We were all set to drive to Dunedin Friday morning, and had planned it all out so that we would arrive slightly before Amy and meet her getting off the bus. Unfortunately, this did bot happen exactly as planned, because the car battery was dead. Obviously, the first thing that we did was check to see if any lights had been left on or doors weren’t closing properly. Nothing.
We walked to a gas station down the street and borrowed some jumper cables, and then had a man in a truck try to boost our lovely little Corona. Didn’t work, so we had to go find a mechanic, we got the car started in no time, then had us follow him back so that he could run some tests and see if the battery was charging. He told us it was a 30 dollar standard fee, but I think he felt bad for us and only ended up taking $10. We gave him a fresh-baked brownie too.
We finally were able to head out, and followed the winding road to Dunedin, making a pit stop in Gore, “Brown Trout Fishing Capital of the World,” to take pictures of the giant trout statue. The nearest town to Gore is called Clinton, and hat stretch of road is called the “Presidential Highway.” Clever.
After a few hours of driving, we passed a sign that said “Dunedin City Limits.” Initially, we thought we had made really good time, because we were actually running early! Then we passed through 3 small towns before actually reaching Dunedin. I guess that unlike Calgary, Dunedin anticipated growth when they put that sign up?
We didn’t have any accommodation booked, and for once it actually turned out to be problematic. There was a big rugby home game on Saturday night against Canterbury, and it seemed like the entire population of New Zealand was in town. We also had no idea where Amy was, and both her and I had next to no phone credit left. Finally, we were able to find space at the 10th or 11th place we called. Amy had found a place to refill her phone, so we went to find the “triangle park” that she was waiting in. We had no idea where this park was, but found her almost by accident.
We checked in, and almost immediately headed out to do the Speight’s Brewery tour. It was a pretty cool tour, mostly because they are still using the same facility they have had for about 130 years, back when they had their own blacksmiths and coopers on-site. It has been expanded over the years, but still has that same charm. It uses a gravity-fed technique, where all of the raw ingredients start on the seventh floor and are fed into he process through tubes and piping. Speight’s also currently is using only copper kettles and tanks. They are building a new brewery, and are going to be changing over to the slightly lesser stainless steel.
The best part of the $20 tour was the end, when we were led to the tasting room and given free range over the taps for the next half hour. So we sampled everything. Twice.
We ate dinner at a nearby pub, and ended up sharing the table with an Australian couple who had been on the same tour. Many of the Australians I have met are here for only a week or two. I find that incredible, but the flight is only about is only a few hours and cheap as, so why not? Easier than going anywhere else by far! I sampled some NZ lamb and mashed kumara (like sweet potato), which was super delish. These kiwis really do seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to sheep!
Saturday, we had to move our car to a longer-term lot. Too bad the car wouldn’t start, again. We got on the phone with AA (like CAA) and they sent out someone to boost us. We had a dance party in the car while we waited. When the guy got there, he of course asked about the lights. Still hadn’t left them on. Sarah even climbed into the trunk to see if that light wasn’t shutting off. He gave us a jump and said to let the car run for 45 minutes.
By this time we were all definitely ready for lunch. The owner of our hostel had told us about a market at the railway station that ended at noon, so we hoofed it there. The railway station is a beautiful building about 100 years old, like many of the buildings in Dunedin. In terms of architecture and general vibe, I find it quite similar to Wellington, though maybe a bit more run-down. The market was pretty much over, and the vendors were starting to get packed up, but we managed to snag the last three meat pies. So simple. So good.
Conveniently, the Cadbury chocolate factory is right across the street from the station, hard to miss because of the massive purple silo. Seemed like a good place to grab desert. Being indoors wasn’t terrible either, because it was cold and windy, and not all that fun to be outside right then. They had a tour beginning in 20 minutes so we signed on and checked out their small chocolate museum as we waited. The tour was interesting, and I learned a lot about how chocolate is manufactured, which was pretty cool. We also got to sample lots of free chocolate. Because it was the weekend, the factory itself was closed, but we still got to see some of the equipment and my favourite, the chocolate waterfall, which is in the purple silo. They pump one tonne of liquid chocolate up to the top and release it, taking pictures of the tour members’ expressions. We looked later and photo evidence proves that I am most easily amused. There was no shortage of laughter on this tour, that’s a fact. Retail and tour guide staff have to wear ginormous, terribly unflattering purple overalls when they are working, and add to that the kiwi accent (“my heands arr wit” = “my hands are wet”), and things get pretty comical.
Next up, we walked to Baldwin Street, the steepest residential street in the world (apparently). It is exactly what it sounds like - a steep, steep, street. Cars struggle to make it to the top, and lots of people do too. It even has stairs built into the sidewalk. When we were at the top, some guys showed up with a sort of three-wheeled kart that they were apparently going to try riding down the hill. We got out of there really quickly, hoping to avoid the carnage. I’m pretty sure they realised it was a terrible idea, because no ambulances passed us on our way back.
We had hoped to go to the rugby game that night, but it was sold out so we made dinner at the hostel and went to a pub down the street to watch with the locals. I still don’t really understand the sport, but the home team won (I’m pretty sure), so people were happy.
Sunday morning, we wanted to head out and see some wildlife on the Otago Peninsula. You are supposed to be able to see penguins, seals, sometimes whales - lots of good stuff. There were a few short hikes we had been looking at and we were all stoked to get out and be active.
Prize for the first person who correctly guesses what happened again! I take it back, too easy - you all can probably see what I’m getting at. The car was dead again. Clearly there was something wrong. The owner of our hostel was kind enough to try an boost us, but the battery was so dead it didn’t even TRY to turn the engine. We got on the phone with the rental company, brought them up to speed, and they authorised us to get AA to replace the battery.
Another AA dude came out and asked us all the same questions about the lights, doors, etc. Fair enough, but it was getting really frustrating being treated like dumb girls who don’t know the first thing about driving a car. Everything was off, big surprise. He changed the battery, and by that time, we only had a few hours before Amy’s bus was coming.
We still wanted to try and see wildlife, so we drove out to a lookout. We realised that we wouldn’t have time for the walk down to the beach and then back up, so we tried to spot seals from afar and had an impromptu photo shoot themed around scarves and the wind.
We drove back to town and said goodbye to Amy :( Next up for Sarah and I was the aptly named InverCARgill, on the very South point of the island.