Friday, November 18, 2011

Runaway Penguin!

Hello! I'm back from New Zealand, with pictures aplenty and stories to tell about this beautiful, wild, unique corner of the Earth.

Here's my Favorte New Zealand Story: A group of us stayed at Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, a gorgeous place in a remote setting on the west coast of the South Island. One morning we all donned gumboots provided by the lodge...

...and boarded a minibus that took us to the edge of the only little road in that area. We debarked and tromped through the lush temperate rainforest:

And by rainforest, I mean, it was WET!

We saw tiny orchids, each blossom no more than a quarter-inch high:

And we brushed by countless ferns that seemed to be made more of water than plant:

Eventually we popped out of the dense growth...

...and found ourselves on a beautiful, remote beach. Here's the view looking up the coast:

And here's the view looking down the coast:

The only other living soul on the beach was a professional photographer, who arrived before we did, stayed later than we did, and whose equipment probably cost more than all of ours put together:

See him on the rocks? We were all there for the same thing. We came to see the rare Fjordland Crested Penguin:

This bird is so rare, there may only be a few thousand mated pairs left in the world. They feed on fish in the ocean, but they make their nests in the dense underbrush of the rainforest. This time of year, they have babies in the forest, not quite old enough to go out and fish for themselves. So the parent penguins trudge back and forth between shore and nest, rustling up fishy grub for their offspring.

We sat and waited for this special bird to make an appearance. We waited a looong time.

The Hubby, looking handsome in gumboots and Indiana Jones hat.

Our nature guide and hotelier extraordinaire, Michael, said that the penguins would probably pop out of the ocean near this rock, about two or three yards offshore and about 70 or 80 feet from where we sat:

*Cricket, cricket.* No penguins. Just lovely and wild coastline, and our footsteps in the sand:

Michael said that when the penguins don't show, the best thing to do is have tea. Out of his huge pack, he pulled orange juice, apple juice, water, and hot coffee and tea:

Also yummy, homemade shortbread cookies and Anzac biscuits (more on them later):

At last, a lone penguin popped out of the surf and began his droll little waddle across the pebbly beach to the safety of the forest:

We all snapped photos like mad while he obligingly paused for a moment to look at the sea from whence he came:

Then, another long wait. We enjoyed the gorgeous scenery.

Finally, a pair of penguins appeared from the underbrush and seemed to consult each other about whether it was safe to venture into the water:

They decided at last it was, and so off they went. I envied the photographer for his close vantage point:

All told, we spotted four penguins in an hour or so. We congratulated ourselves on a good day of penguin sighting, gathered up our things, and slogged our way through the rainforest back to the bus.

But about a half mile down the road, a small, red car ahead of us was stopped, the driver out on the road, her flashers going. Uh-oh; an accident?

No! There ahead of her on the road, through the minibus's windshield, we saw a juvenile Crested Fjord Penguin, pa-diddling down the tarmac, easily a mile away from where he should be:
Our driver pulled the bus up behind the little car, and Michael got out and sprinted down the road with his jacket over his arm in hot pursuit of the penguin. The little bird took off in a dead run, going as fast as his stumpy little webbed feet would take him, clearly not gonna go down without a fight:
Absolutely my favorite shot of the day, and quite possibly my favorite of the entire vacation!

Michael grabbed the penguin in his jacket and wrestled him to the ground. The little dude gave him a couple of good jabs with his beak before he was encased in the good, New Zealand wool of Michael's jacket:

Michael conferred with our driver through her window, and they decided she'd drop us off while he walked back to the beach with the penguin. I snapped this shot through the bus's window as he passed:
We went on, and Michael walked with his precious cargo back to the water, where he let the little guy go. He told us later that he feared that the penguin was overheating, wrapped up like a burrito, so he dunked the entire package, bird and jacket, in a stream along the way so the animal wouldn't overheat.
He also said that, in 20 years of doing this line of work, he's never had to chase a penguin down the road before.

I wonder what that silly bird told his mates about his adventure?

As for me, it was the Best Penguin Encounter EVER!


  1. Priceless! You made me feel like I was there. Wait a minute....XO, K

  2. I thought I posted a response to this, but it isn't here. Maybe I emailed you? Anyway, for the record, I LOVED the picture of the runaway penguin. It is my favorite, too.


  3. nice shoots but i like yellow flowers
    nice post

    seo pakistan



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