A freeway led us into Dunedin: this came as a shock as we had got used to the small highways and byeways up till then. Our GPS helped us into the twon and onto the Portobello Road , a beautiful long but narrow road that follows the harbor out to the sea entrance. Houses are built along it to catch the views from the clifftops. Masses of road works were taking place along this road both to widen it in spots and to repair the constant attack of the sea that laps it just a meter or so below the road surface. We had a stressful trip despite the nice views, as we wondered if we would reach the Albatross Conservation Area which was our destination, before closing time. Also Terry started to worry about our fuel level as we had failed to fill up while coming into Dunedin and there appeared to be no service stations along this road.We arrived in time and spent an hour with a guide at the comfortable enclosed hide on the clifftop that overlooked the albatross nesting area. We were visiting at just the right time as five chicks were grown and about to fledge. We watched them practicing folding and unfolding their long wings ans making small jumps into the wind. Their parents leave them at this stage and instinct takes over. Within 2 or 3 days they run to the cliff edge and leap off , their wings extended, and start to soar into the wild wind of the Southern Ocean that will be their home for the next five years while they circle the globe several times around latitude 30 degrees. As ‘teenagers’ they return to Dunedin when they are about 5 years old and for several years fly in to find a mate for life. Next time they return they meet up and start their first breeding of one chick every two years. This is the only breeding site in the world that is not on a remote and uninhabitable site.I had planned for us to drive back and around to a Conservation site several Kms off the Portobello road, but the time and the need for fuel altered our plans. We found a service station at the small town of Portobello and paid to stay in a van park there for the night. Camp site is neat with a good camp kitchen and lounge, but the showers are only tepid, a fact we discovered the next morning. Trip comments about this abounded on the trip reports on our smart phone, which we had not checked before we booked in.
We thought we would be lazy when we left the group and sleep in. Not so. We had the habit now of waking with the sun, breakfasting and packing up and being ready to set off between 8.30 and 9am.So here we were on Highway 94 at the start of Scenic Route5. We took the back road to Fortrose via Wyndham, Glenham and Waima Haka – all small villages or hamlets most with nice spots to stop for coffee. Taking back roads were our preference as we often got more than we bargained for. Here we saw the NZ habit of growing swedes as a field crop and feeding the to sheep and deer by letting them onto small fenced off strips of the crop. They eat the tops and then the large root swedes that stick up out of the groud. This must be a European agricultural practice and probably useful for the heavy boggy field we were now passing. Also we noticed the numbers of beautiful high dark hedgerows being cut down for firewood. Gone was the beauty and ashelter of these tree, that we were later told wer being felled to consolidate fields for dairy farms. Nothing stays the same and beauty is a luxury commodity that commerce never respects.Weather starting to challenge us, light showers, some clearing cloud, lambing in full swing; must be very cold for the little ones. Once again we were diverted by a sign that said ’Fortification’ and meandered up a back road. Lovelt drive through scenic hills with sheep farms on a gravel road that could be steep at times. Well and truly off the ‘coffee trail’. Last stages were through a huge commercial eucalyptus plantation that we later leaned had consumed 5 or 6 farms. Foreign investment [Japanese?] had set it up. Locals argued it had destroyed their community as the families had moved away and ammentities like the school had closed and volunteers were much fewer in this isolated spot. We met two lovely farmimg ladies bring a ewe and her lamb ack to the house in their trailer, determined to train the new ewe to feed her abandoned lamb. One said the plantation had ‘ripped the heart out of our community’.Finally at 11.30 we arrived at Fortrose , a typical estuary village and stopped for hot chocolate and coffee. An interesting history of the area had been written by a local lady and copies were available in the café. We had no time to peruse these as we started on Scenic Route 5: the Caitlands Coastal Trail at 11.45. So much to see. We stopped at the Waipapa lighthouse and walked up to its crest at the moment a sea lion ambled up out of the water and wriggled round like a dog on the sand. This is a spot for sea lions to pup, but maybe the season was just about to start. We had lunch at the Wiers Beach Road freecamp; a good spot if you are caught out in the late afternoon. Rutted campsite but clean toilets are provided.By 3.00 we stopped at Corio Bay and Penguin beach with stunning clifftop views . Large commercial van park abuts it with café and shop for travelers who like a bit of comfort. For those who like the Conservation camps there’s one at Wai Kawa reserve just a little way on.Some great ocean views and rainforest patches as we descended back down to Papatowie for the night. This conservation park costs $16 a night but has some amenities: toilets and camp kitchen. No hot showers or hot water in the kitchen area, but set in a nice large garden area off the road. We were the only people there for the night and tried out our diesel heater for the first time it was great!