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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Across New Zealand’s South Island‏

March 7th, 2010 · 2 Comments

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In two leisurely days I crossed the South Island of New Zealand again, returning to the sunnier and drier east side of the island. The trip took me 515km from the town of Franz Josef to the city of Oamaru.

Saturday morning after flying over the glaciers and Mt. Cook near the town of Franz Josef, I drove south along the Tasman Sea as far as the highway goes. At this lookout I stopped to stretch my legs and take this shot:

The View to Antarctica from Knights Point

The View to Antarctica from Knights Point

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At Haast Beach the road turns inward and passes through Mt. Aspiring National Park (love that name!). To this point the country is all rainforest. But beyond Haast Pass the land is in a rain shadow of the mountains and suddenly become much drier.

The View Back to the Mountains from the Dry Side of Haast Pass

The View Back to the Mountains from the Dry Side of Haast Pass

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At the picnic site from where I took this shot I enjoyed photographing three little ground birds. Three French student naturists identified them for me.

This is a Chaffinch

This is a Chaffinch

This is a Song Thrush

This is a Song Thrush

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And for Some Reason People call this a Blackbird

And for Some Reason People call this a Blackbird

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Not only did I stop at most of the picnic sites along the road these past two days but I also stopped whenever I spotted flowers growing.

A Roadside Attraction

A Roadside Attraction

Another Roadside Attraction (and a Bit of Sky)

Another Roadside Attraction (and a Bit of Sky)

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Growing in a Ditch

Growing in a Ditch

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The next flower is one that we called a red hot poker when I lived in Nairobi. We grew these in our garden there.

Another Tall Flower, This One Is a Favorite of Mine

Another Tall Flower, This One Is a Favorite of Mine

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When I stopped at a restaurant in the tiny town of Kurow, I noticed this flower in its garden:

This is a Photograph -- Not a Painting

This is a Photograph -- Not a Painting

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But the day wasn’t all birds and flowers. I also saw a few sheep. No shepherds or dogs were around to bunch these sheep together and they didn’t need to stay warm since today was pretty hot. I guess they just like each other.

A Small Part of a Large Herd

A Small Part of a Large Herd

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Then, at the Takiroa Rock Art site I had the opportunity to visit some of the best preserved early Maori petrographs. These red figures appear to be people and Taniwha, the large water creatures of Maori tradition:

Maori Rock Painting

Maori Rock Painting

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And all this was only prelude. The capstone of the day came in with the night.

Near Oamaru on the South Pacific Ocean, where I camped, just after sunset on Sunday night I finally saw the bird I had most wanted to see in New Zealand. A penguin.

Ever since seeing that magnificent movie, “The March of the Penguins,” I had hoped that somehow I could see this brave bird without venturing to Antarctica. I was too late in the season to see any penguins at a small colony near Haast Beach. But they still come ashore near Oamaru as the sun goes down.

The time was exactly 8 p.m. I had been waiting for a quarter of an hour, when the only movement on the beach was one seagull and one seal. The light was fading by the minute and I almost assumed that I was too late in the day or the season to see my first penguin.

Then, what a thrill to see my first penguin waddling ashore, even if this solitary bird was several hundred yards away and the light was almost gone. So I had to open up to 3,200 ISO, which inevitably introduced some graininess.

My First Penguin!

My First Penguin!

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Then, I spotted one that was a little closer.

My Second Penguin!

My Second Penguin!

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Both of these are yellow-eyed penguins, also known by the Maori term hoiho. These medium-sized penguins, standing about 65cm high, are the rarest in New Zealand.

Later, I visited a site where the blue penguin, or korora, come ashore. This is the smallest penguin, standing just 40cm high. About 85 of these birds, smaller than a small chicken, waddled ashore as I watched under yellow lights that penguins can’t see. But they can see the flash of cameras, which many so-called photographers don’t know how to turn off. Therefore, all photography of the blue penguin is banned.

No matter. My day was already complete.

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Posted in: New Zealand

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gretchen // Mar 22, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Sheep flock together for protection against predators. Some breeds flock more than others. I’ve seen them go around a pasture all bunched up. The mountain breeds do less flocking as they have to spread out to get the sparse nutrition.

  • 2 Laurie D // Apr 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I wanted sooo much to see penguins!!!!!!

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