I have saved so much money and seen so many wonderful places, thanks to our excursions department. Today was no exception. I boarded our bus bound for the “Penguin Place” Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve with excitement at the opportunity to spend my Valentines Day meeting yet another species of wild penguin.

As we readied to set off, the bus driver plopped me into the ‘suicide seat,’ next to him, complete with an all too unobstructed view of the chaotic driving I was about to experience. The road was filled with tight turns that hugged the coastline, giving me the illusion at times that I was only inches from falling into the surf (to be honest, I’m not so sure it was just an illusion). This lasted an hour and I am truly shocked that my up-chuck reflexes lasted as long. We arrived, me carsick, only to hop into another bus that shuttled us through the acres of private sheep farm that hosts the penguin colony. Needless to say, I was not particularly keen on that second bus, but in the end I am thankful to have seen these small birds in their chosen environment.

The reserve is kept to allow this unique species a place to call home, however, no fences or hedges exist to herd them here. They choose to stay. The keepers of the reserve are allowing the property to return to its natural bush-like state that it thrived as decades ago, before it was cleared to make way for farmland.

Before leaving, I took a few deep breaths of fresh air, and jumped into a seat near the back, promising myself I wouldn’t vomit. I can’t remember a time that I’ve ever broken a promise, and I am proud to report that this was no exception…at least throughout the duration of the return to the ship. I did not last long before being quarantined for a severe stomach bug. I wouldn’t recommend it for next year’s Valentines Day evening, that’s for sure. Four days later and I’m back on duty but still not quite myself. Being sick like that sure does take a lot out of you! I am trying very hard not to equate my viral pyrotechnics with my experience at the reserve. Up until my isolation, I did enjoy Dunedin and I look forward to another time there to allow for some new, hopefully more pleasant memories.

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