A Travellerspoint blog

Dunedin

A MIXED YET OVERFLOWING BAG

by: Tami

After our fantastic stay in Oamaru, we were quite disheartened by the extremely high prices and low quality of the sleeping options in Dunedin. It was Labour Day Weekend, so not only was it crowded but the prices were the highest (by far) we've encountered in all of New Zealand. We ended up having to pay almost $300 a night for a scummy motel room across the street from a university dorm. Fortunately the students were having mid-terms, so it was at least quiet during our stay.

Maya enjoyed her favorite meal in all of New Zealand in a most unlikely spot - Speight's Brewery! The Kid's Picnic Platter consisted of a couple slices of lunch meat, crackers, cheese, fresh fruit, bread w/butter, and warm pudding - all covered with candy sprinkles. It was quite the creative culinary presentation.

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This delightful dining experience was followed by a tour of Cadbury World. Photos were not allowed inside the building (I think they were afraid Slugworth might try to steal their secrets), the factory was quite loud, and we had to wear some "lovely" hats, so the adults were not all that thrilled. But our girls absolutely loved it. The tour guide would explain how some part of the candy making process worked and then she'd follow up with questions which the tour guests were to answer. Once Madeline and Maya realized that correct answers would be rewarded with free samples, they became rapt listeners. They each left with the motherload of all free sample bags. Maya had more than her bag would even hold. So she accurately inventoried her take and allotted a carefully accounted portion to my bag which she later reclaimed. The tour ended with Cadbury's version of Willy Wonka's chocolate waterfall. The liquid chocolate splashed all over the place; even our shoes had chocolate on their soles.

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We made a quick visit to Baldwin Street, which is the steepest street in the world. With a 19 degree gradient, it beats out San Francisco's Filbert and Lombard Streets. Ryan and the girls hiked up to the top, as I "unfortunately" had to stay in the car to do a little research about our future travels. (I know lame, huh? But while in the photo it doesn't look that bad, it really was extremely steep.)

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We spent a day out on the Otago Peninsula. The area is famous for harboring the only mainland Royal Albatross colony but unfortunately the observatory was closed to visitors as it was the beginning of the breeding season. Apparently albatross partners need to rekindle the romance in private. So, instead we visited a nearby area of nesting shags, drove around the waterfront and found something resembling the Dragonboat from the book Magyk, and then finished up with a visit to Larnach Castle.

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Larnach Castle was billed as New Zealand's only castle. But, oddly enough, their own Guide to the Castle explained that it was not actually a castle but rather a manor house. Still it was a very interesting place to visit.

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It was an okay couple of days, but not a place we'd highly recommend. We did enjoy all of the above activities, both Ryan and I finally succeeded in parallel parking (which is actually quite disconcerting when driving on the left), plus being a University town Dunedin had an excellent book store, however, we just couldn't get past the ridiculous cost and lack of quality in our accommodation.

Posted by RTMM 01:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

Oamaru

WILD PENGUINS GALORE

by: Tami

In researching our next stop, Oamaru, we were not expecting much. Lonely Planet described a slow moving town with a questionably glamorous history of refrigerated-meat shipping. Sounds like loads of fun, huh? However, we had heard that Oamaru was a great place to see wild penguins so we stopped at the local I-site and asked the representative to find us somewhere to stay for three nights. We must have looked a little less than enthused about staying in the area as the young man assured us he would find us somewhere "flash" to stay. Now, I don't know exactly what "flash" means but our house at 63 Tees Street was absolutely fabulous. For less than the cost of a typical New Zealand motel room we were given the coolest house key ever, which opened the door to a beautiful four bedroom house, with a huge kitchen, satellite tv, and wireless internet.

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As most penguins are out hunting for fish during the day, we enjoyed an easy afternoon lounging around our great new digs. At 6:30 we headed out to Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve in search of the very rare and very shy Yellow-Eyed Penguin. The area was beautiful, but quite crowded with other wildlife lovers. We overheard a couple say they had been waiting for two hours and had seen nothing. Plus, the viewing platform was about one hundred feet up a cliff overlooking the beach. Needless to say, we didn't have high hopes. However, luck was on our side; within five minutes of our arrival the first penguin emerged from the tall grass about two feet in front of us. She was absolutely beautiful and quite far from the shy creature we were expecting. She strutted back and forth in front of us and then let out an extremely loud wail. The wildlife volunteer at the viewing station explained that she was 16 years old and had just lost her mate, so she was letting everyone in the vicinity know that she was back on the market. The volunteer then let us borrow his binoculars to watch the penguins out at sea ride the waves onto the beach. It was really quite thrilling.

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The next night we visited the much more commercialized Little Blue Penguin colony. No photography was allowed, but we had a great time watching 172 penguins ride the waves in, waddle up the beach, find their way back to the appropriate nest box and feed their waiting young.

All in all, Oamaru turned out to be one of our top stops to date.

Posted by RTMM 01:08 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

A Shower In Queenstown

by: Ryan

I just finished showering in what might be the world's smallest shower stall. The experience made me laugh, so I thought I would share it with all of you.

I realize that I am a large person (even by United States standards), but I can not imagine this particular shower stall being considered comfortable for any adult. To begin with, I had to duck just to step through the door. After entering the stall, I stood up straight and the shower head was at the height of my chest. To add to the issue, the shelf that was designed to hold the shampoo was falling off the wall, so I had to put the shampoo and conditioner bottles on the floor of the stall.

Now that the stage is set, I will explain the showering process itself - don't worry I will skip the graphic details. First, I turned on the water and made sure the temperature was acceptable before I got in the stall. This was a very important step because if the water was too cold or too hot there was not enough room for me to get out of the stream. Next, I had to wash my hair, so I bent down, hit my head on the shower head, muttered a few less than appropriate words, and then finally managed to get my hair wet. After soaking my head I needed to use the shampoo, but it was located on the floor of the stall. Not wanting to hit my head again, I turned around before I bent over to pick up the bottle. My head was safe, but this time my back side bumped the handle that controls the water temperature. The water turned extremely hot so I jumped and accidentally knocked the defective shelving unit off of the wall. Once I finally managed to turn off the scalding water, I stood there and had to laugh. At that point I decided to make a post on the subject. During the remainder of the showering process I hit my head, elbows, and other body parts on just about every surface of the shower stall, which made for a most uncomfortable experience. The good news is that we have four more days in this apartment and everything improves with practice, right?

Queenstown Shower

Queenstown Shower

Posted by RTMM 18:59 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Christchurch

ENGLAND MEETS ANTARCTICA

by: Tami

As I said in my last post, we were very sad to leave beautiful Kaikoura. However, we were very much looking forward to visiting Christchurch. Most tourists head to this city of 350,000 for its cosmopolitan vibe and english charm; we, on the other hand, were on a more important mission - we needed books! Quicker than you can say "goodbye $200" our book bag was much heavier and our wallets were much lighter. (Books, even used ones, are dreadfully expensive here.)

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In walking around the city in search of reading material our first impression of Christchurch was not completely positive. It was cold, drizzling, and a bit on the dirty side with lots of graffiti and more than its fair share of dodgy establishments. But, as they say, first impressions are not always accurate. The next morning we headed out from our apartment to explore.

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We began a block to the west with the Botanic Gardens. The girls enjoyed visiting Peacock Fountain, looking at all the beautful flowers, and climbing trees planted back in the mid to late 1800's.

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Next we headed over to the Antique Boatshed to experience punting down the Avon River. The last time someone paddled us around in a small watercraft, we were looking for caiman in the dead of night. This experience was much more relaxing, though certainly not as exciting.

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After our ride, Maya bought some bread and we fed the ducks and eels.

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We were hungry too, so we stayed right in the gardens and ate lunch at the charming Curator's House Restaurant - excellent tapas of all things.

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We walked around the park for the rest of the day, enjoying the scenery and doing a little birdwatching.

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The next morning we headed off early to Science Alive. Unfortunately, a huge school group arrived at exactly the same time. It was a bit crowded but the staff really went out of their way to make sure we didn't feel slighted. We all took turns on something called the Vertical Slide. I actually almost chickened out up at the top, because as its name implies, the drop is vertical. I sucked it up and let out a good scream for all those little school kids to hear. (Sorry, no accompanying photos or video.)

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It was absolutely fabulous. We learned all about Antarctic exploration, past and present. The storm room simulated an Antarctic winter storm, with below freezing temperature, blasting winds, and darkness. Fortunately they handed out special parkas prior to the experience; it was truly freezing. In between storms, the girls played in the igloo and on the ice slide.

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Next up was an off-road ride in the Hagglund, a type of tracked vehicle used for traversing the dangerous antarctic terrain. The driver was a crackup. When we were reading the posted safety information, he pulled us along and said, "Never mind that, safety rules are only for Americans." True to New Zealand form, the ride was absolutely wild. They went full speed up and down hills, traversed crevasses, and demonstrated the vehicle's ability to drive on the side of sloped terrain even at extreme angles. And most interesting to me was that a vehicle weighing 4,500 kilograms could also float. We tested out the Hagglund's amphibious abilities in a three meter deep pond. This vehicle was truly amazing.

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You'd think storms, crazy vehicle rides and playing in the snow would be fun enough, but no, the real thrill was our Backstage Penguin Encounter. The girls learned all about water purification and played a hands-on roll in purifying the center's penguin tank. We then learned quite a bit of background information about the resident Little Blue Penguins - followed by an up close meeting with two. Austin and Pedro were absolutely adorable - cuter than a basket full of kittens or a bucket of puppies.

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After such a thrilling encounter with tame penguins, we left Christchurch the next morning heading off in search of wild ones.

Posted by RTMM 23:20 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

Kaikoura

OUR FIRST STOP ON THE SOUTH ISLAND

by: Tami

I just realized today that our family has not added a single post from the South Island. Not very good blogging form I suppose, as our last post described our family's close brushes with disaster. Please accept our apologies.

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After a completely non-disastrous crossing of the Cook Strait, we secured our new rental car and headed south, down the eastern coast. What a beautiful drive - mountains, the ocean, and hardly a human in sight. After about two hours we arrived in Kaikoura. The I-site tourist assistance person set us up with a great apartment. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, washer AND dryer (a true luxury after having to dry our wet clothes with geothermal radiators in Rotorua), plus it was only a five minute walk into town, had a view of the snow-capped mountains and was right across the street from the ocean. We spent five glorious days relaxing, doing school work, visiting the local candy shop, and soaking in all the natural beauty surrounding us.

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While Madeline and Maya would probably rate their daily visits to the candy shop as the #1 reason to visit Kaikoura, I would heartily disagree. My favorite activity of the whole trip was the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway - a 11.7 kilometer walk along the ocean front. It was absolutely spectacular! We visited a seal colony, walked through pastures, along deserted hilltop ridges, down to explore tide pools and a red-billed gull colony, then up again through fields of wildflowers. We crossed elevated tracks through a marshy area of oyster catchers, shags, and some Maori art pieces. At this point, I began to realize just how far 11.7 kilometers seemed to my tired, old, legs; that's 7+ miles, up and down hills. Fortunately the Department of Conservation track designers finagled the property rights to a direct route through private forest lands back over the hills and into town. Needless to say, I was quite tuckered out by the end of the walk. (I even gave the girls each a PE credit for making it to the end with no complaints.)

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We were all sad to depart such an enjoyable city. I'm still trying to figure out how we can swing a return visit before we have to head back to the North Island.

Posted by RTMM 19:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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