Paparoa National Park
We continued journeying down the west coast from the top of the South Island and it was our goal to stay at this really awesome looking beach b&b called Breakers Boutique. It was our big splurge for the trip and it just sounded awesome- we had to wiggle timings around a little bit, but we made plans to spend the next night down there. The owner Jan was just fantastic to talk to online and her husband is a photographer as well. Seriously, this lady went out of her way to provide custom directions and sights where us photographers should stop. Amazing!
So it was still a few hours away from our previous hotel in Abel Tasman, well more than a few but that's what I remember it as and so we had to do some hard core driving through the bush to get back over where we needed to be. The one benefit of the West Coast is it is home to many a Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor). Next to the elusive Puffin it might be my second favorite bird I've never seen so we were holding out hope that we might come across one of those little guys. Sure enough as we're driving down the 'highway', ie: two lane road, we start seeing signs warning us to not run them over. With all this excitement we had to see one right?
On the way down was another park called Paparoa National Park which has these water carved rocks called pancake rocks...essentially it's a tour bus stop, but not too shabby. I had read all about this special cave in the area so we went and found that, got soaked, and used my special REI shopping spree flashlight to look for penguins [I bought it specifically for this purpose]. Sadly none, but we thought we heard a cave bear.
Not far down there's also a really amazing small hike called the Truman Track which brings you through all sorts of trees and stuff and into a secluded cove [with tons of 'don't touch the Penguins' signs] and a medium sized waterfall that lands right on the beach! Nice! After all this fun we still weren't seeing any stupid penguins so we decided to go for the gold and head over to Breakers, home of it's own small colony! Maybe we'll see some there...that and I was hungry and felt like I was going to pass out from all this sun. I don't get out much.
As I mentioned Breakers was fantastic and after a quick little bite we took the path down to the beach to go look for penguins and take pictures and do fun things couples do on their year-too-late honeymoon. After we did a little walking we saw this little midget bird hanging out by himself next to a rock...a blue penguin?! It looked kind of blue if you stretched the imagination and it kind of looked penguin'ish. It even waddled a little bit! So we convinced ourselves it was definitely a Blue Penguin and it didn't seem to mind us getting in nice and close and staring at it, all while giggling quite loud. Not soon after, we were seeing tons of these little guys just hanging out getting bitten by bugs. Sweet! And they totally didn't fly so they had to be legit!
We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset by ourselves on the beach and with the knowledge that we just saw the long awaited Blue Penguin. Sure enough, as soon as we got back Jan told us that it wasn't a penguin, but some other random gray sea bird that can't fly for a bit when it's wings got wet....seriously. Our excitement was destroyed, and we came away devoured by sand fleas. The little bastards destroyed our legs and we had bite marks for at least 3 weeks after. True story.