Any one who’s been living in New Zealand for a few years or if you have been born & raised in this country, then you need to have heard of the Moeraki Boulders. It’s really a pity if you don’t know about it as these naturally formed rocks are those that put Moeraki on the world map. Moeraki is a small town about 75 kms north of Dunedin and the boulders are just a bunch of massive round stones thrown on a beach. Maori legend tells that the boulders are remains of calabashes, kumaras and eel baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe, the Araiteuru was wrecked at nearby Shag Point (Matakaea).
What are Moeraki Boulders really? The Moeraki Boulders are a group of large spherical “stones” on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. These boulders are actually concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs. Even today, there are still boulders remaining in the mudstone that will, eventually, fall on to the beach as they come lose due to erosion! The boulders are one of the most fascinating and popular attractions on the South Island. They originally started forming in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago, and the largest boulders are estimated to have taken about 4 million years1 to get to their current size (Source: Moerakiboulders.com)
I drove to the boulders with someone I met in Dunedin. She has been travelling on the trot for the last 7 years and currently stinting in New Zealand. What an amazing travelling journey she has had; I was totally envious. Thankfully I found a good company in her to drive to Moeraki. When we did get there, it was just past the high tide point of the day. We were pretty skeptical about walking to the boulders from car park, as the waves were still high & strong; but we decided to brave them anyway and take the risk. As we walked on the beach (it was only bout a 10min walk) some waves did surprise us but none of them big enough to wet our pants as such, literally. And when we reached the boulders, they were getting half immersed in water due to the bigger waves. We spent about 10 minutes at the boulders and then went to grab a coffee at the cafe nearby. While we hung out there, we checked for the high tide times and as luck would have it, the tides were now getting lower & lower. Seizing this opportunity and also seeing the sun setting down slowly, we went back to the rocks and couldn’t have been more happier to spend the time there. We clicked a million pictures, if not more and then made it back to the car. The drive back to Dunedin was equally pleasant and we were glad the short trip was well worth it.
Stargazing in the Peninsula !!
Now unless you are a local or a fan of the Albatross or the Penguins or an astrophotographer or someone along the likes, you wouldn’t have heard too much about the Otago Peninsula. If you look up the Tripadvisor’s things-to-do list, it doesn’t really show the peninsula in the first page at all. But man ! What an unbelievable part of Otago region this is. The drive itself is a beauty in its own right. Majority of 40+ km stretch is right next to the shoreline and almost at the sea level. There were parts of the drive where the waves would splash on to the road as you drive past. At the end of this long stretch is the Royal Albatross Centre, the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony. And just across the road is the Penguin Place.
While all that is good to know about the Peninsula, the real magic happens when you drive there after dark. I drove around 7pm and to my luck the skies were clear (after a thick cloudy & rainy morning). I drove as far as I could escape all the city lights and even the residential/street lights at Portobello. That was a good 30km from South Dunedin. At this stage it got so dark and creepy that I almost hallucinated about the white-ghost (movie) that appears in front of the headlights, right from out of the bushes. Given the wus I’m when it comes to ghosts, I had to kind of brave my fears about pulling over the car on to the side and turning off all the lights. The road was so narrow and right next to the coastline that finding a place to pull over in the dark was a bit of task. After a further 2 or 3kms I found a spot wide enough for the car and pulled over.
Once I had stopped and turned all the lights off in the car as well as my cellphone screen, I had to let my eyes adjust to the darkness for a minute. I got out of the car and all I had to do was look up at the night sky !! With a hand on my heart I can say that was a sight to behold and was something magical. A sight that can literally be described as “out of this world” !! The night sky was so dark & black as it was a new moon night, that along with all the zillions of bright stars I could actually see the milkyway with my naked eye. To add to that was a handful of shooting stars that were going in different directions.There was nothing more celestial that I have seen in my life and this sight was something unbelievable. I had seen something similar once in Tekapo, but it came nothing close to the view from Otago Peninsula. I couldn’t capture any images with my phone obviously, but the two pics you see (are stock photos) and it was very similar to the naked eye to what can be seen in these pics.
I wanted to share the excitement with someone or even just capture the scene, but neither of them could happen cuz there was no cellphone network nor I had the right camera for an astroshot. Eventually after driving back about 30mins later I picked up some signal and managed to call my Dad to share the excitement. These are the kinds of stuff that you can’t plan for really. I actually spent the week this region with an actual plan of watching the Southern Lights & I have a separate blogpost of its own. But I didn’t get to see them; instead I witnessed the stars & our galaxy which in my opinion was equally as good as watching the auroras, if not better.
Moeraki Boulders: https://www.moerakiboulders.com/
Royal Albatross Centre: https://albatross.org.nz/