Wednesday 25th November 2015
26.11.2015 25 °C
Yesterday we moved on again and as ever, slightly frustratingly, there were at least another days worth of things that we could have done in the Lake Coleridge area. Once we had eaten breakfast, packed up and checked out we did think about having a look at the arboretum just up the road from where we were staying but it was starting to drizzle and so we decided against it. Instead we drove back up the valley in the direction of Christchurch and the Akoroa Peninsula. The journey wasn't one of our most exciting as much of the land we drove through was quite flat farm land, often with tall conifers either side of the road acting as windbreaks. Things changed though once we reached the Akoroa Peninsula as this is hilly with a lovely bay cutting into the centre.
Whether looking at it on a map or driving around it is easy to see how this is the remains of a volcanic crater. Once we arrived in the town of Akoroa we went and found somewhere to have lunch as it was still too early for us to check in. The whole place has quite a French feel to it with many of the roads having French names and the brasserie we ate in having a distinctly French feel to it. The town and the restaurant were lovely and the weather was too, and it was probably the first day since we arrived In New Zealand really felt like summer. Once we had finished eating we drove the short distance to Coombe Farm and met Hugh our host who showed us around the Shepherds Hut. It is in a lovely setting, separate from the main house, but near enough to feel that he and Katherine are on hand if we need them. It is fitted out really nicely with all mod cons but with a great rustic feel with the outside bath/ shower and separate privy.
For the rest of the day we just sat on the decking and enjoyed the sun and when it got too hot went in side and enjoyed the shade. We had plenty of snacks to eat when we got peckish in the evening and going outside in the dark to go to the loo has great novelty value when you only need to do it for a few nights.
This morning we woke up to the sun streaming through the windows and there was already some heat to the sun. Our cooking facilities consist of a gas barbecue on the decking and so Nigel prepared a cooked breakfast for us with the provisions provided for us by Katherine. We had already booked to go out and see some more penguins that evening but in the meantime we were happy to just relax and chill out on the farm. It remained hot all day but we knew we needed to get something to eat before we went on our trip as we would be returning late. Mid afternoon we went back into town, and having enjoyed our meal so much yesterday we decided to eat a at the same place. I had fish again and it was just as delicious. We then had time to wander round a bit and also go and pay for the excursion that we had booked for tomorrow. We sat down by the harbour front for a short while until it was about 6:30pm and time we needed to go and meet Avril from Pohatu Penguins. Their were 10 of us on the trip altogether plus another guy and his two children who joined us once we got to the bay. There was a mixture of English, French, German and a rather dominating American couple. She drove us in the rather noisy diesel van up a very steep road out of town.
We stopped to take photographs of Akoroa Harbour a couple of times, and although the hills are not terribly high they are very steep so you gain height very quickly. Avril explained to us that we would be travelling through her uncle's farm land before we got to Pohatu Marine Reserve at the not particularly pleasantly named Flea Bay.
The views as we drove across the farm were stunning and she explained about the area and answered the American couples numerous questions as we went. When we arrived at the farm house which is at the end of the bay, a couple of people were able to bottle feed some lambs
before we were given our camouflaged ponchos and each couple were given some binoculars. Avril explained about the work that they do to try to protect the Penguins from predators and then showed us inside some of the nesting boxes as we walked up to the hides. It did worry me that the birds might be disturbed by us looking at them, but she was very careful as to how she did this and they also use this to monitor how many eggs/ chicks there are.
There are three species of small penguins on Akoroa, the white flippered penguins, blue penguins (as we saw in Oamaru) and the very rare Yellow Eyed Penguins. The former two species sometimes interbreed but sadly of the latter they have only seen one breeding pair this year. We spent quite a long time watching the rafts come into the bay and up onto the shore. Having the binoculars meant that we could have a closer look at them and although they were a bit of a distance from us we were able to take some photographs before the light faded.
The walk along the headland was a little bit tricky but not as precarious as I thought it might have been. We watched them until it was starting to get dark, by which time we really needed to head back using the little bit of day light we had. Once we got back in the van the moon was just beginning to come back over the headland. On our way back up the steep winding roads we saw lots of sheep, a few cattle and quite a lot of possums. Despite the fact that they are really considered to be a pest Avril carefully waited whilst they got out of the way. By the time we got back into town and then drove back to the hut it was nearly 11pm so we just had time for a cup of tea and a quick look at our photographs before we were ready to turn in for the night.