On the 6th of January my family arrived in Dunedin. It was a wonderful airport reunion and a beautiful sunny Dunedin day….then, we got busy. Busy enough that I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last blog….but, it was a good type of busy, as you’ll see. First of all, on the day my family arrived, we all moved to a new house in an area of Dunedin called Company Bay. It’s out on the peninsula, about ten minutes from town. Locals wonder why we would want to drive that far (a whole TEN minutes!) every day into town. But the house is only two years old (read, new construction and good insulation and therefore warm) and we have an amazing view of the Otago harbor from every window. We also get to watch the sunset every night. It also has an outdoor fireplace, for evenings like this.
And when you have an evening like this, what else is there to do, except roast marshmallows?
Those sunsets from every window? They look like this first photo below, and on a sunny afternoon, the second photo.
I had planned a tour of the (mostly) South Island beginning just four days after everyone arrived, so the first week in our new house was a bit disorienting. We did manage to see some iconic Dunedin sites. Keep in mind, this is the summer holiday time for all the schools here, and aside from the very first day every arrived, the weather was cool and rainy (even the locals complained about the bad summer weather). In those first few days, we went to Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street.
The boys, of course, tried to run up the street. Their sprint lasted about forty feet, before they decided it was more prudent to walk up. They got a kick out of watching a (tourist) car try to drive up the street, only to have their wheels spin and screech, and then have to back down, in the drive of shame.
At the top of Baldwin street there is a little bench (often needed, and often used after the climb up) which is painted in a picture of the street, and there is a garbage can. They boys thought it was hilarious (and still do) they called garbage ‘rubbish’. They sound like a Monty Python skit, saying “Rubbish” repetitively when they see one the cans.
We also went out the end of the Otago peninsula to view the Royal Albatross colony. This is the only colony of these rare, magnificent birds that nests on the main island (instead of the smaller islands farther offshore). They are huge birds, with wingspans of 10 feet. They can’t get airborne unless there is a strong wind (which, fortunately for them, there almost always is). The nature guides tells us that if there is a (it’s rare) HOT day with no wind, they will go out the where the birds nest, and spray them with mist to keep them cool (as some can die if they overheat). We didn’t get to see this (it was windy…what a surprise!…the day we were there), but I do so want to go out there on a warm calm day and watch the nature guides spritzing the birds in their nest. It would be like the Four Seasons in Maui, where the cabana boy walks around with some Evian…’Cool spray, Mr. Albatross?’. Alas, in the five months I’ve been here, there have been no warm, windless days. I guess that’s what they mean when the say the weather here is for the birds…..
Friday came quickly, and in all honesty, we weren’t really quite settled into the new house yet. But, a planned vacation is a planned vacation, so we jumped into the Subaru and headed out of town. Speaking of Subaru, they pronounce the names of cars here differently, and the boys are just cracking up about it. Subaru is pronounced ‘Sue-BAR-u’; Nissan is pronounced ‘Niss-en’, and Mazda is pronounced ‘Maz (like in the word MAD) da’.
Our first stop was Omaru, about an hour and a half North of Dunedin. Sure enough, just 30 minutes out of Dunedin, the sun started to come out. This would be a recurring theme throughout the trip, whenever we met someone and told them we lived in Dunedin, they would ask, in a very incredulous tone, ‘You moved from California to Dunedin?‘
Omaru is famous for a couple of things. One is the Omaru limstone, and many buildings around New Zealand were constructed using this beautiful stone (This one is actually in Omaru).
The other claim to fame for this quaint little town is book binding…the old fashion leather bound way. There are dozens of book binders that line the cobblestone streets of the old section of town. It’s really interesting, although the time intensive process mean that if you wanted to buy, for instance, a leather bound diary as a souvenir, it would set you back a cool $200.
The abundant limestone also meant the color of the water, with the very white limestone sand beneath, was a tropical blue-green (but it was still cold).
Just North of Omaru is a great restaurant, the Riverstone Kitchen, where we had lunch reservations. The food was amazing, and it was the boys’ first experience (repeated many times during this trip) with venison. I tried, diligently, to capture a picture of the food, but in the time elapsed between when I got the camera out of my pocket and then readied to take the picture, the boys’ food was gone. This was also an event repeated many times throughout our trip. An here’s an interested fact. When Ryan arrived here in Dunedin, I marveled at how much he had grown. We measure ourselves, back to back, and I was just 1 cm taller than him. We repeated this same measurement yesterday, because he seemed have have grown a lot in just four weeks, and he had growth so much he was now 1 cm taller than me. I told Deb, “See, this is what happens when you feed the boys”.
The Riverstone Kitchen is famous throughout New Zealand. They grow all their own vegetables and fruit and the food is simply out of this world. Plus, on the extensive grounds of the restaurant, is a playground, extensive gardens, fountains, and several types of shops. One of the most interesting things I saw was a living fence (see below).
From here we drove into Christchurch, where we stayed for three days. And that will be my next post (hopefully not a month from now…).
So, where did I get the title for this post? Well, it goes like this……On our road trip we would, on occasion, ask for directions or perhaps for a local person’s opinion of the best way to get somewhere. The answers were absolutely astounding. No one, and I mean no one, uses street names. So, you won’t get an answer like, ‘head down High Street and then turned left on Princess Street and go for three blocks.’ You get get directions like we did, when we asked the owner of one of the homes we stayed in on our trip when we asked him what was the best way to get from the Abel Tasman Park to Dunedin (about 900 km). He said, and I quote, “Oh, that’s a wee-little drive. Just head into Motueka, go right at the gas station and then head into the valley, keep the mountains on your right, and just follow your nose to Christchurch, and then head down to Dunedin. Easy peasy, about an 8 hour drive.” Keep in mind the Abel Tasman Park is a the top of the South Island, and Dunedin is all the way at the bottom of the South island. We also found most New Zealanders seriously under estimate how long it will take to drive somewhere (either that, or, when they drive, they are traveling at supersonic speeds in their car). It took us 11 hours to drive the distance we were told (but by this time we knew better, and didn’t really believe him anyway) would take 8 hours.
Until next time,