The coast road north of Dunedin is high and remote making it hard to believe we’re about to hit the second-largest city in the South Island.
Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh and the surveyor at the time was asked to design it on the same grid pattern as it’s namesake. A huge migration of Scottish immigrants came and in the gold rush people from all over the world arrived to find their fortune. Our stay here allows us to spend quality time with Louis, our nephew and godson, and find new rear tyres for both bikes.
Louis came down to Dunedin to attend the University of Otago which is considered one of the most beautiful universities in the world. It provides a vibrant student culture in town where they are fondly known as “scarfies” by the locals. He shows us his old student flats which all have names (like The Cocaine Palace) – so the parties are easier to find! The city is surrounded by loads of great surfing beaches and we begin to understand why Louis has stayed on and loves the place.
The main centre is called the Octagon, an eight-sided plaza full of cafes and bars which comes alive with markets when the cruise boats are in town. We catch an “open-mike” night at the Irish Pub and hear some great local talent, along with a visiting Scots comedian who has fallen in love with the town. Louis drives us out to Taiaroa Head, along a road right on the water that was built in the 1800’s by prisoners, most of whom were Maoris who wouldn’t give up their land!
The yellow-eyed penguin is found only in New Zealand in the south and is one of the rarest in the world. We visit Penguin Place, a privately-run conservation reserve on a local farm entirely funded by guided tours and where Louis is a guide. We have our own private tour and learn that yellow-eyed penguins are brought in that are underweight, sick or wounded and hospitalised here until they are the correct weight to be returned to the wild and have a better chance of survival. The success rate is very high for a bird which is so reclusive that breeding couples must mate in complete isolation, out of the view of other pairs, in order to successfully reproduce.
We ride out to Aramoana where the beaches are separated by the Aramoana Mole, a massive man-made breakwater used to keep the harbour clear. There are no shops or streetlights here and most of the houses are “cribs”.
The ride up to Queenstown takes us through several river gorges and we pass by the AJ Hackett Bungy jump – one thing NOT on the bucket list for this little black duck!
The old Kawarau Bridge was originally built to link Queenstown to Central Otago during the gold rush of the 1880’s but was later replaced by a larger and more modern one. The bridge fell into a state of disrepair and was deemed unsafe until Henry van Asch and AJ Hackett applied for a one month license to use the bridge commercially for Bungy Jumping in 1988 – and the rest is history. A fee is paid to the Department of Conservation for every jump to maintain the site and a piece of New Zealand heritage has been saved.
Paul’s clutch is having issues as we come into Queenstown and there is only one mechanic (a Spaniard) called Josep, so we order parts and wait for a priority booking. It’s worked out well as it gives us valuable time to spend with our youngest daughter, Chelsea, who has just moved into town from Melbourne to start a new phase of life. We are just over the half-way mark of our ride around New Zealand, having completed 10,800 kilometres, so a break is good for the soul and Kelvin Heights is a wonderful spot to have it in.
Queenstown is the top destination for tourists to New Zealand and you kind of get it as it’s the gateway to so many South Island attractions and it has an international airport. Besides that, it also sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu among dramatic alpine ranges and has heaps of activities. We are quite happy to relax and enjoy the ever-changing view of the lake and mountains.
The Chinese have never seen a seagull before!We visit Arrowtown, a charming and quirky gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River and where the famous Shotover Jet departs.
And it’s hard to beat Coronet Peak on a clear day…
The West Coast beckons and the weather is holding…for now!
Favourite of the Week
Baldwin Street in Dunedin is the steepest residential road in the world with a gradient of 38%. We head over to it with our godson, Louis, and have a lot of fun walking up the crazy incline.
It’s actually quite spooky and the thought of riding the bikes up is a definite no-no for me! I guess the locals get used to it – and to the constant invasion of tourists walking up and down.
Every year they have a foot race up and back and the current record is 1 minute 56 seconds. They also have Running of the Balls, where thousands of people pay to watch as thousands of giant Jaffas (iconic N.Z. confectionary) are released down the street in the name of a charity and lots of money is raised.
The funniest part was when the bus load of Chinese tourists arrived and the obligatory “posing” started – they are just so hilarious to watch!