17 Dec. penguins
We're sorry to leave Lake Hawea, particularly since we can now see the end of the down-under part of our trip. We pick up the same route as when we arrived in Lake Hawea, over the Lindis Pass, and as far as Omarama. Tarras, which seems to be little more than a shop, a cafe and a school, is our first stop for a decent coffee and scone.
Then it's on towards Omarama, where we stop briefly but see nowhere enticing for lunch. Then we are driven away by the smell of a cattle truck whose driver has chosen to stop there.
We followed the Waitaki valley with its hydro scheme, but little else of interest. Even the Maori rock carvings a disappointing. Most of the interesting ones have been removed, and I learn later that some of the rocks were damaged by heavy rain fairly recently.
Next we go to the blue penguins area - you can pay to see them come home in the evenings. We book, then go grab some grub at the Portside restaurant.
At 9pm we go in to see the blue penguins start to make landfall. These guys are about a foot high, and land in groups, then hang around together before making a communal dash over the rocks and open grass to their nest areas. They look like well-behaved school groups, with the odd rebel, natch.
You can see them coming in in "rafts", grouping together before they land. The whole show goes on for a good hour, and the noise increases in volume as more and more birds arrive. No photography allowed, and we are seriously supervised to ensure that no one cheats!
Another little touch of enchantment on this holiday.