“Dundin” (Dunedin)

This is pronounced “Dun-ee-dn” not “Dundin” as I accidentally pronounced it in the mini market at Owaka, making the checkout lady and my companions laugh (they are never gonna let that one go)! (When I was a child, my aunt and uncle sent us a board game of New Zealand where you had to get to all the places on the destination cards you’d been dealt. For some reason, I read it as “Dundin” and it stuck in my mind! (Unlike “Invergiggle”, which is the kiwis’ affectionate name for Invercargill.))

What a joy a good shower and a warm motel is. Our Air bnbs had been fine and in great locations, but it was good to get into something a bit more standardised and a bit less someone else’s space, somehow.

Dunedin is known as the “Edinburgh of the South Island”, which even has streets named after streets in Edinburgh, Scotland. As we ventured into the city, a female piper with two drummer girls with special needs lent a bit of Scottish colour and music to the scene by the beautiful station building:

Like Edinburgh, Dunedin is a big student city, full of nice cafés, quirky boutiques and beautiful historical buildings (European-historical for NZ anyway, ie from the 1800s). So the comparison is fair, I think.

Our search for genuine Maori crafted pounami (greenstone) turned up trumps here, so I bought myself some earrings. Normally it would only be gifted, not bought. I gather the Maori makers consider the money you offer as a donation towards their craft work, rather than a direct exchange for the stone. I like that idea, but of course it hangs on only by a thread in our consumer age.

On our one complete day in Dunedin, we had the bluest sky yet, half of it was even cloudless, which is unheard of in New Zealand. I was confused, because going South in the UK usually means the weather getting slightly warmer, but in New Zealand going South means getting closer to Antarctica, so the weather is supposed to get colder. Although it was quite cold when we arrived in Dunedin, the weather became warmer than we’d experienced anywhere else in NZ! That is the New Zealand spring season for you.

We stopped off at the farmers’ market for a browse, a delicious coffee and crêpe made by a Frenchman…

…then we drove on the high road up onto the Otago peninsula.

The sun was so bright it threw the trees into sharp relief. After only a short while, suddenly the city dropped away to our left, and there it was. Glorious views over the shapely harbour. All was blue; blue sky, sparkling blue sea, and warm yellow sandy beaches alternating with dark rocky coves.

I realised this is one of the most stunningly beautiful corners of the world I’ve seen. Particularly if I’m thinking about cities. To have this peninsula so close to the city and for it to be so unspoilt is incredible.

We went to the albatross colony at the end of the peninsula, where they also provide one of the largest nesting sites for the apparently endangered red eyed gull (it was hard to believe they’re endangered there were so many of them here).

I couldn’t get close enough to get a picture of an albatross, though we saw a few through the binoculars from the hide, though not in flight.

Albatrosses are incredible creatures – really big birds (these had about a 3 metre wingspan). They glide out at sea for a vast amounts of time never landing anywhere, and only come to land in order to nest once a year. They mate for life and only produce one egg per year, which may or may not survive, too.

We saw another couple of seals on the beach by the Albatross colony too 👆🏼

We visited (and climbed) the world’s steepest street. (“Not suitable for camper vans”! Such a kiwi kind of notice!)

We also visited the Chinese gardens:

On our last evening in Dunedin, we explored the city a little bit more on foot and then went out for a delicious posh meal to celebrate being together. It was glorious!

On the way into the city Tash explained to me about the green cabs here. These are taxis painted green that are either entirely electric or at least hybrid. The company operates across New Zealand. While we’ve been sleeping in our arrogance in the UK this technology and investment has been happening elsewhere. Maybe London has green taxis? Maybe not? I don’t remember being aware of any hybrid or electric taxis anywhere in the UK. I wonder again how come a country with such a smaller population has managed to think of this and bring it about without fuss so successfully so quickly. We so need to get with the programme.

The next morning we had breakfast – I had my most glorious bircher yet – on George Street (also a salubrious street in Edinburgh) before heading off to the airport.

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