Hello one and all, we hope you are all in good health, and looking forward to the coming of summer and longer nights. Apologies for not getting this blog out sooner, but summer finally arrived in Dunedin in February and its just been too damn sunny and warm to spend our weekends sitting inside at a computer.
So last time we blogged we were just back from a trip to Wanaka in Central Otago, which was one of the places we were thinking about moving for the winter. Well since then, we have decided to stay put here in Dunedin until about August. We decided it would be pretty expensive to move to a town like that, and it's a bit too 'touristy' to call home. We are pretty settled here in Dunedin and decided not to let a good thing go. Besides, the drive to Central Otago where we can go skiing is only about 3 hours away, so it's a good compromise.
With that decided, Rob began to look for a new job. Not that we didn't love all the free cakes and coffee that were the perks of his job at Everyday Gourmet, but he wanted
A small slice of Paradise
For a low low price all this could be yours!
something he could put his skills to good use in. One afternoon, we were watching the National Windsurfing Championships from a watersports centre called Watercooled Sports which offered windsurfing, kayaking, skiing gear etc. It looked right up Rob's street, and some Henderson charm and an interview later, he was the new member of staff. He gets to paddle around in kayaks and windsurf on his breaks and days off so he's pretty happy. Next week he's bringing his skills to the younsters of Dunedin who will be learning to windsurf on their school holidays. As for me, I'm staying on in my position at the ISIS rehab centre which I'm pretty pleased about as it's a great place, and I work with a great bunch of people.
Anyway, back to the lovely summer weather. We've tried to make the most of it by heading off for day trips and weekends when we can, so here are some of the highlights. In early February we had a public holiday off work for Waitangi Day and headed off to a little town called Oamaru, about 2 hours up the coast from Dunedin. Oamaru is described as New Zealand's only Victorian town.
They quarry white limestone here, and the grand buildings downtown are great examples of what can be done with it. We also checked out the Botanic gardens which are some of the oldest and prettiest in the country. Like Dunedin, Oamaru is a great place to get up close and personal with wildlife such as penguins and sealions.......so we did. It's easy to get blase about being near these creatures when they are so abundant, but they really are awesome to see! We watched for ages while some yellow-eyed penguins preened themselves and some blue penguins cuddled up to each other......my dad would love it!!!!
When not away for the weekend, there's always something to get up to in Dunedin. A few weeks ago it was the Chinese New Year, and the Octagon (town square) was lit up with lanterns, dancers, and dragon parades. We watched a pretty cool samouri display of sword fighting techniques which had me holding my breath. We also had the Dunedin summer festival in early February, which traditionally begins at 10am with a race round the Octagon whereby the competitors have to make it the whole way around before the clock tower finishes its
ten chimes. Needless to say neither of us competed, but it was pretty impressive to watch.
The weekend long festival saw the usual saturday farmers market expand ten fold through the centre of town. We have started getting alot of our fruit and veg at the farmers market after being told that alot of the local produce is so good that it is exported abroad instead of going to the supermarkets here. But the produce at the market is the real deal and it's delicous at a fraction of supermarket prices.
Rather bizarrely, the weekends here also see regular Scottish pipe bands parading through the centre of town in various competitions. Dunedin has really hung on to it's Scottish roots which is a real crowd drawer and a wee reminder of home for me.
A few weekends ago I was excited to welcome to Dunedin my old chum from the Southern General in Glasgow, Catriona and her husband Hugh. They were in New Zealand celebrating their wedding anniversary, and had managed to swing down to our part of the world. Unfortunately they were only here for a day or so, so after they checked out the Otago
Peninsula, we met for dinner and drinks (one too many for some of us....you know who you are!). It was great to see them and hear about their travels too.
One of the real highlights for us this summer was spending the weekend with some friends from Dunedin at the Peregrine Fresh Air music festival in Queenstown . The cast of the weekend included Rob, myself, Zoe, Vanessa, Dave, Gillian and Nicky. Peregrine is one of the vineyards that we had visited on our Christmas winery tour of a couple of blogs ago. The venue is a lush, grassy amphitheatre on the grounds surrounded by vines and stunning mountains. The acts included Shapeshifter, Kora, Recloose, Epsilon Blue, DJ Sticky Fingaz and Pig Out. Some of them were kiwi bands I hadn't heard of, including my favourite Kora. Widely regarded as one of the best live bands in the country, Kora has the entire nation waiting with baited breath for the release of their first album, so there was alot of excitement when they took the stage.
Queenstown is in Central Otago which has a very different climate from coastal Otago, where Dunedin is. Despite being only a couple
of hours away, it is a lot drier, a lot hotter in summer and a lot colder in winter. True to form, we got a stunning weekend for the festival. No less than three....yes three layers of sunscreen were applied by me, and we needed it!!! The amphitheatre isn't covered so we were out under the sun for most of the day. Luckily a wee breeze picked up late afternoon to save us from melting. And to cool us down.......an endless supply of Peregrine's award winning Reisling! Yum!
It's ages since I've been to an outside music event, I think Oasis at Loch Lomond in 1996 was the last. The thing that was cool about this one was that it had great acts but a small enough crowd that you weren't squished up next to strangers and queueing for ages for the toilets. They also had some fab festival food, including sushi which was a nice change to chips and gravy. These smaller 'boutique' music festivals are becoming more popular here and we'd definitely come to one again.
On leaving Queenstown, we decided that we would all combat our hangovers on Monday by going rock climbing with Dave.
Dave is a rock and ice climbing instructor, and suggested we all meet up at Long Beach after work. Long beach is a beautiful white sandy beach near Dunedin flanked by natural rock walls that have been graded for climbers depending of your level of skill. It was both of our first attempts at rock climbing and I was eager to get on the rock. I managed my first climb with no problems, and defintely felt proud of myself. I hadn't considered that once I got to the top I had to abseil down again, which was a bit ropey (pun totally intended). Rob took his chances on one of the more challenging climbs, and despite a few slippy moments, reached the top and down again unscathed.
Today we headed out to the Peninsula and visited New Zealand's only castle - Larnach Castle. It was built by William Larnach, a wealthy banker and politician who's family was from Scotland (and everyone knows all we Scots live in castles). It was left to deteriorate after Larnach took his own life in 1898, until a kiwi family discovered the grounds in 1967 and decided to buy and restore the building. The
The Old Post Office
castle is surrounded by some beautiful gardens, and has awesome views of the Peninsula and Dunedin across the harbour.
Next on the agenda is two weeks off work and some more travelling around the south island starting next weekend. Rob's parents are coming down to visit and we are looking forward to showing them some of our favourite spots and discovering some new of our own. Very exciting!!
Well, musn't ramble on. Today is of course St Patrick's Day, and the Guinness is flowing even on this side of the world. So we'll say bye bye here and head for a sneaky pint. Stay tuned!
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