April 18th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

An early start, + off across the South Island, via Invercargill.  The scenery was less spectacular, but was still fine.  More importantly, we were heading back towards Christchurch, + thus moving onwards out of New Zealand.  And thus towards home.  In Dunedin, the motel was a smaller affair, + so it looked as tho’ it would prove difficult for us to stay unnoticed, but Ken had a word with the manager, explaining that we would be visiting as guests for the evening, + we all reckoned we would have no problem in staying, especially if Val + I departed at some unearthly hour, pretending to have spent the night elsewhere.  Anyway – immediately we arrived at the motel, we drove off again, out on to the Otago peninsula, in order to see the penguins coming out of the sea.  A crazy coast drive – Ken drives well + fast – but problems when we arrived, when the Penguin Place turned out to be not the free + easy beach we had been led to expect, but a commercial reserve, costing $2 a head, plus we had to drive back a mile or two along the road to obtain a key.  Ken was certainly upset by the whole thing, + we thought at first to give up on the whole idea + go home, but ultimately good sense returned,  we decided that, seeing as we were there, we might as well go ahead.  I’m glad we did – the administrator lent us some binoculars, + with their help we were able to see the penguins quite clearly.  Gifted with an exceedingly strong comic sense, the bird is, especially if regarded as caricature humans – it’s almost impossible not to do so.  On the adjoining beach was a seal reserve, with again interesting wild-life.  Cold + dark set in tho’, so then home again.  By sheer co-incidence, there was a programme on TV devoted to penguins – a fortunate chance.

Notable that I am still thinking longingly of home, and of small steps in that direction, even from the other side of the world. Ken + Anne continuing to be kind benefactors, and happy to collude in (or even instigate) another free night’s accommodation.

We always had problems when we had to fork out – even a couple of dollars – for stuff we thought should be free. This was a relatively minor example, but throughout our entire trip, we were obsessed with money, or, more specifically, spending as little of it as we could. At times, the effect was beneficial, forcing us to hitch-hike, for example, and thus meeting people, or staying in places that were not insulated from the world around it. But I am pleased we did not allow this to prevent us from enjoying an experience on this occasion. Not that it has stayed with me in any way; if you had asked me whether we had ever seen penguins in the wild, I’d have said no.

“Home” in this case presumably refers to the motel once again, so one more night of free and comfortable-ish accommodation.

The photo, by the way, is of a sign at the entrance to a road tunnel, and contains a joke to which I still sometimes refer. Can you spot it? But, alas, no pictures seem to exist of penguins or seals; presumably we left all the photography to Ken. Or maybe they were too far away.

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