion further down the beach, a New Zealand Fur Seal swam ashore will little fanfare. We were a little concerned that the big ugly bull sea lion would make a move on the seal or us, but he seemed content covering himself with sand and resting his head on a random chunk of seaweed. The seal seemed to be a fan of the camera and posed for photos as he was yawning, scratching, stretching, and finally rolling on his back in the sand. What I wouldn’t give to be a seal or sea lion on a pristine New Zealand beach…