Dunedin and the Otega Peninsula

03-11-2011 - 09-11-2011

Finally another blog post! It’s been a while since I last wrote something, so I’ll just get straight to it. This is about the time I spent in Dunedin. I actually didn’t do much there, mostly some relaxing, as the weather wasn’t all that great. Of course, it’s also more to the south so that makes sense. Anyway, I took the bus from Christchurch (had to walk really fast to catch it as I was a bit late) and after about 6 hours I ended up in Dunedin. My first reaction was that it was cold. I was still walking around in only a t-shirt and that wasn’t the kind of clothing you’d want to wear there. The second reaction, once I started walking to the hostel, was that there are a lot of hills. Anyway, this was fine and after a short walk I ended up at Hogwartz. Yes, it’s named after Harry Potter and there were a couple of rooms with a similar name.

Now, as I arrived in the evening I didn’t do much and went to bed pretty early. The second day I didn’t do much either, mostly just walking around the city center a bit and seeing what there was to do over there. Dunedin is pretty much a student city and that’s pretty clear from what there is to do in the city. Aside from some museums and the like the city itself doesn’t have all that much.

Fin whale in Otago Museum

The third day, after hearing there was actually snow in the hills around the center of the city, I decided to go visit the Otago museum. The museum was pretty interesting. Not only did it show the history of the entire peninsula since humans arrived (first the Maori, and later Europeans), but it went back all the way to the time of the dinosaurs and also explained the sea/ocean critters that were there back then and the ones that are still around. Of course, a lot of animals are now extinct, and the woods that used to cover over 80% of the area have been reduced to only 20% in order to make place for all the sheep. Still, it’s really interesting to see how different the wildlife is in New Zealand. It’s not often you find a country of this size that doesn’t have, and never really had, any animals that are dangerous to humans.

After the museum I took a visit to the botanic gardens, which is of course always fun. There’s always a lot of beautiful plants and trees to see in a place like that, but I actually wanted to enjoy some of the real nature around there. So I booked a tour for the next day that would take me up to the more secluded parts of the Otago Peninsula and where I would be able to see some of the rarer animals around here, like yellow-eyed penguins and the royal albatross.

The tour started with a visit to the Albatross Center, which is at the only mainland colony of albatrosses in the world. As these also happened to be the biggest ones around this was quite a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit about them. Such as the fact that after they’re old enough to leave the nest they go to fly around the world for another four years until they come back again to the exact spot where they were born in order to find a mate. The courtship than takes another four years, in which the two will only meet at their yearly get together in the colony. In between the couple of months they stay there they’ll fly around the world some more.

After this we went to a secluded beach where we had the chance to see the penguins returning home and the sea lions that were lying on the beach. Sea lions actually don’t do much apparently once they’re older, so only the young ones were active when we got closer. We couldn’t get too close though as apparently they like to play a lot. And for young sea lions playing involves a lot of biting. As they can run about 20 km/h on the beach (which isn’t really slower than a regular human) you might not want to provoke them into actually doing that. As for the penguins, they were mostly busy with their eggs or walking home after their hunt.

The last stop was on a rocky beach on the other side of a hill where we got to see some fur seals. As there were still young ones around them this was pretty cute.

The next day I again didn’t do much except decide where I wanted to go. Eventually I decided on Invercargill in order to go to Stewart Island from there.

Beer tasting at Speight’s brewery

On my last full day in Dunedin I decided to go visit the Speight’s brewery, which is the beer you can buy everywhere around here and as it’s home is in Dunedin that seemed like a good thing to visit. All of the beer they create at the moment is actually done in Dunedin as the only other facility they had was in Christchurch, but didn’t survive the earthquakes intact. Naturally a tour of a brewery ends with a chance to taste beers, so despite the fact that I only went for the cultural value I had to try all six beers they offered for this. One of the interesting things about the brewery is that they offer for free the same spring water they use for their beers. This can be gotten from a tap outside of the brewery and there’s pretty much always a line there of locals who prefer this fresh and clean water over the stuff they get at home. This leads up to over a million liters of water a year.

And there ends my tale about Dunedin. The next day was only waiting for the bus to arrive that brought me to Invercargill so that isn’t exactly interesting to talk about. Aside from this there was of course the usual talking to other travelers, including meeting the Indian guys from Christchurch again, but that’s all to be expected and I won’t bother you with things like that.