Published: February 12th 2012February 5th 2012
The day started off well - managed to wake up my miserable complaining roommates at 8.30 which I was pleased about. Nothing like a bit of revenge to put a spring in your step!
Today's trip is going to take me from Catlins to Dunedin, around the final leg of the Southern Scenic route. Fortunately this leg is more scenic than the previous element, however the clouds and the mist are lying low today, making visibility of the coast just a dream. I stood out at the first viewing point to catch a glimpse of the ocean and that is literally all it was - a glimpse. The sea and the sky blended together to form one big greyblue mass, only broken by a couple of white breaking waves on the shore.
The route to Dunedin fortunately is not long from Owaka, so I arrived before lunchtime, in plenty of time to do the tour of the Otago peninsular. The first thing I noticed about Dunedin was how hilly it was - the green meanie properly struggling to navigate around the streets of the town where there is the world's steepest gradient street. Imagine living on that and having to crawl back up the road to your house after a skinful. One wrong step and you're back down at the bottom again...(shouldn't laugh but...)
Anyway, back to matters in hand, the drive around the peninsular was something else. At any given stage, I was no further than a foot from the enormous expanse of Dunedin harbour. No little brick wall or even grass verge to protect me, should I misjudge the steering of the broad bean. Nothing. And that made it all the more spectacular.
An hour or later I reckon I reached the end of the peninsular. Having not done much research in advance, you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the end of the road was an enormous albatross colony... Not the world's greatest fan of winged creatures, as you will know, yet I had driven into a scene that put Albert Hitchcock to shame in terms of casting. There must've been several thousand gulls and albatrosses swooping down, looking for any little morsel of food from the crowds of tourists flocking in to the museum dedicated to the feathered foes.
Suffice to say, I didn't hang about...
I took myself off to the cafe - Nature's World - at the top of the cliff for a long black. (Note to self - will need to practise coffee ordering upon return to UK. Flat white, long black etc not going to cut the mustard in B-o-S Pool's Starbucks, me fears...). I got chatting to one of the guys that does the tours of the peninsular from there and the conversation turned, about serial killers. Yes, serial killers - no niceties here, just a chat about the dangers of London, the local serial killer on the peninsular and Hungerford. We could have talked about the gorgeous scenery situated the other side of the floor to ceiling windows but no. Still, made for a change from the Cilla Black-esque 'what's your name and where do you come from?' convos I've had daily since I got on the plane at Heathrow.
I decided I couldn't drive all that way out there just for a long black. An egregious daytrip just for a coffee and a chat about murder. I got out of the car, just a bit away from the birds, and headed down to Pilot's beach, as I could see some walkers down there. What a move that turned out to be. I got to see a blue penguin, tucked away in its nest - a little porthole dug into the cliffs - as well as walk up to within a metre of three enormous sealions, lazing around on the rocks. I wasn't meant to walk that close to the sealions but took the risk of them moving from sleeping to attack mode faster than I could run. Sounds idyllic and visually it was. However the stench down there was unbelievable. They'd clearly been chowing down on a lot of fish in the time immediately before I got down there and the place smelt like a fishmongers in summer with a powercut. Gross.
Ran back up to the car and felt the need for beer, but not without checking out my hostel first. A vintage little house, all decked in wood, and just the four of us in our hostel - one French guy, and two Koreans. Then the brainwave hit me - why not go on a brewery tour to Speight's, and get the all you can drink beer at the end of the trip, rather than sit in a pub, by yourself looking like a loner? For the bargain price of about £15, this was achievable so I signed myself up.
The tour itself was one of the best ones I've done (and yes, I know - I've got a tendency to be drawn more to brewery tours than art galleries, so there have been a few). A lot about history, particularly in terms of alcohol being brewed in NZ, and then a walking tour from top to bottom of the brewery.
The best bit of course came at the end - whereas in other tours, you are routinely served with a couple of measures of beer on the way round, this tour gave you half an hour at the end to watch the back catalogue of Speight's television adverts (catch phrase 'Good on ya, mate!') while pouring your own choice of six beers, or all six if you're me of course, from the taps on the replica bar. I can confirm they were all delicious...
Half cut, I had a walk around town to check out the city centre of what was the South Island's original main city, before doing my bit of exercise for the day, in terms of the hill climb back up to the hostel. It was now a baking hot afternoon and involved countless numbers of steps, steep inclines and copious amounts of perspiration. You've got to be fit to live here, that's for sure. However the added bonus of living at the top of one of the plethera of hills is the view back over the city, which was out of this world. Worth every bead of sweat.
Flying visit to Dunedin over and done with and tomorrow it's another epic drive up to Mount Cook. I realise the importance of the capitalisation in that sentence, as was kindly pointed out to me on Facebook when I wrote the same sentence minus the capitals. Brings a whole new spin to the tale, eh?!