East Coast Home Stretch: Dunedin to Christchurch


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April 30th 2018
Published: June 12th 2018
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The PortalThe PortalThe Portal

at Steampunk HQ, freaky and awesome...
As in the previous blog this leg started out with what would turn out to be our last hump day; a rip straight from Milford Sound to Dunedin, west coast to east...again a pleasant drive but not a lot to report on, so we'll start the show in Dunedin...

After nine straight days in the camper, and no discernible camp sites near the city centre, we decided to splurge and a get a room for a couple of nights...came across this funky backpacker hostel called Hogwartz, used to be a Bishop's residence back in the late 1800's, and with it being a ten minute walk to the downtown area known as the Octagon it was perfect...we stayed in the carriage house, really cool with a well equipped kitchen and more importantly a real bed and private bathroom...luxury...haha...

Decided on two nights here; the Otago Peninsula is nearby with all sorts of wildlife viewing so figured it was as good a launch point as any...heard fun things about this town as well, the bar scene was supposed to be jumping due to the large university here, so figured we'd have plenty to fill our time with...

Arrived mid-afternoon, got sorted at Hogwartz and really just spent the rest of the day wandering around getting our bearings...came across some neat shops, the old Railway station on the water was pretty cool and stopped in for a pint or two along the way...finished up with dinner at the Speight's Brewery Ale House, great meal and a really cool spot, would certainly recommend it...

Next morning after a leisurely coffee or three it was back into Budgy and heading for the Otago Peninsula...a twisty/slow but very pretty drive along the water to get there, only to discover most of it closed...gah! Our first destination was to be Nature's Wonders Naturally, a coastal sheep farm at the very tip of the peninsula, with private beaches and the possibility of seeing penguins, fur seals and maybe even whales...Lonely Planet mentioned a 10:15 am opening time, but on arrival it turned out to only open at 2 or 3 pm, and since it was only around 11 am we didn't feel like waiting around...the albatross centre was open and conducting tours, but we have seen those birds on our travels and didn't feel up to it again...

Back into Budgy and thought we
SkullSkullSkull

...at Steampunk HQ...
would try our luck with another spot, Penguin Place, only to discover this was an evening tour, we were now 0 for 2 on destinations for the day...then figured why don't we hit a beach or two for some scenery (and more potential wildlife viewing), surely those must be open!? After a few wrong turns we found a tiny sign pointing toward Sandfly Bay and Boulder Beach I think...well, after some slow going on dirt roads it turned out the beach at Sandfly Bay was under construction, and the road was getting progressively worse after we doubled back and attempted to get to Boulder Beach so we eventually gave up...we were now 0-4, not one of our most stellar days but these things happen I suppose...

To redeem ourselves we stopped in at Larnach Castle, a beautiful mansion built in 1871 for a local banker, and it was open! Haha...didn't bother with the tour of the building itself, opted instead for a leisurely wander around the well-manicured grounds and just enjoyed some fresh air...it was nice, great views all around, if you're in the area and looking for something to do I would say stop in but I wouldn't
Budgy!Budgy!Budgy!

...on the way out of Milford Sound...
build my day/itinerary around it...final record for our Otago Peninsula excursion came to 1-4, not gonna make the playoffs with those stats...got back mid-afternoon and unfortunately the weather changed, rain moved in so we just relaxed around the Octagon with a pint and a bite to eat...

Woke to our final full day with the camper, hard to believe we had to return it in Christchurch the following morning...heard some cool things about a town called Oamaru and its Steampunk sub-culture so decided to make that our last stop and away we went...

Wasn't all that far a drive, a couple of hours I think, arrived late morning and settled into our campsite before making our way down to the main drag of Thames street...we had seen a tv show back home that talked about this town and the unique Steampunk sub-culture, so we were left with the impression that we would come across folks in period dress and steampunk inspired oddities wandering around, yeah not so much...poked around a while on Thames street seeing nothing but retail stores and the odd restaurant, before finally catching site of the Steampunk HQ, all was not lost!

The HQ
The Chalice...The Chalice...The Chalice...

....in Cathedral Square...
was really cool, an art installation inspired by steampunk culture with re-purposed machines of all shapes and sized, including a funky pipe organ that played noise samples instead of notes, and a courtyard of rusted vehicles and machinery...eerie and creepy, but awesome and totally worth a visit...there was a new-ish exhibit called The Portal which was my favourite, it is described as the "Steampunk HQ Space-time travel gateway" and a "light machine that transports you to other alternate realities"...let's go! So we entered this small room completely filled with mirrors and strings of little light bulbs suspended from the ceiling, and after a few moments the lights went out, crazy music started and the light strings fired up and started changing all sorts of colours...absolutely freaky but wonderful! With the mirrors it felt like you were standing on the edge of an abyss, and between the music and lights it was sensory overload, an amazing experience (tried to capture it in pics, some posted here...).

The HQ was right on the edge of a neighbourhood of Victorian era buildings, now filled with crazy artisan shops, bookstores and antiques, really the vibe I was expecting here...getting hungry so we stopped in at the Criterion Hotel, a beautiful old hotel with a great selection of beer and wines...and a slow roasted lamb roast bubbling in the background when we arrived, perfect spot! It was pretty quiet so had a great chat with one of the owners who was tending bar, she gave us some great insight on the hotel itself and the town/area in general (and explained that it was usually just during the steampunk festival that we would see folks all done up, which explained a few things)...lunch was fabulous and then it was off to explore again...

Poked around, came across a craft brewery that we stopped at for a sample, then started making our way to the Blue Penguin colony at the end of the harbour...as we had been shut out the day before at Otago we figured we'd better try and see some penguins before our time in New Zealand was up, and this was likely our last opportunity...

Blue Penguin Colony is a conservation project designed to increase the blue penguin population, and a nesting site has been built to accommodate and protect the little fellas at night...viewing stands are set up on either
KeaKeaKea

...creepy looking bird in the parrot family, found them hanging around at the mouth of a tunnel on the way in/out of Milford Sound...stood a least a foot high...and not shy...
side of the shore where the penguins come in every night, so we paid our fare, sat through the briefing of the rules of the event (no photography at all, no talking, no standing up etc.) and then hoped for the best that we would see some activity...this was a downtime for viewing apparently, in peak season hundreds of penguins can roll in, they typically only expect 20 to 30 at this time of year but the previous evenings' had seen quite a few...so we waited...

All was quiet until one of the guides spotted the first "raft", a group of penguins all swimming together and headed for shore...they apparently gather 500 meters or so off land and come in in smaller groups like this, here we go! After a few minutes we spied the first couple of heads peering over some rocks, checking to see if the coast was clear...then more, and more, and finally a group of about thirty were waddling their way up the rocks and then making a run for it across the grass to the pen/nesting site (complete with small little wood houses, really cute...). They are pretty small compared to other species, and because they were wet (and it was now dark) we couldn't see how blue they really were but not a big deal...

Totally lucked out with the volume; ended up watching seven or so rafts come in, and well over a hundred penguins...would have been nice to snap a pic or two but their eyes are pretty sensitive and obviously they don't want us spooking them...superb experience, but it was getting colder so decided we had seen enough penguins and headed back to the campsite, we had fresh cheese from the Whitestone Cheese Factory in town waiting for us, mmmmmm....

And with that we woke the following morning, made our way to the outskirts of Christchurch and parted ways with our beloved Budgy...fantastic adventure; racked up 3300 kms in a little over two weeks and experienced all sorts of wonderful sites/activities...hard to believe it was over!

Still a couple of days left to explore Christchurch before our flight to Fiji, but didn't get up to too much, more of just a hang than anything...did check out the Earthquake Museum which was really well done (Quake City), rode the tram for a quick tour of the city and visited the botanical gardens (which were for the most part dead due to time of year)...it's a cool city, still a bunch of it showing the signs of the massive earthquakes from 2010 and 2011, with ChristChurch Cathedral's state of affairs being the most surprising (according to locals the city council had finally approved the funds to start rebuilding it last year but nothing had started...shame...).

Stayed at a place called Pomeroy's, great little spot with five rooms and conveniently located adjacent to one of the best pubs/restaurants in town called Pomeroy House...Food Truck Friday was fun at Cathedral Square (found Mo-Mo's! Oh man, these dumpling-like things we first discovered in Nepal are one of my favourite eats found on our travels, couldn't believe it...and they were really good...), and we found our local in a place called Smash Palace: essentially an old bus with beer taps in the middle of a large parking lot surrounded by picnic tables and propane heaters, it was awesome...

And that concludes our NZ adventure...really enjoyed my time here; it's a beautiful country, the folks are nice, and traveling by caravan again really solidified my belief that that is my favourite way to travel around...


Additional photos below
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Cool Dock...Cool Dock...
Cool Dock...

...on our way from Milford Sound to Dunedin...
Carriage House at Hogwartz...Carriage House at Hogwartz...
Carriage House at Hogwartz...

...in Dunedin, with Budgy resting a few days...we stayed in the unit right above the van...
Speight's BrewerySpeight's Brewery
Speight's Brewery

There was a tap that we saw folks filling up large containers at, got excited thinking it was beer but only spring water...haha...
Duneding Railway StationDuneding Railway Station
Duneding Railway Station

...claims to be NZ's most photographed building...pretty cool...
OamaruOamaru
Oamaru

Cool building, can't remember what it is...


12th June 2018
Steampunks Crossing

Steampunk rules at Oamaru
On my radar to visit the Steampunk town in NZ South Isle for Steampunk Week. Now I know what town...only need now to find out when. Having posted heaps of pics from Ironfest over the last two years...seems only right that my zeppelin fly to Oamaru!
13th June 2018
Steampunks Crossing

Steampunk rules at Oamaru
Happens at the end of May, at least it did this year...would be pretty cool to see and hang out I would imagine...didn't see any Zeppelin parking but they may throw up a mast or two during the festival...haha...
15th June 2018
Tunnel at Larnach Castle

New Zealand
New Zealand offers beauty around every corner. Sounds like you found a nice place to stay at Hogwartz
18th June 2018
Tunnel at Larnach Castle

New Zealand
It truly does, some of the vistas we came across while driving were spectacular...and Hogwartz was pretty cool; neat building, great location and most importantly a comfy bed...haha...

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