Saturday, February 16, 2008

Logbook: Chillin' In Dunedin

ChillinindunedinI must have been really tired last Sunday night, because when I woke up on Monday and looked at my watch I saw it was already half past noon! Lunch became my first order of business for the day, followed by a good cup of coffee and a review of some material I'd picked up. The weather was pretty good and I decided it was time to do a little exploration, so I booked myself on an afternoon/evening wildlife tour out onto the Otago Peninsula. About twenty of us were picked up by a van at The Octagon and driven out to Taiaroa Head on the end of the peninsula where we toured the Royal Albatross Centre. As you know, I have recently had the unparalleled experience of very close encounters with many albatross -- on the Polar Star sailing in the Southern Ocean, on South Georgia Island and on Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands -- so I am admittedly a little spoiled. Thus, watching a 30-minute video and standing in a glass enclosed viewing room to observe only a few albatross was not particularly thrilling for me. In addition, the Centre takes an active role in "conservation" by tagging and monitoring birds, fostering orphaned chicks with adults who have lost their own young and even removing eggs from the nests of "clumsy" or "inattentive" parents and incubating them mechanically. Once again, I struggled with the "good" idea of preserving an endangered species and the "bad" idea of intervening with nature. Nevertheless, it was fun to see a different species of my old friend the albatross soaring over the bluffs, and I got enough decent video to put together the Report below.. The Royal Albatross is very similar to the Wandering Albatross and one cannot help but be amazed by how large yet graceful they are. Weighing up to 10 kilos -- or about as much as a medium-sized turkey -- and having a wingspan over 3 meters -- or about 10 feet -- these birds are truly the masters of dynamic soaring! From there we drove to the ocean beach side of the peninsula where we walked up and down the bluffs for a couple of hours to see Fur Seals, Sealions and Yellow-Eyed Penguins -- photos of which you can see in the Photo Log -- then returned to town late in the evening.

I am delighted to report that I have spent the entire rest of the week very happily just "living" in Dunedin -- I'd go so far as to call it "Chillin' in Dunedin!" It may not sound like much, but after being on the move for months through foreign lands with limited communications and conveniences, being able to walk down the street of a comfortable little city at any time I want and really understand what's going on around me is a real treat. Add to that the pleasure of being able to order anything in a wide variety of restaurants with a high degree of confidence that I will get what I order, and you've got the recipe for bliss. To top it off, in one of the many, large, all-English bookstores I found three more Jack Reacher novels and have had an absolutely grand time immersing myself in them! The list goes on -- including being able to watch TV, striking up a spontaneous conversation with folks in a coffee shop, touring museums without having to rely on semi-useful, second-language info sheets, etc. -- adding up to a very nice, relaxing, refreshing week on The Voyage!

Along the way, I have done some research and made some "plans" for my NZ exploration, starting tomorrow morning when I will pick up a car and start a road trip to the south. I am all caught up online, my gear is all clean, sorted and packed, the iPods are all fully charged and I am well rested and energized. As always, I'm not sure what internet access will be like along the way, but I shall endeavor to keep this website as up to date as possible!

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