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  • Writer's pictureClaire

19/03/24 Temuka to Dunedin

After a night of on and off rain the warm  morning sunshine did much to increase the size of the grin on my face. That changed when Si came back from the showers and said they were cold. Well that’s me wet wiping, I’m not having a cold shower unless it’s over 35 degrees outside. It was 9 degrees for gods sake! After that little disappointment, we decided we needed a hot drink and some food to warm us up as there were no showers available, transpires the gas had run out. We drove into Temuka and pulled up outside the Jolly Potter that we’d spied last night, and trundled in.  As it was only 0800hrs there wasn’t much else open, so we were very pleased it was warm and welcoming, and they were just putting freshly made cheese scones into a display cabinet. There was all the usuals on offer but the smell of the cheese scones had wafted up my nostrils and there was no way I was having anything other than one of them! Si requested a bacon sarnie with crispy bacon, when it came it was perfection personified!  The scone was huge and it was a classic case of my eyes being bigger than my belly. Again. It’s a good job, Si was there to eat the other half of it. He needs feeding up. It’s a great little place, the guy who was serving us is a native of Dorset, and relocated years ago, probably how he knows how to make an epic bacon sandwich! Over the bar there was a Guinness board with customers names on and a record of their 100th pint of Guinness. We liked that idea a lot!  Look out! 

After a delicious breakfast we jumped in Ismene and drove south to Timaru as recommended to us by our friendly campsite manager owner to see if we could see the yellow eye penguin colony there. It was the wrong time of day really, you’ve more chance of seeing them at dusk when they’re coming home from feeding in March. December to February you’re more likely to see them as the chicks are hatching so they’re more active on land. Nevertheless, stood on a platform in the bay, that had two slides on it were 3 penguins! They were obviously the ones off Madagascar. The excitement was real!  How do I know this? The ‘smile and wave boys’ gave them away completely!!  The nest sites are all cordoned off, for their protection and there are notices everywhere asking you to give them space. You are also told not use a flash when taking photos because it hurts their little eyes. Even though we were a bit disappointed not to see more, it was lovely to see them on the kids floating raft. Fun fact a load of penguins in the water is called a raft. 

Satisfied with the penguin spotting we carried on south to our next stop off, the quirky and wonderful Ōamaru. It is offbeat small-town New Zealand at its very best. Rattling around inside its massive ramshackle Victorian warehouses are oddballs, antiquarians and bohemians who create art, age fruity whisky and dress up at the drop of a top hat. Most visible are the steampunks, boldly celebrating the past and the future with an ethos of ‘tomorrow as it used to be’. Plus there’s the penguins. The nightly beach waddle of adorable blue penguins draws visitors to  Ōamaru and it subsequently fleeces them out of $100 dollars to look about during the day (when they’re all out feeding) and $180 to see them waddle over the bridge for bed and a view into their nests. When Morg and I visited, we about shit ourselves because the noise they make sounds like someone is being savagely murdered! Super creepy!!  Ōamaru is Uber cool, the train outside the museum will spout flames if you put $2 in the box, wild and wonderful statues and creations are everywhere you look, it’s just a fabulous little place. The town’s gracious whitestone buildings harbour an array of restaurants, bars and gift shops. There is an accessible bridge that you can take to look out over the ocean and over the town, that is worth doing. Ōamaru used to be rich and ambitious. In its 1880s heyday, it was about the same size as Los Angeles was at the time, the town became wealthy enough to erect the stunning buildings on the street that is Thames St today. 

These buildings are all the more striking as they were constructed from the milky local limestone (known as Ōamaru stone or whitestone), with their forms reflecting the fashion of the times. However, after the building boom, the town overreached itself and spent the end of the 19th century teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. In the 20th century, the economic decline meant that there wasn’t the desire to swing the wrecking ball here with a reckless abandon that wiped out much of the built heritage of NZ’s main centres. It’s only in recent decades that arty and creative types have latched onto the uniqueness of Ōamaru’s beautiful Victorian streetscapes and have unlocked this otherwise unremarkable town’s  extreme kookiness. I bloody love it! Weird and wonderful. 

After wandering we deserved a brew and went into what we thought was a motor museum, but was in fact just a funky little coffee shop that served the best dairy free fruit Frappe and a ginger caramel millionaire’s slice!  Nom nom nom. Having exhausted Ōamaru we located Ismene and continued on to our next stop, Shag Point. (Gotta tick that off our rude place names map). Another little gem that was recommended by the site manager. It didn’t disappoint. Not only is it a beautiful drive, we were rewarded by seeing fur seals basking on and in the rocks in front of us on the boat ramp. They were huge! One was swimming about and we watched him hoist himself out of the water and then waddle in a most ungainly manner to the sun soaked rock where it then flopped down. The effort of getting out of the water and up the rock had clearly finished him!  There were so many of them, and thankfully they appeared oblivious to us. Such a treat to see them in their natural habitat. As we left there were two ladies and they’d been there before we arrived. I thought they were washing something in the ocean, turns out the one had dropped her sunglasses and they kept floating away from her. Reminded me of my escaping flip flops, see it’s not just me these things happen to!! 

Driving back out towards the main road, we pulled over at the picnic spot for a Bob and Kev photo opportunity on to of the sign. It overlooked another part of the bay, and there were more seals. One was curled up in a ball right below us, and more sunning themselves on the rocks, nature just doing its thing. Utter perfection. Photo ops done, fur seals ticked off the list, it was onwards to Dunedin.

 Dunedin has not forgotten its roots. The ‘Edinburgh of the South’ is immensely proud of its Scottish heritage, never missing an opportunity to break out the haggis and bagpipes on civic occasions. The name Dunedin is derived from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh – Dùn Èideann – and the city even has its own tartan. The first permanent European settlers, two shiploads of hard-working Scots, arrived at Port Chalmers in 1848, including the nephew of Robbie Burns. A statue of him is located in  The Octagon. Dunedin has a vibrant live-music scene, supported by the students of New Zealand’s oldest university, The University of Otago was in 1869 and currently has around 21,000 students. Its structures lie within manicured green parks and big shady trees.

Baldwin street proudly used to hold the title of steepest street in the world until July 2019, when Ffordd Pen Llech in the Welsh town of Harlech was officially recognised as steeper by Guinness World Records. Dunedin went into shock,but as a Welsh girl even I  can admit that Baldwin St is pretty bloody steep, with a gradient of 1 in 2.86 (19 degrees). 

After thoroughly exploring The city we finally headed towards our campsite. Getting out of the city wasn’t as simple as you’d think, they appear to be pedestrianising the centre so the route out was somewhat challenging with really bad directions. Our site was just out of town, and not one of the better ones we’ve stayed in. It was ok, the showers etc were good but it was very higglegy piggldy, and really noisy as local kids seem to use it as a meeting place. But as we were only sleeping there, it wasn’t too much of a big deal. They shut up eventually which was jolly civilised of them. 

Much love

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