Published: July 5th 2009June 24th 2009
Dunedin & The House of Pain
We left Queenstown after having spent a great few days there and drove through the Otago wine region and through some more beautiful scenery to reach the city of Dunedin. We are convinced that there isn't a drive that doesn't have stunning scenery...or flat or straight roads for that matter in this country! We arrived in Dunedin which is known to be the home of the second most photographed building in the southern hemisphere; the old train station in Dunedin falls just behind the Sydney Opera House. For us however, this university city boasts the 'House of Pain,' the venue where the New Zealand All Blacks team took on France in a match within the International Rugby League. We arrived to Dunedin and the town was buzzing with the upcoming game hype. Every store window had mannequins dressed in black and big signs cheering their team on.
The Saturday of the big rugby game we had quite the sporting line up. With the time difference between NZ and home, it put game 7 of the Stanley Cup on at 2 in the afternoon; perfect. Way to go Pens! We were warned that All
Malborough Wine Country
The region that put NZ on the world wine map with their Sauvignon Blanc
Black fans are crazy and we shouldn't be surprised to see many people dressed up with painted faces. However, when we arrived at the stadium we were surprised to find an overwhelming number of France fans dressed up as painters with berets and baguettes, and many people demonstrating their busking talents. They made quite the presence on the street that is for sure. The All Black fans were also out in full force, including a group dressed up like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Oompha Loompha's! We weren't sure what they had to do with rugby and the All Blacks but funny nonetheless.
Besides the actual game, we were most looking forward to seeing the famous Haka performed by the All Black players. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Haka is a Maori war chant that the All Blacks have adopted as their official pregame tradition. Watching it live was to be honest, a little anticlimactic as you can't see the expressions on the players faces, but the entire crowd is silent and focussed solely on this tradition. Having seen it a few times now on the television I can say that it is a very intimidating
Dunedin Train Station
Supposedly the 2nd most photographed building in the southern hemisphere, next to the Sydney Opera House
chant that ends in the players protruding their tongues and eyes at their opponents! Although the outcome of the game wasn't favourable to the All Blacks, we really enjoyed the game and Matt was happy that he was able to see the rugby team he loved as a kid play live!
After the disappointing loss, the buzz that was apparent before the game completely died and the town was pretty quiet the next day. We took the opportunity to visit another icon of Dunedin, the Cadbury Chocolate Factory! We learned the history behind the Cadbury family and the making of the tasty chocolate. The best parts were when our guide handed out small bars when we correctly answered a question, and learning that Cadbury has actually TradeMarked the specific colour of purple that is on their original packaging. The Ooompha Loompha's must have partied hard the night before because they were nowhere to be found in the factory.
The next day we drove out and around the Otago Peninsula and went for a walk down along the beach where we saw huge sea lions playing and swimming in the surf. We were the only people around and it
was really neat to observe these huge creatures in their natural environments rather than through the glass at the zoo. It wasn't mating season so we were able to observe them from a safe distance. We made sure not to get too close as even though we were pretty sure we could outrun them, we didn't want to take any chances of being wrong! We then drove up the east coast and stopped at a place that we were told about by a local called Shag Point. Apparently there is a good chance of seeing the rare yellow eyed penguin here when they come back from feeding all day in the ocean. The yellow eyed penguin is the rarest of its kind in the world so we wern't that upset that we didn't see any. We did encounter a large colony of fur seals that were sunning themselves on the rocks. Moeraki Boulders
From Shag Point we headed further up the east coast of the south island to the natural phenomenon of the Moeraki Boulders. These unusual boulders are near perfect in their spherical shape and more are constantly being exposed from the errosion from the constant
They are so crazy about this sport they even name streets after it!
wave action. Apparently the boulders weren't shaped by this errosion as one would think, but rather from a process similar to that of an oyster pearl where layers of material build over a central core, like a shell or a piece of wood. These boulders were originally formed in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago! Some of the shperes are up to 3m in diameter! Another cool aspect of this beach is that it is mostly mud stone. It was really weird to walk along as the smooth stones feel like semi hard clay and it sometimes crumbles beneath your feet. Snowboarding in June!
Back inland from the east coast we arrived to the town of Methven which is the main ski town before you reach Mount Hutt. Mount Hutt has the longest skiable season in the country and it even opened two weeks early this year. Since we have abandonded the job search and are in the process of making our way home, we knew that we would have to get in at least one day of boarding before we left the country. We emailed Jeff, a guy we met while on the
The All Blacks performing the intimidating Haka
bungy tower in Queenstown, to see if he wanted to join us as he was going to be in the area as well. We checked ourselves into a great hostel, Snow Denn, complete with a hot tub and tried to round up as much gear and clothing as possible. When I say we checked into a hostel, we are still sleeping in our van, but we pay a much smaller price to use their facilities as opposed to staying in a dorm room. Jeff was well prepared for the winter and actually had a second set of clothing that Matt was able to borrow. And I happened to meet a woman who was working on the mountain at the local pub one night and she offered me some extra clothes as well which was great. Off to the rental shop, and we were ready to go!
The drive up to the hill was sureal as most of the way About half way up we entered into a chain bay where it is mandatory that all non 4WD vehicles put on chains to continue up. This was something that we had never experienced, but we were thankful that our tires
were outfitted with a pair of metal cleats for the rest of the way up! The day on the hill was amazing. Although there weren't as many runs open as we had hoped, it was a beautiful blue sky day, temperatures from -5 to +2, and some really good snow early in the season. Jeff, also another Canuk, was a really good boarder which made Matt happy as he had a partner to go off and search for fresh snow and jumps. I was happy they left me to the groomed trails! At the top of the mountain you could look 360 degrees around and see more snow covered mountains out to one side, and the transition from the white and hilly to the green and flat of the Canterbury Plains below on the other. Absolutely beautiful! Highlights:
* Snowboarding in June!
* Having to use snow chains for the first time
* The beautiful views from the top of the mountain overlooking the transition from white snow to the varying shades of green of the Canterbury Plains below
* Feeling the crunch of the snow and the fresh, crisp air as we boarded down the mountain
They weren't at the chocolate factory the next day however.
The kindness of people to loan us some clothing and gear
* Finishing off the day with a soak in a hot tub and a few beverages! Hanmer Springs
The day after boarding, and despite the hot tub soak afterwards, our bodies were still feeling all of our muscles that hadn't been worked like that for quite some time. So, we decided to head to another natural thermal area to soak our aching bodies...plus, we had a coupon! Hanmer Springs is situated in an alpine village nestled in the Southern Alps. During the day the forest and mountains provide a beautiful backdrop, and at night the moon illuminates an outline of the surrounding mountains. With 12 pools of varying temperatures, including one at 42 degrees Celcius, we soothed our muscles and relaxed. It is quite the hard life that we are living, but in our defence, we have been living in a van for the past 6 weeks! Marlborough Wine Region
We came to NZ to explore and be awed by the beautiful scenery, and perhaps take advantage of the southern hemispheres winter season, however on top of all of this, we have discovered
a love for NZ wine. I'm sure it's just a better appreciation of all good wines, but NZ has some fantastic wines that we have thoroughly enjoyed. With so many wine producing regions, and free tastings, how could we have missed out?! The Marlborough region in the north east of the south island was responsible for putting NZ on the international wine map with their Sauvingnon Blanc. The Marlborough region is one of the driest and the sunniest in the country with a relatively cool climate, making it ideal for grape growing. As we drove around, we couldn't help but notice that there are vineyards everywhere; lining the roads on either side and growing up the side of the hills as far as you can see. In most areas, the vines are planted in a relatively low fertility and often stony soil which also addes to the ripening process making the grapes lush and aromatic! As we have done in the other regions, we went around to some of the wineries and sampled the local varieties. Salut!
Along the wine trail we also discovered the Moa beer company that allows its beer to be fermented in the bottle. The
son and winemaker of the Allen Scott Winery went out on his own to develop this beer and before the bottles are sealed a small amount of yeast is put inside and then allowed to ferment producing a great tasting beer. If you are in NZ look for Moa beer, you won't be disappointed! Wellington
After a very choppy ferry ride back to the north island (I will be very happy if I never have to do that ride again!) we arrived back into the capital city of Wellington. Friends of ours who we met in Cambodia, and who took over our "jobs" on the island, live in Wellington, and just arrived back home from Asia a few weeks ago. We have kept in touch and met up with them for dinner. It was really nice to see them again yet weird as it was in a completely different setting - beach oasis vs. windy Wellington! Rotorua
We drove from Wellington via the Desert Road and past Mount Ngauruhue which is better known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings. Another beautiful drive in this country! We decided to head back to
Linds next to the old Model T delivery car
Rotorua as it is home to the biggest luge track and also some of the best mountain biking in the country. Unfortunately we were side tracked on our way to the luge, when some useless old lady drove into the side of our sweet Daisy when improperly turning through an intersection. Not exactly the best thing to happen days before we want to sell her. In our state of frustration, we were smart enough to realize that with limited time left in the country and knowing how insurance companies can be at home, we managed to convince her that she should pay us in cash for the damages as opposed to going through insurance. There was only structural damage to the drivers side of the van, but a nice dent would surely decrease the value. So, we brought the old lady, who probably shouldn't be driving anymore, to the bank and had her write a cheque in our name!
We decided that we would try our luck on the road again, but this time in the form of a concrete track and driving in a small cart...to the luge track! We are very glad that we waited to do
it here as the tracks are much longer than in Queenstown. The scenic track was over 3km in length, which is followed up by two more tracks of increasing difficulty at 1.5km each. We had lots of fun racing down the hill, but overall, Matt won 2 races to my 1.
The next day, Matt decided to test out his legs and rented a mountain bike. It only took two stories of hearing that people had died trying out the tracks around the area to convince him that maybe he should take it easy as it was really only his first time out downhill biking. Although we didn't really have proper mountian biking clothes, Matt was able to make due by pitching together an array of an outfit consisting half of my wardrobe. It was quite disheartening to learn that he's now lost enough weight to make due wearing both my newly purchased thermals and my long sleve undershirt, both of which are quite stretchy I might add! Not bothered at all by his somewhat questionable wardrobe, he popped a wheelie and was off. We arranged that 2 or 3 hours would probably be enough for an outing especially
The steepest street in the world!
considering our somewhat sedentary lifestyle that we've been leading. He returned in high spirits and reeling about how fun all of the single track trails complete with decent sized kickers and 2-3 meter drops were. It was clear that he'd gotten his fill of mountain biking, at least for that day. The company that he rented his bike from, Planet Bike, had apparently arranged before hand that if Matt brought the bike back in one piece that he'd make him a proper coffee and I'm proud to say that both parties held their end of this agreement. What a great way to end the day! Auckland
We are now back in Auckland and hanging out with the Lardenoye family again. We had to change our flight from our original date and since it is school holidays here right now, we couldn't get a flight out until the 8th of July. We managed to sell our Daisy, dent and all, in an unexpected 3 days, with two offers even! We ended up selling her to two French guys who are in the country for a few months taking a school course and were looking for a vehicle to
Matt showing just how steep the street really is
tour around on weekends with. Daisy found her match! We wish them all the best with her and we're sure that she'll be as great to them as she was with us. We have spent our last few days in the country relaxing, doing a couple local hikes, and enjoying the views from the Lardenoye's house.
Although it didn't work out the way we had planned in NZ (not finding work around the ski fields), it is hard to believe that we have already spent 2 months here. It is such a beautiful country, much like Canada in a lot of ways, but obviously much more compact and therefore easier to tour around in. We're greatful to all the people we encountered along the way here that made our stay much more comfortable. To the Lardenoye family, a thank you cannot be extended far enough to show our appreciation for your hospitality and for extending your home to us for a longer time than expected. We both hope to come back here in this beautiful country again some day, hopefully in some warmer weather so we can appreciate the thousands of beaches!
We look forward to seeing
Hanging on for dear life!
family and friends once again in about a month from now when we finally make it back to the land of maple syrup, but first we will head back through Borneo and Indonesia for some more scuba adventures and a brush up on our tans.
Love to all,
There are more photos below