Machetes and Penguins

Well, again it has been a while since my last post. Things have been going well in Queenstown. Still working away at my job as a souvenir expert and living the live in my little cabin. Winterfest just ended in Queenstown, it was a week full of fun activities. I didn’t really get to attend any though because I was working. I did however get to participate in one fun event. The Winterfest Parade. I dressed up in a kiwi costume that my workplace owns and got to dance around like a fool while waving at the crowds we passed. Another Canadian girl, Vanessa, who works at our sister store, also dressed up in a Kiwi costume. It was absolutely hilarious, as neither of us could actually see where we were going. I kept losing the foot of my costume and tripping over my feet. I accidentally ran into the camera man for the local news at one point. At least I was on TV!

The last day of Winterfest was Canada Day, it was also the first day off of my holiday! That meant it was time to party. I gathered friends and we created a plan. We all dressed up for Canada day and hit town. I, of course, dressed as full out as I could. It turned out to be a good night with a lot of funny stories in the morning. Even Callum, my kiwi friend, and Becky, my English flatmate, joined in on the excitement and dressed up.

After recovering from the night Callum and I hit the road for a little trip to Glenorchy. The drive is rated one of the top drives in the world, and I don’t at all doubt it. The scenery was beautiful and Glenorchy itself was no excepton. I thought Queenstown was beautiful, in comparison Glenorchy must be heaven.

I took a couple days to kick around the flat and just relax before packing up. I’m now back on the road for a week. I decided it was a good opportunity to check out Southland, the most South part of New Zealand. I loaded up Lil Red with supplies to last me a week, turned on the radio, rolled down the windows and took off. I forgot how good it feels to be so alone in such a breathtaking place. How at home I feel driving through unfamilliar land. Back to bliss.

I picked my way across the country until I hit the ocean. A few places along they way caught my eye, so I stopped to take photos. The Hoar frost that happens here is quite impressive. So thick and crystalised over every tree and grass it always catches my attention.

 I had hoped to camp the night in the little town of Kaka Point, however the hostel was closed for winter. I instead found a hostel in the next township, Owaka. It was the loveliest hostel with welcoming hosts. Split-level backpackers was my favourite hostel so far, the one I’m in tonight though, Lazy Dolphin Lodge, isn’t far behind. Both places are much warmer than my little cabin back in Queenstown. I never thought I would say this, but being able to say in a bed is a real luxury. I suppose that’s what happens when you spend months sleeping on couches and floors.

This morning I woke up at 6 A.M. WILLINGLY. I was surprised with myself when I actually manages to pull myself out of bed. I packed up my things and left the nice warm bed to hike to Nugget Point Lighthouse in the dark. That must sound like an odd thing to do, but I do have reason behind it. As Nugget point is located on the East Coast of New Zealand I would be able to watch the beautiful sunrise coming up from the ocean. Nothing between me and the Antarctic. It was a 25 minutre drive then a 20 minute walk along a cliff to get to the lighthouse. Fortunately, as I started my hike the sky was starting to turn pink, giving me a bit of light to see by. I may have been very sleepy, but the early morning was well worth the rising sun.

 

I returned to my car once the sun was in the sky and headed back down the winding dirt road. I quickly stopped when I reached Roaring Bay where the rare yellow-eyed penguins can be spotted heading out to sea in the earling morning. As I hiked down to the hide where you could watch the penguins from, I noticed three little tuxedos making their way to the water. Unfortunatly, I made an amateur mistake. Even though I knew I was heading down to try and capture photos of the little penguins, I hand’t changed the lens on my camera. As I fumbled to get the right lens on my camera body the fellows hopped in the ocean and swam off. I saw on the cliff, watching and waiting, never seeing another one of those finely dressed animals. I had other places to go though, so off I went, to Cannibal Bay.

Cannibal Bay was beautiful, but I didn’t get to see any of the sealions I was promised. I tried again in Surat Bay where another beach the sealions localed was located. Again, there were none to be found. As the rain started to come down I made my way back along the beach, returning to the shelter of my car. While checking my map and deciding where to head next and elderly man dressed in a sleevless windbreaker that was held together with duct tape, pulled up becide me on his bicycle. He looked at me as if he was looking to chat so I hopped out of my car to have a chat.

He turned out to be a Biology Professor at the university in Dunedin. He asked me about Canada and was well excited that I had lived in Nova Scotia. He asked question upon question about dulse. Do people still eat it? When is it farmed off the beaches? How do we eat it? Apparently he has done a bit of studying on the subject and wanted to pick my brain. He then informed me he harvests his own lots of the purple seaweed each spring. Curious to know if it was the same seaweed I had had many times before, he offered me a bag. He lives on his own and often picks more than he needs. I felt it would be rude to say no, as he seemed to thrilled about the whole situation. I followed him in his car back to his little get-away home.

 I was a little nervous as I got out of my car on the property. Luckily it was right on the road, so I was in clear sight of anyone driving by. The professor hopped off his bike and ran inside, returning with a big bag of the same purple seaweed I had eaten so many times before. It tasted a bit different from what I was accostomed to. My first though was that he had poisoned it, when really he just washed his dulse in fresh water before drying it. I was used to a much saltier mouthful.

 We chatted a bit longer about different things; My travels, his studies, Canada, New Zealand, ect. Before I headed off The professor stopped and asked if I like leeks. The question caught me off guard a bit as it was so out of the blue. He waved his hand over and I saw the huge crop of leeks he had growing. I gladly accepted his offer of one, I don’t think he would have been able to eat them all on his own anyway. He ran back to his little shack and came back with a big machete. It made me very nervous. He had many different sheds around the property, any one of them could contain the bodies of other lone travellers he had offered leeks to. I stayed well clear of the man as he carried the weapon over to the garden. He pulled from the soil the biggest leek I had ever seen. With one quick movement he swung the knife and cut off one end of the vegetable, turned it around, and slashed off the top. I couldn’t kep but notice the agility and skill with which he swing the machete. How quickly could he jab out and stab me? Thankfully, he set the knife down before walking over hand handing me the freshley picked veggie. I was relieved and glad that he genuinely was a nice old man and not a murderer. With a big thank you and a wave goodbye, I hit the road again.

I drove along the coast, stopping to do some different hikes, most of which led to waterfalls. They were beautiful walks and lucky for me the rain stopped each time I parked my car. I did all the hikes I had hoped to do today ecxept for the walk into the Cathedral Caves. They are closed at the moment due to the sea being too high and rough. I will have to try again do go before I leave the country. Everyone I talk to says it is worth going back to.

 

I found a hostel in Curio Bay for tonight. It’s just a short walk to the shore where a jurassic era fossilized forest can be found. As someone who has always had a fascination with fossils, I took great joy in walking along all the stone trees that lie along the rocky beach. I was also happy to know there were yellow-eyed penguin nests in the same area. Turns out I would get to see those little guys after all. When dusk hit I headed back down to the shore where I was able to watch the penguins waddle their way back to their nests for the night. They let me get fairly close to capture some lovely photos of the 18 inch tall birds. I was so glad to finally see some!

 

 I had been hoping since I have arrived in New Zealand to see some. I’m now all snuggled up at the hostel trying to decide where to head tomorrow, as well as what to make for dinner! As my internet is costing me a painful twelve dollars an hour I will leave you with that and update again soon!!!

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8 thoughts on “Machetes and Penguins

  • Lauren you are such a great story teller. I laugh every time I read your blog! So glad you got to see more penguins…and that the professor wasn’t a murderer.
    Love you!!!xoxoxo

  • Another wonderful and suspenseful narration of your exciting journey … makes me think I should travel ..but then I’d need you to help hunt out the nooks and turns. Love you <3 <3

  • Lauren, you are the bravest adventurist girl around!! As always I loved reading about everywhere you venture!! You are unique I must say!! Be safe, love you xoxo Grammie & Grampie

  • I’m with your mom! Glad to know you met a nice professor!!! The girls and I love reading your stories!!

  • Hi Lauren, What a wonderful story of your adventure. It feels as though we are right there with you… you make it so lively and flowing. You kept me on the edge of my chair…It would be good enough for the Readers Digest and I am sure you would win a prize!! I am visiting in Fredericton with Anita and Gerry and I often inquire how you are doing. I also read your postcard they received today. Thank you for sharing your adventure and I wish you some more awsome trails and lovely pictures. You are a great photographer!! Take Care, thinking of you often!! . Your Dad just called and he is on the phone right this minute. Love you! Proud of you for being soooo BRAVE. Sr. Doris

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