Our next major project was a hunt for New Zealand’s rare yellow-eyed penguins and their tiny blue penguins. The yellow-eyed penguins are an endangered species and only found here in New Zealand. The blue penguins are high in quantity and can be found in South America, New Zealand and Australia, but they are the smallest penguin species in the world and just as cute as can be. Travel guides say they can be found on many of New Zealand's Southland beaches. I love penguins, so they must be found.
We start our Penguin Odyssey by heading South from Milford Sound and past New Zealand’s largest suspension bridge. The Kiwis are wild for their suspension bridges. They are installed across large gorges and huge rivers for cars, bikes, or hikers alike. They are built a bit like sailboat rigging, with big wires tensioning in opposite directions. They swing, wobble and bounce as you walk along 100 feet in the air. I think they are safe…
We drive along the coast enjoying beautiful water, waves crashing on white sand beaches, and warm sun. We stop near Oreti Beach to mountain bike in Sandy Point Reserve where we find great single track trails, warm dust, baby pine trees, huge pine stands with a bed of needles, and funny red toadstools. Wild blackberry brambles are ready and offering juicy blackberries for my picking.
On to Bluff, we hit New Zealand’s southern most mainland point: 46 degrees, 36 minutes South. The 46th parallel. These are the roaring 40s, but it’s too nice of a day and the ocean is calm.
LOOK AT THIS SEAWEED!? We climb down to see the huge seaweed that anchors itself to giant boulders. It moves like a thousand wild snakes in the surf, its anchor point as strong as tree roots. It is so heavy, I can barely lift it. We each take a bite, it’s thick and supple like a rubber tire. Salty, it tastes like Southern Ocean.
We explore the strange little town of Bluff. The old buildings tell of more exciting whaling years, but it seems and Bluff has not figured out its angle for tourist draw just yet. It attempts to capitalize on the 46th parallel or its (presumably delicious) Bluff Oysters. Unfortunately, the Bluff Oysters aren’t in season quite yet, so we have to move on without them. Andrew is disappointed, but he will survive on seaweed alone.
We stay the night on one of the most beautiful beaches we have found yet. It’s peaceful tonight, but we imagine the surf can get pretty wild here on a wooly day. No Penguins, yet. Maybe tomorrow.