New Zealand February 1999  
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 Dunedin 8 - 9 February

By the next morning our visit to Sydney was completed and we headed back to the airport. The flight to Christchurch was very short - yeah. While we boarded our plane to CHC we were wondering about an Air France flight from Sydney to Christchurch with a very small plane but then we realized that it was the Concorde that we saw standing at the gate. During the flight the captain told everyone on the left side to watch outside because the concorde was passing us. As we arrived in Christchurch we saw the Concorde again - standing at a gate. That was funny :) From Christchurch we took the next flight right down to Dunedin where we meet a woman at the airport. She was about to pick up two girls and she asked us if we would like to share their shuttle. So we got a ride into town very easily and quickly and they dropped us off at a very nice backpacker - the Penguin Palace! If you are in Dunedin this is the place to stay! No hills to climb, very close to the railway station and Octagon, very friendly staff and nice, clean rooms, kitchen and bathrooms. Anyway, in the afternoon and evening we just walked to a supermarket and organised the coming days. We bought our Bottombus tickets, booked the days when we wanted to get on the bus and we also booked a wildlife tour to the Otago Peninsula for the following day. The advice from the backpacker office for the Twilight Wildlife Tour was good - as our experience proved the next day.
In the evening we just had a look at the First Church, the railway station and the Octagon before we cooked ourselves a dinner.
In the morning we went to the shore of Otago Harbour. We had to walk through the industrial area and as a matter of fact it was not a very beautiful spot. So we walked back into town and then tried to get some views. We walked up and down the hills of Dunedin, through some narrow walkways with stairs and winding little paths - that was a strenuous but interesting experience. There are some overviews of the city but they are not so good because the nice buildings (Octagon, Railway Station ..) are not visible due  to several other big buildings surrounding them. We discovered some nice parks and a boys school in an old-fashioned house.
About 2 pm we were picked up by Twilight Wildlife Tours. We made our first stop at Baldwin Street which is known to be the steepest street in the world. Nobody wanted to walk up but we saw a car driving up and we could see the top of the car while it was driving uphill! Next, we stopped at a viewpoint but again we just saw the large, unattractive industrial buildings. Finally, we went off to the Otago Peninsula. We made our way around Hoopers Inlet, stopping for some bird watching here and there. At Wellers Rock we left the van in order to board the Monarch Wildlife Cruise (not included).  The first animal to meet us was a big sea lion swimming near the boat. Then there was a little blue penguin. The rocks around Taiaroa Head were scattered with hundreds of Shags - little shags, spotted shags .. and of course we saw the Albatrosses sitting there high above us. After cruising around Taiaroa Head we headed out to sea where many many sea gulls were sitting on the water. Then we found two Albatrosses. They were flying very close to the water and we tried to follow one of them but it didn't stop flying and circled the boat. Both of the Albatrosses passed the boat several times and one of them flew right over the boat, so we could see it very close :) great - thank you Albatross for doing this! On the way back we saw the sea lion and the shags again and as we returned to the pier we were picked up by our van to go to Taiaroa Head. Here we walked along the cliffs and got some good views on shag nests and seals playing in a rock pool. While we watched the seals we suddenly saw a little blue penguin running along a rock crack. It tried to avoid contact with the seals and climbed up towards the grass very quickly.
After that we headed towards the Yellow Eyed Penguin Colony, where we first got a short introduction about the Yellow Eyed Penguins before going right into the Colony. The people who have set up the colony have built many tunnels and little huts, for undetected observation of the penguins. First we went to a hut to have a look at the beach and we watched some penguins coming ashore. Afterwards we walked into the colony where we could see some chicks playing in a small lake. Another hiding place was at the end of the beach in the sand dunes where the penguins come along on their way from the beach to their nests. We saw one coming up and we followed him home. It's amazing how fast they are! We saw his chicks welcome him home - that was so great!!  What an experience. We saw the penguins really close up, approximately one meter in distance. Before we left the colony we saw some other penguins and chicks very close. Two were standing very near to the entrance of the tunnels - it looked like they were watching us :)
As we finally left the colony it was already beginning to get dark and it was dark before we returned to Dunedin - what a great day!

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