Published: May 15th 2013April 7th 2013
Dunedin or 'Edinburgh of the South' is an easy going city port on the edge of the Otago peninsula. The city is centred around 'The Octagon,' a thriving area with many inviting cafés, bars and restaurants.
Not that either of us are experts in Scottish culture, but we didn't really see the apparent striking resemblance to Edinburgh. Venturing into 'The Scottish Souvenir Shop,' Tom had a bit of a 'Daisy moment' and stupidly asked where the link to Scotland originated, only to be met with blank, disbelieving stares. The woman went on to explain that the founders of the city had originated in Scotland before emigrating to NZ. Duuhhhh!
We decided to spend a day wandering around the city getting comfy with the Scottish vibe and culturising ourselves. We started with the art gallery....we were a bit out of our depth and most of the exhibits went striaght over our heads. Next we stopped by the famous Cadburys factory but considering we haven't even visited the UK Cadburys factory we thought we couldnt constitute the tour around. The highlight of the day was the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame musuem which we both found pretty interesting, learning about some of the All Black legends, Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zeland's focus on Netball and Olympics history. We would like to see something similar in the UK (if there isn't already one that we don't know about).
Apart from the Scottish connections and the Cadburys factory, Dunedin also has another claim to fame. It is home to the 'Worlds Steepest Residential Street' which climbs a vertical 47m over the 160m length of the street...hill sprints anyone!?
We ventured out of the city centre on to the Otago peninsula, famous for it's wildlife and it's walks....we were pretty underwhlemed by both and actually stunned by the Albatross colony centre, the most highly recommended, which charges $40 per person to walk to the top of a hill to see the birds with the world's biggest wingspan, and $5 just to go into the café and souvenir shop. We weren't the only ones not to hang around.
We were fortunate to discover Allen's beach, the secluded home and favourite sunbathing spot of some of New Zealand's famous fur seals. The cute cuddly fur toys do not depict the aggressive and intimidating seals we saw baring their teeth and snarling when you get too close...although I can imagine Rach would react in the same way if someone interrupted her while she was sunbathing.
As the Maori legend goes, Aoraki and his four brothers decended from the heavens in a waka (canoe) in search of land. When they found no land they tried to return to the heavens but the waka flipped over and turned to stone. The four brothers perched on the highest point of the waka, also turned to stone, becoming the mountainous west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Aoraki sat the highest and became the highest peak, Mount Cook.
Our day at Mount Cook was possibly the most scenic and stunning day we have had in New Zealand. As Tom put it it was like "driving in a postcard."
When we arrived in Mount Cook village we decided to tackle the Hooker valley track to the base of Mount Cook and the Hooker glacier. It wasn't a hugely challenging walk but was one of the most enjoyable we have done simply because of the spectacular scenery of snow topped mountains. We also witnessed our first mini-avalanche.
On reaching the foot of the glacier, we stopped for lunch. Tom saw somone go for a swim amongst the icebergs and thought it looked good so decided to go for a quick dip in the glacial lake as well much to Rach's amusement.
To Watch the World's Most Scenic Ice Bath Click Here
On the drive on to Lake Tekapo, we had to stop several times to take more pictures of the scenery but unfortunately missed the sunset; The sunsets in New Zealand are nothing like what you would see at home. The entire sky comes alive with blazing reds and oranges.
(Despite her best effort to hide them, Tom managed to get Rach's Flip flop sock combo into the picture)
Our next stop was Lake Tekapo with its famous aqua blue waters; the water's colour comes from the glacial minerals suspended in it.
First stop was the tiny church of the good shepherd nestled on the edge of the lake. Not that the church wasn't interesting...but we got distracted looking at it by the mini rock towers that people had built along the edge of the lake and Tom decided to build one of his own. Finally putting his engineering degree to good use he decided balance was the key.... Its funny how things like this catch on as there were literally hundreds of towers and we have seen other examples during our drives around New Zealand; Several times we have driven past fences covered in either shoes, bras, and even children's tricyles which is actually a bit eerie. I guess that people just follow like sheep in NZ.
We spent the rest of the morning climbing Mount John, the mountain overlooking the lake. It was a pretty easy going walk that offered incredible views from the summit with the shadows of the clouds creating different shades of blue everytime you looked.
The only downside of travelling the South Island in Autumn was the oncoming cold. Sleeping in the campervan was literally like sleeping in a fridge on the colder nights. Heading back north to he warmer weather hopefully now!