Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
Sunday 2nd February
Camilla was feeling a bit sick, but we had breakfast in the Octagon (Dunedin's central "square") while I tried to explain biological systematics... and she got better. There must have been some kind of festival on, as more than a hundred large trucks proceeded down the main street, one after the other - at first we thought it might be a demonstration or protest of some kind, but it was too obviously festive.
In the Dunedin Art Gallery we visited an exhibition Parihaka: the Art of Passive Resistance, about a pacifist Maori community in Taranaki that was attacked in 1881. Related to that was an exhibition on Maori political prisoners taken from Taranaki to Otago. We took a brief look at the cathedral, where there was a flower show on. Then we drove out to look at "the world's steepest street" - this was fun, but not worth going out of your way for if you don't have a car handy.
We took a brief look at the natural history exhibits in the Otago Museum. [Note: pretty much all the art galleries and museums in New Zealand were free, asking only for a donation.] Across the road from that is the excellent University Bookshop, where I bought a copy of Wild Fiordland and Camilla didn't buy a $350 tome on wetas and king crickets.
We went back to the hostel, washed, and set off with the tour. There were nine of us in a minibus with one guide/driver. First we drove along an estuary, looking at wading birds - variable oystercatchers, a spoonbill, stilts, herons, ducks, swans, and more. Then we made a brief stop at Portobello for toilets, coffee, and snacks, before heading out to the Albatross Centre at Tairoa Head, right at the end of the peninsula.
After a look along the cliffs, where there were dramatic views and roosting shags, we descended to the next-door blue penguin colony. Some were there in their burrows, but so deep we couldn't see more than a hint of a white blob.