We woke up from our zombie state feeling quite refreshed (read the last post to see why we were zombies). It helped tremendously that when we opened up the curtains we saw nothing but gorgeous green grass and green trees all around. Transforming the kids' "bedroom" into our "dining room" was nice and easy. We all had a nice filling breakfast before we headed for our next destination.
We had a 3 and a half hour drive ahead of us to our next campground. After driving for a bit, we arrived in the town of Ashburton, which had no significance on our itinerary except for the fact that we spotted a gorgeous playground there and decided to stop for lunch.
The lovely thing about traveling in a motorhome is the fact that you do not need to search for restaurants for every meal. We just pulled over into the park's parking lot and made a quick lunch before heading over to the playground.
Can you guess what surprised us the most?? The fact that our kids were actually apprehensive in using most of the playground equipment!! Poor kids hadn't seen or been on a good playground since Barcelona, which was back in September! It took a good amount of encouragement from us to get them going and then they didn't want to leave!
Unfortunately we eventually had to get going because we really wanted to see the yellow eyed penguins at Katiki Point Lighthouse around sunset. But first, we had to visit a dump station to empty our chemical toilet and our gray water (water used in the kitchen sink and for showering)! This was definitely one part of motorhome living that we were dreading. The good thing was that the sites are really easy to find. There is good signage in every town for the public dump station, and we also had the advantage of using the Rankers site to see the exact location, in case we got confused with the signs. The process was easier and cleaner than we thought, and since motorhome traveling seems to be part of the culture in NZ, the sites are well taken care of and there is a water hose to wash up with afterwards. Generally, each dump station also has a section with drinking (aka potable) water, which we were able to use to fill up our clean water tank, though unfortunately this first one did not have it so we had to be a bit conservative on water for the next day.
With that task out of the way, on to see the penguins! There are two ways to see the famed yellow eyed penguins in the Oamaru region of NZ. You can either pay an unreasonable amount of money to sit in an area with stadium seating and watch the penguins return from the ocean around sunset, or you can take a chance at seeing them for free at the Katiki Point Light House. As cute as penguins are, we had no intention of spending upwards of $100 to see them. We figured since sunset isn't until around about 9 at this time of year, we had plenty of time. What we didn't know that the Katiki Point closed at 7:30 PM! Uhhhh....Oooops! That bit of information might have been useful before hand! We arrived at 7:20 with all the intentions of cooking and eating dinner first, but once we realized that we only had 10 minutes, we hopped out of Wendekreisen and rushed down the path. We were told by a few people that the penguins had already returned home around 6! It seems the advice of going at sunset isn't exactly the most sound advice, at least not at this time of year! They also told us where we might find a couple of them still resting after their return. Thankfully, we got lucky and were able to see 3 of them, as well as a few seals lounging on the rocks. Unfortunately, we clearly overstayed our welcome, and a ranger who had to make sure everyone is gone before locking the gate was definitely not happy with us, though in our defense, there were some other groups like us and we were not the last ones out. Oooops again!
As we were being "escorted" out, the lady told us that there are only about 1000 yellow eyed penguins left on the planet, and that the fact that we saw 3 of them is already a big deal. I asked what time the penguins generally leave in the morning, and she replied "penguins don't have watches, they come and go when they want". She was clearly very grumpy that we had stayed until 7:40 :(!
We left the lighthouse happy enough that we had at least seen a few yellow eyed penguins, and headed for our next camp site, a tiny place nearby on Katiki Beach. This site has absolutely no facilities, which meant it was only for fully self-contained vehicles (i.e. no tents or camper vans without a toilet). At first we weren't quite sure if we could stay there overnight as the only sign said it was a picnic area, but we saw a few other campers and we all concluded that since it showed up on the variety of apps that we had all used to find the place then it is probably ok.
An ocean view home for the night! We didn't mind it one bit, though it was a bit chilly and windy :) We cooked up a yummy dinner and headed to bed, still trying to fix our 6 hour jet lag. We all passed out fairly quickly.