March 8-9, 2018 - Dunedin
Dunedin is an interesting city. Small but a city. It has a strong history with Scotland. You don't say! You see lots of Edwardian and Victorian style buildings here. Everywhere you see references to Scotland and Edinburgh in particular. Having been to Scotland and England, it wasn't that impressive or new to me. On the other hand, seeing it on the other side of the world, maybe it is impressive.
When I arrived I first drove to Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world according to the Guinness Book of records. Of course I walked it up and down and it is steep indeed. Tourist attraction - checked.
The street is a bit more than 300m long and up to 19 degrees steep. That's a lot. Don't lose anything that can roll down, it's a pain to run after it and then crawl up the hill again. Just a few weeks ago a young teenage boy pogo-sticked his way up to raise money for the Ronald MacDonald House. His little sister is suffering from cancer. Well done, boy!
After Baldwin Street I explored the city centre for a bit. It was still early in the day and I decided to check what they showed at the cinema. They had a 12 o'clock screening of 'Red Sparrow' and I decided to watch that. Somehow they must have forgotten us six people because it was past 12 but no film was showing. A girl eventually got up and told the guys in charge. Within 3 minutes the film was on, they had luckily skipped all the commercials before. I enjoyed the 2hrs19min spy film with Jennifer Lawrence and when we left the theatre we each received a free ticket and an apology for the delay. Nice. Now I had to go and see another film. Poor me 🙂
I went to have a look at the historic train station and then moved my car so I wouldn't get a ticket. Let me advise you to be really careful in Dunedin because the lamp posts there are vicious. One just moved forward a bit and leaned over so I smashed my side mirror when driving backwards a bit. Mean mean lamp post. Luckily it was just the glass that broke and not the whole mirror. In a MacGyver move I replaced the glass with a make shift plastic mirror which I taped into the frame. That would serve me enough for the rest of my trip.
The next day I explored Otago peninsula. It's another must on a tourist's list and so I drove up to the tip to give the albatross station a try. Not just any albatross station - no. It's the Royal Albatross Station. Amazing how closely connected Kiwis still are with motherland England and their Royals. Yes, you can feel the Commonwealth here too.
I was very early and had to wait another 30 minutes before the bird station would open its doors to me (and the other tourists, but who cares about them?) I paid my NZ$50 for a guided tour and the chance to see the big birds from a viewing hut close to the breeding grounds. Then I learned that the term 'royal' in the name of the bird has nothing to do with the British queen or king. It actually refers to the size of this albatross. It's the third largest albatross type in the albatross family and that's why it's called royal albatross. Ah, well.
Once again I was rewarded for the amount of money spent on this trip. All proceeds go to the station and other bird sanctuaries on the peninsula. And I must tell you, once I saw the wingspan of the birds and how royally they circle the cliff, I was in awe.
The wingspan is up to three metres (9'6") long. That length and the shape of the wings allow the bird to soar for days, months even without ever setting foot on land. Top speed of the albatross is around 120kph (75mph). I bet they get ticketed in NZ big time since speed limit is 100kph. Another little fun fact is that a seven months old the chick weighs more than an adult; the chick weighs 10-12kg whereas an adult weighs 8-9kg. No wonder the chick isn't able to fly.
I skipped on the penguins because I didn't want to spend another $50 dollars on birds. I'm sure it would have been worth it, but still. Instead I just drove across the peninsula and enjoyed the view. I understand now why they say this is a particularly beautiful spot in NZ. It is. One thing I still haven't managed to find, though, is my own paua shell. A bit frustrated I bought three from a help-yourself stall along the road. But I thought if they are selling them there, they must have found them too. I guess you don't just find them. I think you have to actually pick them off the rock. Just like Matthieu did in Gisborne. I remember the French couple saying they never found any paua shells on the beaches on the South Island either. Well, I have three nice specimen now and they were not crazy tourist-shop-expensive either. There.