Parents Visit NZ Part 2
Nugget Point, The Catlins, NZ
Day 5- 9 Feb 2019 Saturday
After we spent the morning at the Dunedin Farmer’s Market (bacon butties for the win!) and annual Thieves Market (new hats for Mom and Dad), we loaded up Djuna’s car with our 5 pieces of luggage and a couple of backpacks. Djuna, my wonderful flatmate, drove us to Dunedin Airport. Thrift car rental had a red Honda SUV waiting for us. As the primary driver, I adjusted the interior and the parents loaded the boot. Then off we went!
The drive to Nugget Point is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, give or take. Most of the way is a regular two lane road with a speed limit of 100 km/hour (about 63 mph). There are few cars except when traveling through the towns along the way. We passed though Owaka to grab a Jimmy’s meat pie for lunch at the Four Square grocery. We then drove to Nugget Point.
This time of year, this area is quite busy with tourists. Including us! We walked to the lighthouse which overlooks the rocks sticking from the water (a.k.a. “nuggets”). Fur seals were hanging out on the beaches below, along with a colony of spoonbills nesting in the cliffs and a sea lion swimming in the water. Absolutely beautiful.
Then, we drove to Kaka Point and checked into our motel room at the Kaka Point Motel. It was just right and had everything we needed. Even a bit of view to the ocean! After a short rest, we decided to walk the beach before dinner. It was around 5 pm. Lazy us, we drove literally 30 seconds to the beach, parked by the surfing club, and ran onto the sand. Paradise. Except for the sandflies which decided to make me their dinner… and I learned that I am quite allergic to them. Huge itchy welts appear about a day later that are unbearable. But I digress.
After about 45 minutes searching for sea glass to no avail, we went to The Point pub. As the only restaurant in Kaka Point, it was quite busy. However, mom snagged the best seat in the house. Right out front overlooking the ocean! I had the seafood chowder and mom and dad had fish and chips. Delectable!
Our evening was rounded out by travelling back to Nugget Point but going to Roaring Bay instead. There is a wildlife viewing hide perfect to see Yellow-eyed penguins come ashore in the evenings. We got there around 7. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has volunteers at this site during the summer to make sure the 50-100 people who visit each night respect the area and the wildlife. The two lovely volunteers on this night also gave great information to visitors and me about the penguins and their recent behavior.
This breeding see (November to late February) was, again, a very difficult one. Poor food availability and illness lead to adult mortality and underweight chicks. The Nuggets are well monitored, however, so chicks are weighed almost weekly and if underweight, taken to the Way Hospital in Dunedin. This helps the chicks but also relieves the parents so they don’t go hungry prior to molt. So at this point, only one chick remained. The other adults do not have to return to land each night (no chicks to feed), so only one or two adults had been coming ashore for the past week.
We were incredibly lucky to see an adult come home! He spent ages preening on the beach before heading to his nest high in the bush. Every time I see these guys I get goosebumps. It’s truly a privilege, and I just wish more people would realize that.
Te Anau, West Coast, NZ
Day 6- 10 Feb 2019 Sunday
We left the next morning after a cup of tea in bed. We were on our way to The Anau, on the west coast. Therefore, we crossed New Zealand in a couple of hours, passing though Gore where a statue of a big trout guards the town center. We passed smaller villages, lots of farms with sheep and cattle grazing, and eventually passed into more mountainous region of the Southern Alps on the edge of the Fiordland National Park.
Te Anau is the last town before Milford Sound and a common destination for travelers going to the Fiordland National Park, Doubtful Sound, and Milford Sound. There are several hostels and motels along the one road main street of this town. Catered toward visitors, there are plenty of restaurants, souvenir stores, and many tour company kiosks and stores. There is also a grocery store, several ATMs, and a drug store. All a person needs. We stayed at the Luxemore Distinction Hotel. Perfect for the night!
We wandered around, shopping a bit, before getting dinner at a bar/restaurant/pub. Great food, great drinks, and great company!
We got an early night because of our impending, early trip to Milford Sound the next day.