Home Sweet Home

Friday February 24th – Saturday February 25th | Dunedin πŸ‡³πŸ‡Ώ – LAX πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ – CANADA πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ | a whole shit-tonne of kilometres πŸš™βœˆοΈβœˆοΈπŸ’€πŸ›βœˆοΈβœˆοΈπŸ·πŸš™πŸ« πŸ™ƒ

On our last day of the road trip I walked up the world’s steepest residential street: Baldwin Street.  I’d already packed my hiking shoes and didn’t think it would be easy in my Birks so I did it barefoot – true kiwi style.  Baldwin street has a slope of 19 degrees (we drove up a hill in Arthur’s Pass that was 16). In 1988 a guy named Iain Clark roller skated up it (yes I did say up. Crazy!)

Mural at the top of Baldwin Street, Dunedin

After that we drove out to Signal Hill for a sweet view of the city then had lunch at Ratbags before Val dropped me off at the airport.  

Panorama of Dunedin

I left at 3pm, had a short internal flight to Auckland, a few hour layover there, departed at 11pm, survived a 12 hour overnighter to LA, another short layover, then finally made it in to Vancouver around 9:30pm Friday night (gained back time coming from Dunedin to Vancouver).  Originally I was just going to crash in the airport until I remembered I’m not 18 anymore and a hundred bucks for a 6 hour sleep is more than worth it.

This morning I caught the red eye to Calgary and then on to Brandon.  Our plane landed at the international departures terminal which is almost as far away as you can get from the domestic departures so myself and four other passengers had 15 minutes to book it over there while the plane waited on us.  Someone was already in my seat so I got upgraded to 1A: preferred. Score! A glass of wine and a couple chapters of my book later we touched down in frigid Brandon.  Mike took me for lunch and we picked up our groceries from Superstore – thank god for click and collect!  Now I’m finally relaxing at home trying not to eat all the delicious chocolate I brought home!

I took seven flights (6 to travel, 1 for skydiving), two ferries and one train on this trip. We drove around 5000km in a tiny sky-blue Mazda Demio and visited so many places I’ve lost track.  We saw glaciers, oceans, mountains and national parks.  I crossed a couple things off the bucket list and added more than I removed. It was a whirlwind three weeks but it was awesome and I’m glad I took the time for the adventure. 

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Home Sweet Home

Dunedin: Part 2

Thursday February 23 – Friday February 24th | Dunedin πŸ°πŸ«πŸš‚πŸ§ | 195km πŸš™ + 116km πŸš‚

My final days in Dunedin! Bittersweet. I obviously want to go home to see Mike but I have LOVED my time in this beautiful country.  

On Thursday morning we went out to New Zealand’s only castle: Larnach Castle.  If you’re expecting a grandiose Scottish-style castle you will be disappointed but it is one of the few buildings of this scale in New Zealand and is stunning in its own right.  The story of the Larnach family is very interesting and also extremely sad.

The entrance to Larnach Castle

William Larnach purchased the land in 1870 and construction of the castle began the following year. He and his wife Eliza moved in to their home a few years later. They had six children before Eliza died at the age of 38.

Larnach then married his deceased wife’s half-sister Mary Alleyne. The children didn’t approve of this – they thought Mary was a drunk, which apparently was true. It looked like his business was going to fail so William put the family property into Mary’s name. They were only married for 5 years before she also passed away. Her will gave everything to the children so William was left with nothing. He then made his kids sign papers giving him “his” property back (they didn’t know what they were signing). William’s favourite daughter, Kate, also died which caused him great heartache. 

William then married Constance de Bathe Brandon who was much younger than him. The children never accepted her. It was rumoured that his son, Douglas, was having an affair with Constance. That, coupled with more financial strain, was the undoing of William. He purchased a pistol and shot himself in parliament on October 12th 1898. 

William Larnach sounds like a very colourful character who never really stood a chance. The Larnach family sold the castle in 1906. It passed through many hands before the Barkers purchases it, derelict and in need of much TLC, in 1967. They worked hard to restore the castle to it’s original glory and have purchased or borrowed much of the furniture and artifacts you can find inside. Some of the castle is kept private as the Barker family still resides there but you can visit a lot of the rooms as well as enjoy a bite to eat in the ballroom. I enjoyed a scone with whipped cream and jam. How posh. 

The inside of Larnach Castle

A morning snack in Larnach Castle Ballroom Cafe

After the castle we went to Cadbury World where we participated in a guided tour of the factory. Along the way we were given different chocolate bars to take home with us. They may never get eaten though as I still don’t understand why kiwis love to eat chocolate covered marshmallow so much!  (The Jaffas they gave me are long gone πŸ™Š). There’s a “tasting train” where you’re given an empty plastic shot glass to fill with melted chocolate (white, milk or dark) and can add toppings of your choice. You then eat it with a cardboard spoon – kind of like those old school ice cream treats you got as kids. So much chocolate. So much fun. I kind of felt like the kids in Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory – specifically the girl who eats all the blueberries and turns into one.

Cadbury World
Our afternoon was spent on a train! We found a really good deal on Book Me (a discount/deal website) for the Taiere Gorge Railway Journey (it was around 50% off). The train winds its way slowly to Pukerangi where the engine switches ends and returns you to Dunedin. We were seated in an old fashioned, heritage, wooden carriage with sliding windows and netted baggage storage above us: it felt almost like something out of Harry Potter. The scenery on the trip is spectacular and you can also purchase food and drinks from the dining car.


Crossing the viaduct

The evening activity was penguin watching! The Otago Peninsula is home to the Royal Albatross Centre and is the only mainland breeding colony of the massive birds.  It is also where you will find the worlds smallest penguin: the little blue penguin.  Around 9pm we all walked down to the viewing platform and fifteen minutes later the first raft came ashore. (Raft is the term given to a group of penguins). It was really cool to see and definitely worth your time.

A raft of penguins
Dunedin: Part 2

Dunedin: Part 1

Wednesday February 22nd | Tekapo 😎 – Dunedin 🍻 | 325km πŸš™

We left Tekapo on Wednesday morning and made our way south. Around 75km before you reach Dunedin you’ll find the Moeraki Boulders. These are large, spherical rock concretions that were formed 60 million years ago. They’re pretty interesting to look at and definitely worth the stop. Some of them are up to 3 meters tall and estimated to weight several tonnes. 

Moeraki Boulders
A Moeraki Boulder

Don’t be fooled by the Dunedin city limits sign – you’ve still got half an hour before you actually reach the city!  Have no fear, though, as you will pass the Evansdale Cheese Factory where you can stop for some tasty samples. Cheese in New Zealand is a thousand times better than Canadian cheese (sorry dairy farmers but the shelf cheese in the store is bland compared to that in NZ). Evansdale is a small factory that was started in 1977 making it the oldest artisan cheese maker in New Zealand. 

We finally reached our hostel late afternoon, checked in then drove down to the Octagon (this is the high street/city centre area).  Dunedin is a beautiful city with lots of history. It was named after DΓΉn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and is known as Little Edinburgh.  It was New Zealand’s first city and can lay claim to many other “firsts” including: first telephone call made in New Zealand, first gas streetlight ever burnt, first medical and dental school in New Zealand as well as the first newspaper published in the country. There are a lot of really stunning old buildings in Dunedin ncluding St Joseph’s Cathedral, Otago Girls High School, Dunedin Railway Station and Larnach Castle.  Full list of historic buildings here.  There is also a statue of Robert Burns (Famous Scottish poet. He wrote Auld Lang Syne.  You’re welcome) at the head of the Octagon.  His nephew, Thomas Burns, was one of the original founders of Dunedin. 

St Joseph’s Cathedral
Robert Burns Statue
One of the things I miss most from Scotland is fish & chips. Not the crap they serve at North American seafood restaurants. The fresh-from-the-ocean, good old fashioned, chippy supper. I have been waiting all three weeks for a blue-cod supper and my time arrived. I checked out Trip Advisor and discovered that the best fish supper could be found at a restaurant called The Best Cafe. How fitting. It’s a short walk down Stuart Street near the Railway Station. 

Best Cafe, Dunedin

When we walked in I was instantly reminded of the old fish and chip shops we used to eat at in Scotland. The old-school decor, the deep-fryer smell and the plate of bread and butter brought immediately to your table. Val and I each ordered the two piece fish & chip dinner: one piece famous blue cod, one piece elephant fish (a type of shark). The elephant fish was a more firm white type and the blue cod was flaky. Both were good but I definitely would recommend the blue cod: it’s worth the money. 

Fish & Chips at The Best Cafe
After supper we parked the car at the hostel and walked down to Speights Brewery. We literally walked down – everything is on a hill in Dunedin. The brewery tour started at 7pm and lasted around an hour. We learned about the history of beer, the brewery, how it was made then versus how it is made now, and finished off the tour with an unlimited sampling of their one cider and five on-tap beers. Hell yeah. 

On tap sample options at Speights
Helping myself to a beer

Dunedin: Part 1