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March 1st 2011 - Dunedin

February 27th 2011 – just to carry on from yesterday, whilst I was typing the blog another campervan rolled up and took the pitch next to us.  We passed the time of day, as you do, then I continued working on the blog.  However later on after I had finished I ended up chatting to our new neighbours.  They are both retired teachers from Kent, John and Mandy.  Later, Clive and I went over to cook dinner in the camp kitchen and John and Mandy were making theirs as well.  We ended up spending a very pleasant evening with them, putting the world to rights, discussing the current education system in the UK etc etc!  They were a really nice couple and we were very glad to have met them.  We realised however that it was also nearly midnight – time for bed said Zebedee!!


We actually slept in this morning!  However nobody seems to rush in New Zealand, everyone is very laid back.  Most campsites have a check-out time of 10.00am but they never seem to enforce it anywhere!  So we had a cuppa, put the bed away and had a quick breakfast and then it was time for off – we weren’t that late really, however it did mean that it wasn’t worth stopping for elevenses – meh! No TimTams!!


We had to drive back into Invercargill in order to find the road to Dunedin. After a false start and going in completely the wrong direction we finally found the correct road!  We hadn’t been going all that long when we noticed a brown sign to Slope Point.  Brown Signs in New Zealand, as in the UK, usually mean that there is something of interest at the end of it so we decided to follow it and see where it led us. So glad we did!!  I was actually slightly mistaken yesterday when I said Bluff Point was the most Southerly point in New Zealand, it isn’t, Slope Point is! One tends to forget that South Island is actually slightly tilted so the Southernmost point isn't actually right at the bottom!  Anyway, it was a lovely view and there was a signpost telling us everything we needed to know.  A very kind German gentleman took our photograph with the sign!


Slope Point

We spent a while wandering around on the rocks and watching the waves crashing onto the shore below. It was also fascinating looking at the structure of the cliffs, it was easy to see all the different layers of sediment and rocks that had been laid down over eons.


We walked back across the fields to the where the van was parked and set off once more on our journey. We had decided to stay at a DOC site again tonight and this one was really off the beaten track!  From Slope Point we took a small side road and soon ended up on gravel.  It wasn’t too bad as these gravel roads go but we had to ensure all the windows were shut or else the van just fills up with fine dust which covers every surface! We had seen a spot on the map which we reckoned merited a visit too, Curio Bay it was called!  It took quite a while on this little back road and we barely saw another vehicle!  Finally we arrived and found that there was a DOC site here too but Clive really fancied the other one.  Anyway we went to see what Curio Bay was like and also the next bay to it, Porpoise Bay! Well, Curio Bay itself wasn’t really a bay at all, more like a flat headland but Porpoise Bay was awesome!  A really beautiful, perfect bay.  It also had another string to its bow, it was the haunt of Hector’s Dolphins!  Hector’s Dolphins are not only the smallest of the dolphins but also the rarest.  They are only found off New Zealand’s coastline and their numbers have become dangerously low.  Clive was really wanting to get off as it was still quite a drive to the other DOC site but he suggested we wait for half an hour to see if any dolphins showed up.  About 25 minutes later, during which we had been sitting patiently in the van with all eyes on the bay, Clive suddenly spotted one!  I grabbed my camera and ran to the end of the grass overlooking the bay. I set the camera on “Sport” and the next time I saw a splash I pressed the button and took four rapid shots.  I had a look and could see that I had got something but presumed it would be pretty blurred from that distance.  I carried on watching but didn’t spot any more dolphins so I went back to the van.


This is the first of the two photographs taken from the headland:


Hector's Dolphin


Imagine my delight when I finally got it downloaded onto the laptop and zoomed in to realise what a fantastic shot I had actually got!  This was so unexpected as I really was quite a considerable distance away.  I am sooooooo thrilled with this photograph.


Hector's Dolphin - close-up


We watched from the van for a little while longer but finally tore ourselves away.  We continued along the gravel roads for miles and miles and miles and I thought we were never going to get there!  Finally we arrived.  It was a very nice campsite and the Dunny was a little bigger than usual, in fact there were three altogether and even washbasins so you could brush your teeth, very civilised!  It had a really lovely view but I must say, I really wish we had stayed at the other one, I could have watched for dolphins for hours!


February 28th 2011 – We woke to the sound of cows mooing!  Clive looked out of the window and there were cows all over the beach! He got dressed and nipped off with the camera to take some photos whilst I put the bed away.  There were also some really big cliffs at this campsite and they looked quite amazing in the early morning light.


Misty Cliffs


After breakfast we left the DOC site, bumping and bouncing once again along the gravel road, fortunately we didn’t have to travel far this time before meeting the main road then we were back on tarmac, such a relief!  A short time later we passed through the small town of Owaka.  We saw something up ahead and I just had to ask Clive to stop, it really merited a photograph!


Teapotland - Owaka


There was a collection teapot outside for charitable donations, it definitely merited a donation don't you think! Its amazing what people do isn’t it!


As we had been up and off in reasonable time this morning we decided to stop somewhere and have a coffee and a TimTam, especially as we’d missed out yesterday.  Clive was doing the honours and as the kettle does not pour very well he always holds it over the washing up bowl to pour, thank goodness he does because just as he was pouring the hot water into one of the beakers the handle came off in his hand!!!


Came awf in me ‘and Sir!


Luckily the kettle itself just landed on the worktop, the handle remained in Clive’s hand!  He was so lucky, he could have been badly scalded! He hates that kettle with a vengeance and has been threatening to buy a new one almost since we set off on our travels. The trouble is the only kettles we have seen for sale all over New Zealand are exactly like this one!! Somebody has the monopoly on kettles here obviously!  I managed to grab the kettle with the tea towel and finished brewing the coffee. We later found the screw and the washer on the floor and it didn’t take Clive long to fix the handle back on, firmly!


It didn’t take us much longer to reach Dunedin and from there on to the Otago Peninsula and Portobello where we planned to camp for the night.  We drove alongside the sea for a few miles before finally arriving at the campsite. We got ourselves checked in but didn’t stop as we had decided to drive up to the headland to see if we could spot ourselves an Albatross!  There is a Royal Albatross colony here and so we couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. We arrived at the centre and parked the car then walked up the pathway and looked out to sea - well, apart from a lot of gulls and a few cormorants there was nothing to see!  It turns out that the colony is the other side of the headland and the only way to see it is to pay $30 apiece to view them from an observation hide.   I have no problem paying for things as a rule but I really thought that was exorbitant! So we didn’t do it, however we were rewarded by the sight of an albatross flying over the car park and I managed to get a few decent photos too.


Royal Albatross


We also spotted a Spoonbill and a few seals too so it wasn’t a wasted journey.  We returned to the campsite, parked the van and then went for a walk down to the village.  We had decided to have a meal out for a treat tonight so went into the local hotel and had a very enjoyable meal indeed.  When we returned to the campsite we popped into the office for some information on Dunedin and I noticed they had some DVDs for hire, I also noticed some hiking poles standing up in the corner of the reception!  I asked the guy how much the DVDs were to hire, “ah whatever you like really” he said! I then asked him if the hiking poles were for sale and if so, how much?  I have been wanting a pair of hiking poles for weeks now.  Ever since doing a bush walk with Lindsey back in Cleveden when I ended up using two sturdy branches to help me climb up the steep paths and even more so to help me get back down them again!  We have looked in lots of hiking shops and they are quite expensive, ranging between $80 -$129 each!  Again the young man behind the counter scratched his chin and said “make me an offer”!  I was quickly thinking – how much should I offer, when he said, “tell you what – give me $2 to hire the DVD and $20 for a pair of sticks”!  I bit his hand off, slapped the money in his hand and ran!


The DVD was The Lovely Bones and we enjoyed watching it on the laptop that evening.  The poles were stashed away in a cupboard until required.


March 1st 2011 – We had decided to spend the day having a really good look round Dunedin. So as soon as we had had breakfast and packed away we headed back into the city.  There was something we had spotted on the way out yesterday which I was determined to get a photograph of if I could.  It seems that the Vikings managed to get all the way over the Pacific to New Zealand - I don’t think so!! 


Viking Long Ship!


It was a lovely drive back into Dunedin along the shore and we managed to find a 2 hour parking space in the city and went off to explore.  Now for those of you who don’t know, Dunedin is actually the Gaelic (Scots) name for Edinburgh and reputedly the city of Dunedin is modelled on the city of Edinburgh in that there are streets of the same name and districts too. There is certainly a Princes Street in both cities and of course Portobello!  We wandered around for a while then found a café where we could sit and have a coffee and watch the world go by.  We noticed another café right on the corner with a plaque outside, which read:  “A place on a corner in the middle of a city at the bottom of the world” – I thought that was lovely!


Dunedin also has the most beautiful railway station which I have to say even rivals Huddersfield station for grandeur!


Dunedin Station


We had noticed that one of the roads had been cordoned off and there were some guys putting in a sound system with mic’s and speakers etc.  I asked one of them what was going on and he said that they were going to be holding a minutes silence for Christchurch at 12.51 – a whole week has gone by already since the quake!


We wandered back down towards where the van was parked but made a detour to visit a wonderful little place, Dunedin’s Chinese Garden!  It is absolutely beautiful, only tiny but like a little oasis in the heart of the city. The whole place was actually built in China then dismantled and shipped to Dunedin where it was painstakingly rebuilt. There are only three of these gardens in the world outside China, this one, one in Vancouver and one in New York!


Clive in the Chinese Garden

 We spent a while just wandering around this tranquil place, it was so peaceful and pretty, yet right outside its walls was a bustling city, amazing! 

We tore ourselves away and returned to the van then headed off to the other side of Dunedin to visit the Botanic Gardens.  We have got a few of these under our belts now; Wellington, Christchurch, New Plymouth, Auckland, Phoenix in the USA and of course Kew Gardens but do you know what, we’ve never been to the one in Cambridge and we’ve lived there for 18 years!!  Must put that right when we get back.  Anyway, the one in Dunedin was lovely, not the biggest one we’ve been to but very nicely done.


The Lake, Dunedin Botanical Gardens


One of the things that surprised us about Dunedin was how hilly it was, even more so than its counterpart in Scotland!  There are some flat parts down in the bottom of Dunedin but from there everywhere is upwards!  However there is one street that really takes the biscuit, Baldwin Street – this street is actually in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world!  You can walk up it or drive up it if you so wish and if you do so you can then get a certificate from the shop stating that you have done so!  We didn’t attempt it but watched another guy do it in his 4WD, his wife got out first though and could hardly watch as he attempted the feat!  He made it right to the top and we all held our breath as he came back down, hoping thebrakes would hold!!  It’s a good job they did because there were a group of the inevitable Japanese tourists having a jolly photo shoot at the bottom!!


Baldwin Street - the steepest street in the world!


In actual fact this photo doesn’t really show just how steep the road is but take it from me it is very, very steep! 


After all that excitement we thought we had better go and look for somewhere to stay for the night!  We found a nice Top 10 campsite at the top of another steep and winding hill and soon got settled in, after a nice relaxing evening we had an early night.  Night night!

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