I spent a
week in Dunedin waiting for the rain to stop so I could go out and explore the
area, but the rain never quit so I had to console myself by perusing through my Lonely
Planet guidebook, looking at the beautiful pictures of the Dunedin area, including
the Otago Peninsula. According to my guidebook, the peninsula is a
beautiful pastoral area just east of the city, about 20 miles long.
Speaking of rain, when I was a kid, this song was one of my favorites. These are
The Irish Rovers singing about The Unicorn.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
several days of waiting, I finally drove out to the peninsula, but I didn't see
much of anything but clouds and driving rain. I kept referring to the
pictures in my guidebook to see what it would've looked like if it was sunny --
yeah, O.K., it was pretty pathetic.
There's an albatross colony out on the Otago Peninsula, though, which was pretty interesting.
Albatrosses are seabirds that fly
thousands of miles each year during their migrations, and they nest only in a
few places around the world, including here in New Zealand. Albatrosses
are also HUGE -- imagine a seagull that's as big as a turkey and you'll get an
idea of what they look like. Seeing one of
these humongous birds for the first time, I finally understood the term, "Like an albatross around my neck."
And, for some odd reason, I started thinking of cranberry sauce and
into town several times during my week in Dunedin and strolled along George
Street, the main thoroughfare. Despite being soaked, Dunedin was really
hopping, this being the middle of the six-week summer holiday. I headed
down to the train station one afternoon to take the 4-hour scenic train ride
through the Taieri Gorge, something like the Durango-Silverton train ride in
Colorado, but the train was just about
full and I didn't think I'll have a very good time sitting cramped on a steamy
train in an aisle seat, so I decided instead to get some fish and chips from a
takeout, go back to my motel room, and turn on the T.V. and watch the New Zealand Black Caps cricket match that afternoon against
Australia. First, however, I wanted to visit Baldwin Street.
than the rain and the albatrosses, the thing I'll probably remember most about
Dunedin is Baldwin Street, which is reputedly the steepest street in the world.
Unfortunately, though, my photos on this page don't do it justice. When I first saw
Baldwin Street, my jaw dropped. I didn't have the nerve to try to drive my
Corolla up the street because I wasn't sure if it would make it -- or if the
brakes would work well enough on the way down -- so I hiked to
the top, during which I had to stop twice to catch my breath. Yep, I imagine the folks who deliver the
newspapers and mail here get big tips.
Above left: This is what Dunedin looked like
during the week that I was there. The rain gave me a chance, though, to
update my website and return e-mails.
Above center: The Railway Station, still
in use, is probably the most beautiful building in Dunedin.
Above right: This is inside the Railway Station. I was going to take a scenic
all-day rail trip from here, but the train was packed.
Above left: According to the Guinness Book of
World Records, Baldwin Street in Dunedin with a 35% slope is the steepest
street in the world.
Above center: Don't people here know how
to build houses?
Above right: Just foolin'. Actually, this is what the houses on
Baldwin Street look like. Cars have to get a running start before driving
up the street.
Above left: George Street, the main
thoroughfare in Dunedin.
Above right: Folks told me that this creek
at Otago University is normally just a trickle.
Green Acres, New Zealand Style
waiting for a week in Dunedin, I left to search for sunnier climes. As I
was checking out of the Acadian Motel, the friendly owner apologized profusely
for the weather and assured me that Dunedin is actually a wonderful city, which
I assured her it seemed to
be. Hopefully, I'll see the "real" Dunedin the next time I visit New
continued heading south that morning and drove through an area on the
southeastern coast known as the Catlins, which is one of the most remote places
in New Zealand. There aren't a lot of people in the Catlins and the
highway becomes a dirt road (or "unsealed" road, as they call it
here). Since my car isn't insured on unsealed roads, I was a little
apprehensive about driving through the Catlins but the road is pretty wide
and there wasn't a lot of traffic, so I didn't have any trouble. Since I'd
been dealing with a lot of crowds all through New Zealand for the previous
month, the Catlins were a nice break and, probably for the first time, I felt
like I was seeing the real New Zealand.
sun finally emerged late that afternoon as I pulled into Invercargill (pop.
50,000), a farming city on the very southern tip of the South Island and about
as far south as you can drive in New Zealand. Invercargill is the butt of
a lot of jokes in New Zealand since it's a pretty rural area and there are a lot
of farms in this area -- definitely life in the slow lane. A few days
earlier, I had talked to some adventure-seeking teenagers and when I said I was
going to Invercargill, they asked me one question:
Here's the theme to
Green Acres. Those younger than about 30 have probably
never seen this show (which is fortunate).
RealPlayer. If problems, see
was a nice change of pace, though, because every city that I'd visited in New
Zealand up until now boasted a myriad of adrenalin-pumping experiences,
including jet-boat rides, white-water rafting, hang-gliding, bungy-jumping,
sea-kayaking, and a lot of other hyphenated thrill activities which can whittle
down your wallet in no time flat. The most exciting thing to do in
Invercargill was visit the Southland Museum (which I did) and walk around the
beautiful downtown area (which I also did). More than any other place I've
visited yet in New Zealand, Invercargill reminded me of a large Midwestern farm
town, something like a Bismarck or Wichita, which was all the more reason to
isn't real exciting, but it seems pretty down-to-earth and the folks there take
life a little slower than elsewhere in New Zealand. During my two days
there, I got a good feeling for the town and, although it's the antithesis of all
those New Zealand action-adventure towns, I liked Invercargill a lot. The thrill-seekers can stay in
Queenstown or Wanaka, as far as I'm concerned -- I'll take Invercargill any
Above left: After a week of rain, I left
Dunedin and headed south. This is Nugget Point on the southeastern coast
of the South Island... and yes, it's a real nugget.
Above center: Driving across the Catlins,
probably the most remote part of New Zealand.
Above right: Only 4 million people live in this country but there are 48 million sheep.
I think I've seen most of them.
Above left: Invercargill is about as far south
as you can go in New Zealand. With a lot of farmland nearby and all the
John Deere Tractor places, it feels like a Midwestern city. And, like a
lot of Midwestern cities, there isn't a whole lot to do in Invercargill -- but
maybe that's why I liked
Above center: The Southland Museum in
Invercargill is the best museum I've visited so far in New Zealand.
Above right: Getting some Fish and Chips from a seafood market in
Above left: Literally the end of the road. This
in Bluff, a few miles south of Invercargill and as far south as you can drive
in New Zealand.
Above center: Surfer dude along the
Above right: The sausage capital of New Zealand? This is my kind of
Above left: A few more of those 48 million
Above center: Monkey Island on the
southern coast, where I was first introduced to New Zealand's notorious biting
Above right: Clifden suspension bridge, built in the 1800s.
Above left: On the beautiful drive from
Invercargill to Te Anau in southwestern New Zealand.
Above right: Sunset on Lake Te Anau, the
second-largest lake in New Zealand.
(Doubtful) Sound of Silence
left Invercargill on an overcast morning and headed north to Te Anau (pronounced "Tay ANN-ow,"
pop. 2,000), a bustling summer resort town and the activity hub of Fiordland, a
beautiful area of southwestern New Zealand with lots of... well... fiords.
If you studied geography in college like I did for eight years,
you probably know that a fiord is a glaciated valley that's been submerged by the
sea, and there are lots of fiordish things to do in this area
during the summer time, such as fiord cruises and fiord aerial sightseeing.
Left: The Fiordland National Park Visitor Center in Te Anau.
can also go hiking, or "tramping" as they call it in New Zealand, on
two of the most popular trails in the country, the Milford and Routeburn
tracks. These two
trails are supposed to be spectacular but, on the other hand, they're immensely
popular and you need to make reservations months in advance to hike on them, and
even then your itinerary is strictly regimented.
You can't camp on these
trails; you have to stay in communal huts and can only spend one night in each hut,
no matter how bad the weather is. These kinds of Disneyland
regulations are essential, I'm sure. However, they don't appeal to me, so I didn't try to do any hiking
there. Plus, the idea of sharing a hut with 35 people I don't know, many
of whom are drying their wet socks and underwear doesn't really float my
boat. Yeah, the guidebooks say that staying in New Zealand's tramping huts is a good way to meet
people, but I've got this strange philosophy that says you go backpacking to get
AWAY from people.
therefore, was out of the picture and I'm too cheap to go aerial sightseeing, but I really wanted to do the
fiord cruises since I'd heard a lot of good things about them, so cruise I
did. I spent three days in Te Anau and took a cruise on Doubtful Sound one
day and a cruise on Milford Sound the next. They were two very different
cruises and I'm glad I did each.
Sound was named back in the 1700’s by Captain James Cook during his
exploration of New Zealand. As Cook
approached the narrow sound on his ship, the H.M.S. Discovery, he decided not to
enter it because the prevailing wind direction made him doubtful that, once
inside the sound, he would be able to leave.
Today, Doubtful Sound is still pretty difficult to get to -- in fact, I
had to do an all-day trip to get out to it. First, our group rode a boat
across a lake for an hour, then we hopped on a bus and rode down to the sound
where we boarded another boat to cruise on the sound.
After a spectacular 3-hour cruise, we then repeated the whole procedure
in reverse to get back to Te Anau. I know it sounds complicated but it's
definitely worth it.
Left: During my three nights in Te
Anau I stayed at the Alpenhorn Motel, which I highly recommend. I had
several nice long talks with Tony, the friendly owner.
best part of the cruise was when the captain brought the boat right up to the
edge of a precipitous cliff that plunged straight down into the water, cut the
engines, and asked everyone to be quiet. For
the next three minutes, everyone stood still and we enjoyed what the captain
called “The Sound of Silence,” hearing only the seagulls crying and the
water dripping off the cliffs from three hundred feet above.
only bad thing about the cruise was the group of a dozen or so retired Americans
who went along. A few of them were nice, but a lot of them were your
typical and much-dreaded "Ugly Americans" -- very loud, rude, whining,
The 50ish woman whom I had the misfortune to sit next to on
the bus ride back got really agitated about a single sandfly that was flying
around inside the bus. With a
sadistic smile, she took out a can of insect repellent and proceeded to
empty the entire contents of the can inside the hermetically-sealed bus.
I don’t know if the sandfly bit the dust, but several tourists on the
bus nearly did and you could hear the coughing and wheezing all the way to
Invercargill. That group of
Americans was something else, and being the only other American on board, I felt
like putting a sign around my neck saying, "I'm not with them."
Other than that, though, it was a terrific cruise and I had a great time. We
didn't see any other boats during our cruise on Doubtful Sound and it was all
very memorable. So if you ever get a chance to see it, don’t be doubtful like
Captain Cook – go for it.
Above left: I spent a few days in Te Anau and
while there, took a day-long cruise to Doubtful Sound.
Actually, it's a four-part trip all crammed into 8 hours, with Part One being a boat ride across Manapouri
Above center: Cruising with the Ugly
Americans across Manapouri
Lake in the morning.
Above right: Part Two is a bus ride down to Doubtful Sound, which is on the
Above left: Part Three is a cruise on Doubtful
Sound. Captain Cook named this sound in the 1770s because, due to the
winds, he was doubtful he could sail back out of it, so he never entered.
Above center: Seal colony on some small
islands in the Tasman
Sea, at the mouth of Doubtful Sound. Next stop, Australia.
Above right: Part Four is a visit to the hydroelectric plant that links
Lake Manapouri with Doubtful Sound.
Left: Here's a diagram of the hydroelectric
plant, with Lake Manapouri on the left.
Our bus took us down in a tunnel
(the yellow line) hundreds of feet below the surface. I liked the tunnel ride almost as much
as the cruise on the sound.
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
New Zealand Trip
> January 16, 2002 (Page 1)