Day 13 – Weird & Wonderful South

The plan for the next 2 days was to go to Oamaru today then tomorrow spend the morning in Dunedin before getting our flight to Auckland. However Linda was reading some travel guides and it looked like Dunedin would be a better shout for today as there seems much more to do. So off we went on a 3 hour trip south east to the Edinburgh of New Zealand. For the first time this trip we had bad rain and i mean really bad with it lashing against the windscreen for almost all of the journey. There were no sightseeing stops today except for a quick toilet and coffee stop in Alexandria. The landscape on the route was very different to the volcanic or tree laden views we had been used to and reminded us of home with limestone fields and open views. As we entered into the city of Dunedin the rain suddenly stopped and the clouds departed almost as if it new we were about to stop driving. By the time we had walked from the car park into the centre it was baking hot sunshine.

We were looking at a map and trying to work out a route of things to see when a lady came up to us and asked us if she could help. We explained we didn’t know what was goo to see and she started telling us what to visit and how to get there. This is something we have seen all through New Zealand, the people here just cant wait to help you out and make sure you see there amazing towns and cities. Its a very refreshing attitude and something sadly we have lost back home. So armed with new information the first stop was down to the train station which is a beautiful black and white stone Victorian building with great gardens to the front. We went inside to find the station still looked like something from years ago with all its old tiling and ticket booths just as they were when it was built. We watched as the Taieri Gorge train left the station taking passengers on what is said to be one of the best train journeys in the world. Maybe one for next time we come here.

Across from the station is the Cadbury’s factory complete with huge purple vat where we presume all the chocolate is stored. From here we took a walk around passing the Chinese gardens, St Pauls cathedral and also following a trail of street art. There is a big list of exhibits all around the central area of Dunedin mostly on the side of huge buildings but some are more hidden and take a while to reveal. We ticked off about 15 which was a lame effort really but all we had time for. We eventually ended up in the centre of the Octagan which is the actual centre of Dunedin filled with bars and cafes and a huge Christmas Tree. We grabbed lunch and tried to make sense of having xmas stuff up while it was 25 degrees and wall to wall sunshine. We just cant get in to the feel of xmas at all, maybe it will hit when we get home.

We the started to make our way back out of the city and up to Oamaru for our next nights stay. On the way we stopped at Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. Stood at the bottom it was insanely steep and when i decided we were going to drive up Linda got a bit nervous. But our crappy little hire car got us up no problem although it never left 1st gear. Linda then had another wobble as i turned around and started driving back down. She was convinced the brakes were going to fail but they didn’t and we made it safely down.

The journey to Oamaru took around an hour and we got ourselves booked in to our accommodation. This was a little weird as the owner was an artist and steampunk enthusiast and so there were strange clothes and hats everywhere and all the walls in our room were paintings. I don’t mean hung paintings, the actual walls were canvas and looked very weird. The couple themselves though were really nice but eccentric people. We had tea at a great pub called The Last Post and it was really good. We decided to walk it off by going to see how much it was to see Penguins at the Penguin Colony. As we got there we learned that it was approx £17 each and we weren’t guaranteed to see any. What happens is that normally the penguins swim in to a private beach and make thier way up the land to their hide where at this time of year they are looking after their young chicks. We noticed that some people had walked on to the beach and on to the harbour wall where they hoped to catch a glimpse. We followed and as we arrived i noticed a group of black objects in the sea. It turned out to be 31 penguins all swimming to the hide. Unfortunately i hadn’t got my camera so tried very hard to take pics with my iPhone. What an absolute treat to see even if it was at a distance. To add to this there was also the amazing sight of an old pier with hundreds of Cormorants all stood on it trying to sleep. A great end to another amazing part of this adventure. This part of the country isnt wowing us like the rest has but it is still great.