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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Shags and dyes
16/01/2008, Otago Peninsula

There is also a colony of Stewart Island shags on Taiaroa Head. They make these complicated nests, which for all the world look like the dye tanks of the tannery in Fes. All it needs is the bright colours.
We spent the night at Portobello Tourist Camp. Free parking is not allowed anywhere in the Dunedin City Limits, and the others were both further away and more 'family oriented'. The Portobello Camp was the nicest we've visited. Big spaces between the vans, excellent showers, a good kitchen, friendly staff (a major change after Lake Tekapo). Even a book-swap, the first we've seen here. These bring-and-go informal arrangements are common in marinas, but less usual in the ground-based context. Even here, they made sure you left the same number of books as you took.

Places and people
Soaring and swooping
Windy, happily for us
16/01/2008, Otago Peninsula

We were lucky to get a good flying display; normally it is too warm and still in mid-afternoon, but it was very windy and the younger birds put on a display. This is part of their adolescence, when they spend several years hanging around and showing off to each other.
Albatross generally mate for life, although divorce happens, and remarriage after widowhood is common. There are two female albatross living as a pair within the colony, who will sit on eggs and make very useful foster parents. There is also a bigamous male; normally pairs only return to breed every other year, but he appears every spring, with alternating partners.
The Northern Royal Albatross has a wing span of about 3m, wing tip to wing tip, and it is difficult (with no comparison) to give an impression of the scale. They spend 85% of their lives at sea; sitting on the water takes a lot of energy, because of heat loss, and so they are superb flyers, barely twitching their wings as they soar. This bird, expertly snapped by Pip, has one wing twitched up and the other down, steering in the complex currents of the headland.

Places and people
Royal broods
16/01/2008, Otago Peninsula

The Otago peninsula outside the city of Dunedin has been widely praised for its approach to eco tourism. The crowning glory is the breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross at its tip, Taiaroa Head.
These birds, one of the three Great Albatross, breed nowhere else on the NZ mainland. And they only started here in the twentieth century. The first nest was made in 1919, but it was not until 1938, and then by dedicated human protection, that the first fledgling survived to fly on the great migrations.
It is fascinating to learn that only human ecological destructiveness made this headland attractive to the albatross. First of all, the coastal forest was cleared by loggers and tracks were made enabling these ungainly birds to land. Then gun emplacements were made; concrete flat areas, which, as grass grew around them, made perfect nesting sites.
Now the area is surrounded by heavy fences, to keep out the many predators introduced in the last 150 years that have so damaged the ground nesting birds: stoats, possum, cats and rats. These are fences to be the envy of any one trying to keep rabbits or deer out of their gardens and paddocks. They may not go deep enough for moles, though, which fortunately do not seem to have made it to New Zealand.

Places and people
Ground down teeth
16/01/2008, Moeraki

In the end, the boulders wear away to nubbins, like worn teeth, and eventually to small stepping stones buried in the sand to stub unwary toes.

Places and people
Turtles and flax
16/01/2008, Moeraki

Exposed to wind, rain and wave action, the spheres erode. The different veins wear at different rates, creating a trellis effect. They have been called turtleback stones. Pip's sandal shows that even after long erosion, they're still a good size.
The Maori tell a story of the wreck of the giant Araiteuru canoe (one of the ancestral waka that brought their ancestors here.) During a greenstone hunting expedition, the canoe foundered, with the loss of everyone on board. The canoe itself formed a reef off shore, and the flax baskets containing food were thrown up on the beach, to become the boulders.

Places and people
Rock born of mud
16/01/2008, Moeraki

The boulders are known to geologists as septite concretions. They are born out of the mudstone cliffs, some emerging quite high up, as the action of the weather erodes the soft material.
They were formed when this cliff was deep under the sea, as mud and calcite hardened around a central core, moulded to uniformity by the constant movement of sediment from molluscs and other crustaceans. The concrete mud cracks and secondary calcite seeps in. The different materials form veins through the mud.
The sediment was then lifted up in tectonic action, forming the low cliffs. No one knows how many more of these round boulders have yet to appear.

Places and people
Boulders
16/01/2008, Moeraki

Moeraki is a small village on the side of the road between Kakanui and Dunedin. It is famous for its boulders. These spherical rocks are strewn along the beach as if a careless cherub had left his marbles scattered across the carpet.
Irreverent tourists require their partners to climb on them to have their picture taken.

Places and people
Oystercatchers
15/01/2008, Kakanui Point

On the lovely little beach on the south side of the headland, there were two black birds wading. Later investigation revealed them to be variegated oystercatchers, which range from almost all black (like this) to pied.
This was an excellent day, with lots of exciting things. Mackenzie country, Lake Tepako, and North Otago have lived up to expectations.

Places and people
Glorious sunset
15/01/2008, Kakanui Point

Driving along the coast road to Dunedin is a delight. Low cliffs and pretty beaches. We finally found Kakanui Point, where we have parked under some low pines for a little shelter. Turkish sauce with lamb, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and the last of our broccoli and courgette. Yum!

Places and people
Scolding penguins
15/01/2008, Bushy Bay

The penguins come right up the cliff, to their nests laid throughout the scrub and bush. One came up to the fence and spent several minutes scolding all the viewers. They are obviously used to the barrier, but still vigorously defend their territory.

Places and people
Battling penguins
15/01/2008, Bushy Bay, Oamaru

From the Waitaka valley we turned south to Oamaru. This was a major port and is the first town-sized Scottish settlement in this most Caledonian of colonies. The names are redolent of trout in granite streams; Usk Street and Glendale. (Though someone has also been here from the East of England, given the presence of the Yare and Lynn in the street atlas.) The architecture has decorations often foresworn in the dour North but is unmistakably Scottish in its churches and grand public buildings. Much of it is in the lovely whitestone of this area, a bright limestone which wears remarkably well and is easy to quarry.
Just outside Oamaru there are colonies of both Little Blue and Yellow-Eared penguins. The latter are now rare and protected, and we've never seen them before, so we went to Bushy Bay. Here DOC have created a cliff top walkway and hide, to stop people frightening these nervous birds off their nests. It's an excellent facility with a grandstand view of the penguins emerging from the kelp and surf.
The Maori name is hoiho, which means noisy bird. Very apt as the penguins are loud! The chicks on the well-hidden nests scream loudly, sometimes sounding like a baby abandoned in the bush. The adults talk, and often launch into loud screams, trills and trumpets. They can be aggressive. We saw two birds fighting on the beach and despite being perhaps 25m above could hear them clearly.

Places and people
Maori rock art
15/01/2008, Takiroa

Further along the Waitaka valley we passed Takiroa. This huge limestone bluff lies on the Maori route from the sacred mountain of Aoraki to the sea. It used to have lots of paintings in red and black, showing sinuous taniwha (water monsters) and birds, people riding horses and boats rigged in the European style.
Many of these were carved out by early settlers and are now displayed in various museums. Today the remainder are protected as taonga (treasure) by the local Maori iwi (tribe) Ngai Tahu.
No-one really knows why the pictures are here. Was the place sacred and thus decorated? Or were the pictures drawn to make the resting place protected? Maybe they were drawn by bored lads passing the time during a rain storm. It's a beautiful spot.

Places and people

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