...among heaps of other kiwi sights.
17.01.2011 - 20.01.2011 20 °C
On the first day wwoofing in Dunedin, Terisha takes us to Orokonui Eco Sanctuary to help transplant native trees and release young natives from the enclosing weeds. Orokonui is a 307 hectare area enclosed by predator fencing to protect kiwis and other native birds released within the sanctuary from introduced pests. As clouds hover around us, we work on our hands and knees in the fog until noon when Terisha takes us on a tour through the native bush. Bellbirds sing as they perch in the tall podocarps and fantails swoop over our heads gobbling up the insects that we attract. Kakas, the only bird here in an enclosure here, rummage through decaying tree trunks in search of large and juicy huhu slugs. These birds are enclosed to keep them from flying away, as their calls will attract more kakas to the sanctuary. The fencing doesn't just keep out introduced predators but also introduced herbivores such as rabbits and goats. As we wander the trails we see regenerating forest and lots of fresh young growth on the forest floor. With the removal of herbivores young plants have a chance to grow again. As a result of introduced herbivores many forests in NZ are in grave danger as new flora can't establish to take the place of the old dieing trees and shrubs.
The next day we work in the veggie garden in Terisha's backyard under beautiful sunshine. Julie weeds and transplants while I construct a trellis from tea tree poles to support climbing beans and peas. Julie loves it so much she wants me to build her one when we get home! After a few other odd jobs, we complete our working hours for the day and decide to drive out to the Otago Peninsula.
The peninsula houses the only mainland colony of royal albatrosses and is habitat to many other species of seabirds. As we drive closer to the point the area quickly clouds in and the rain begins to pound our windshield. The winding road along the ocean is at the base of large rolling mountains that are now shrouded in greyness. Our stop at Taiaroa Head ends at a parking lot wreaking of fish surrounded by an unappealing grassy field loaded with gulls, some dead, and void of any native trees or shrubs and no sign of albatrosses. Because visibility is so poor we decide not fork out the cash to enter into the beautiful Albatross Reserve. After all, we did see some Royal Albatross while on the fishing boat at Stewart Island. So we continue back along the other side of the peninsula to the Chasm. Again because of the poor visibility, only about 40 meters, it is pointless to hike the trail to the soaring cliffs over the harsh Pacific waters. We move on to Sandfly Bay where we sneak below the heavy clouds to see the stunning windswept dunes. The dunes face south directly into the winds, and are formed by a combination of currents moving the sand on shore and wind blowing the sand inland. Unfortunately, we can't venture onto the beach because it is after 3pm and off limits due to yellow-eyed penguins coming ashore. None the less, the coastal views are brilliant.
Terisha has planned for us to work the afternoon at VOLCO, a VOLunteer COmmunity, digging up invasive blackberries. Terisha is eager to show us everything around the property before getting to work as she used to live here and has put in many hours establishing the gardens and planting native trees. So she takes us on a walk through the paddocks to the forest which illustrates all stages of regeneration. We end our walk deep in the woods at the oldest part of the forest, completely native and beginning to crowd with mosses and lichens. By the time we get to work digging out blackberries the rain and wind pick up and soak through our jackets. She decides to call it quits and we head indoors to stay dry. Dinner at VOLCO tonight is special because it is a potluck and a birthday celebration for a girl that lives here. Everyone in the community brings a dish for the potluck party as do we. The food is awesome and the people are interesting to say the least. When we get back to Terisha and Marvin's for the evening we play a board game to satisfy their urge.
In the morning we say good-bye to our great hosts before moving on. They insist on us taking all kinds of food from the garden, which we gladly accept. I aim our sights to Oamaru, a couple hours north of Dunedin to explore imposing 19th century limestone buildings that grace the town. Along the road to Oamaru, we stop at a stunning stretch of beach scattered with spherical boulders strewn about like a giant kid's discarded marbles. After some fun photography with the strange rocks we continue on to Oamaru.
Oamaru holds some really amazing historical buildings built with local limestone in the mid-1800's. Many of the old buildings are home to some really talented artisans and craftspeople. We check out a book-binding and pottery shop, and a textile shop full of beautiful clothing and many historic sewing tools. We also watch an artist carving limestone and see how easy it is to manipulate the stone into awesome shapes. This area of Oamaru is really amazing but it is missing one thing. We determine that one thing to be nature, there are no trees, no grasses, and no flower pots in this heritage section of town. As we wander on and towards downtown we notice that limestone is not the only material being used to create art. Here some unique artwork by an insane welder lines the boulevard. Julie hops on a chopper/tracker and lets out the throttle for a photo op.
In the evening, once again we watch yellow-eyed penguins, this colony is the most northern colony for this rare bird. This viewing is special though because we catch a glimpse of the fuzzy grey chicks in their nests. Oamaru is also home to a huge colony of little blue penguins strangely located in the industrial part of town. The only way to see the penguins is sadly sitting in an auditorium with views of the penguins coming ashore into their natural environment and listening to commentary from a guide. So we opt out of that. From the town of the penguins we head west, inland, making our way towards Mount Cook (Aoraki). The sun is setting so we pull off into a park and commence freedom camping in Duntroon.