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Published: March 24th 2018
So much for coming to the Southern Hemisphere to escape the British winter. It’s the same temperature in Dunedin as Bournemouth. First task today is to unpack my fleeces which I put at the bottom of my suitcase thinking they were no longer needed. At least it’s stopped raining, which is good as we have a lot to fit in today.
We start with a whistle stop tour of Dunedin. We walk round the octagonal city centre dominated by a large Robbie Burns statue (one of the first Scottish settlers was his nephew). It has some impressive buildings courtesy of the 19th Century gold rush. We visit the cathedral with its colourful stained glass windows depicting St Paul surrounded by penguins, seals and albatrosses.
Then on to the art gallery, always a risk with the old man in tow. But they have a surprisingly good collection of pieces he acknowledges as art – there’s Monet, Constable, Lowry. Plus plenty of work by NZ artists. My favourite are Marilynn Webb’s powerful environmental ‘recipes’.
Last stop in Dunedin is the Otago Settlers Museum. It is also surprisingly good, documenting the history the area focusing on its settlers (Maori and European).
There’s a reconstruction of the first British settlers’ ship, plenty of old vehicles and machinery and a great collection of retro adverts. I particularly like ‘The Great Henri French Intoxicated Genius’ and ‘Ferry The Human Frog’.
From Dunedin we drive round the bay to the Otago Peninsula. We stop for a picnic at Larnach Castle, dubbed NZ’s only Castle. It’s not really a castle, it’s a mansion built to resemble a castle. It took 200 labourers 3 years to build, then skilled craftsmen spent a further 12 years embellishing it. It was commissed by local businessman/MP William Larnach to impress his wife. She hated it and promptly died as did wife number 2 (sister of wife no 1). He added a ballroom in an attempt to persuade his daughters not to leave home. Then wife number 3 had an affair with his son, so he shot himself.
The grounds are very pretty with a great view across the harbour. The house is jam packed with 3 bus loads of Chinese tour groups so we lose interest and move on.
The castle is high up in the centre of the peninsula. Reaching the main coastal road requires driving
along a 5 mile single track. It’s a steep, winding rollercoaster of a journey. The remainder of the route is along the coast. It’s very scenic and there’s a huge array of birds in the wetlands but it’s only marginally less scary perched precariously on a road above the bay with no barriers.
Otago Peninsula is famed for its wildlife, but it’s not cheap to watch the wildlife around here. Areas are cordoned off and entry fees apply. We opt for the Royal Albatross Centre at $50 dollars each (per person not per albatross). Expense aside, it is a great experience. After a very informative 30 minute presentation we spend 30 minutes in a hide watching the birds. There are 4 babies in their nests awaiting their parents. There is also a group of young birds. Once an albatross learns to fly, it takes off on a 5 year circumnavigation of the globe. It then returns home to pick a mate. These young birds are socialising and showing off as a kind of courtship. They soar in circles overhead. With their 3 metre wingspan it’s an amazing sight.
We return to Dunedin where it’s time for supper and
an early night. We have parkrun and a long drive ahead tomorrow.
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