Friday, January 13, 2006


Staying at this cute cottage in Goodwood, near Palmerston which is up the coast from Dunedin was an adventure. Handbuilt, solar powered, tiny and perfectly formed it comes very close to my idea of the perfect home. The only imperfection I could perceive was that the local farmer likes to run his sheep up and down the road every day: a noisy smelly business which keeps them fit and frisky.

Going for a walk 'around the block' (about an hour for a person, probably less for a galloping hogget) takes you past four entrances to two different reserves. The Goodwood Reserve is native forest which would have been irresistable if I'd had more time. The temptation I succumbed to, despite the approaching stormy night, was the second gate to Tavora's Yellow-eyed Penguin Sanctuary. I don't know much about penguins but I do know that dusk is the best time to see them and I figured this was too good an opportunity to miss. I climbed three sties and bounded (or is that scuttled) through a number of paddocks dotted with cow pats (but no cows) and giant mushrooms until I came to the edge of a cliff.

Looking down onto a tiny rocky beachlet carved out of the steep cliff face I couldn't see any penguins at first. I could hear an eery high song which didn't appear to be related to the lines of birds nesting on ledges high on the opposite cliff face (too high for a penguin to climb). Cursing for a lack of binoculars or camera I waited for my eyes to soften and make sense of the grey on grey shapes far below. Then I saw movement: a small black and white figure rotated slowly on a tall rock... the source of the song which went on and on in a surprising variety of melody. Similar sized black figures appeared to be sprawled on nearby rocks, listening to the performance of the penguin soloist.

I stood and listened with them until it was too dark to see anything on the rocks anymore and the wind was blowing rain into my earhole. Then I ran back across the paddocks and up and down the road home, through the darkening rain and wind, laughing and skipping with excitement at my good fortune to attend a penguin concert.

No comments: