Today we arrive in Dunedin, a city of 130,000 and New Zealand’s oldest city. It is a university city which this year will celebrate it’s 150th anniversary. The Maori’s settled here four centuries ago attracted to the lush hills and valleys at the head of a long harbour. They called it Otepoti. IN 1848 Scottish immigrants established a settlement and gave it the Celtic name for Edinburgh: Dunedin.
Like much of the South Island, the discovery of gold in 1861, put it on the map. It became the gateway to the gold fields and accounted for it’s rich heritage of Victorian and Edwardian homes. As well it is infamous for it’s train station and the vintage railcars to the Taieri Gorge.
We come into Port Chambers, a quaint little town, which is a 20 minute shuttle ride into Dunedin and they are running continuous. We disembark about 10 am and jump on the next shuttle which takes us the historic centre of town call the Octagon named for the circular gathering point where 8 roads come off.
Around the circle are the St Paul’s Anglican cathedral with a parish that has been active sinc3 1852 with the church itself dating to 1863, built for the grand price of 3140 pounds.. While it has been renovated many times part of one of the original walls remains as well as some of it’s stained glass. The stain glass is lovely but the church is otherwise boring. The most spectacular window is the Great War Memorial honouring those who lost their lives in WWI. This is quite common, interesting you almost never see anything for WWII.
The ship has reported a temperature of 26, some cloud but no chance of rain. Boy did they get that wrong. As we head down toward the railway station, the chilling wind picks up, it starts to spit and the clouds seem dark. Fortunately it doesn’t really last but the winds remain and it is cold, we are definitelu not dressed for this.
ALong this street are site of the old law courts from 1859, home to the first court house and prison at the foot of Bell Hill. Today what we see are the building that between 1895 and 1902 replaced the original. It is a formative brick building that would dominate the street if not for the Railway Station that is kitty corner.
The station is an immense and impressive building built between 1873 and 1906 and at the time was the largest and busiest in New Zealnad. Built in a renaissance style it is made from two types of local stone; dark volcanice and lime stone. All it’s columns are granite and the inside is beautiful tile. In front is a large square known as Anzac after the Austrailiand and New Zealand forces that served in WWI. See what I mean.
From here we head up Bell Hill to the First Church of Otago province. Convicts workedr with pick and shovel to lover the hill 40 ft and created the spacious grounds. The removed rocks and dirt were used to reclaim the harbour which is now on the other side of the railway station where previous is was a the foot of the Law Courts.
It became, in home of the first Presbyterian Church of Otago established by the Rev. Thomas Burns, nephew of the famous poet and Scotsman, Robbie Burns. He was the first reverend and for 7 years, starting in 1848, the only minister. He continue to be active till his death in 1871. The current church on this spot dates from 1873.
It is time for something to eat and drink, get out of the cold, and most importantly internet so that I can post a blog and we can get in touch. We stop at the Dunedin Social Club, which is on one edge of the Octagon. Across in the middle there is live bands and dancing as today is Waitangi Day, or New Zealand Independence.
We have a local beer and then some Duck Fat Pototo Skins. Yes, you saw that right. Nice and crunchy, not greasy, pretty tasty. I load the picture, which takes some time and then wait till the software has them available to label. Only to find out I have put the Sydney pictures on and so I have to start again.Frustrating!
We run into Sharon and Graham and they join us for a drink and then we head off in opposite directions. We start up the hill to find one of the old Victorian Homes, Olveston House. There are plenty of old homes on route and you can see how this would have been spectacular in it’s heyday. Today many are very run down and appear to be made into split places for university students.
Unfortunately we are 7 minutes too late for the next tour and the last one is to late for our timing to get back to the boat. So we head back down the hill to the university. The Clocktower building that dates back to 1869 is amazing. Made very much in the same style as the railway station and equally stunning.
The hike back to the Octagon and the shuttle to get ourselves back about 4:30. Plenty of time. Gail’s leg is really bothering her today and I don’t think the steep hill up to the Victorian homes helped. We try and hottub in the Solarium and it gives some relief but she decides that she is going to just stay in and rest it tonight.
Fortunately we had arranged to meet Nick and Jayne for drinks and I join them for dinner. Nick is feelin a little under the weather as the server had given him a far bit of brandy the night before It is an enjoyable evening and we agree, just in case we don’t see each other, that we will meet for drinks and have dinner together on the last night.
This morning we arrive outside Akaroa,set in French Bay in the Pacific. It is the port now used for Christchurch as their port was destroyed in the earthquake. This is a tender day, which I hate. It is all a matter of trying to get the card at the right time. When I go originally she informs us we need to be able to go right away as it is card 3. But we haven’t had breakfast yet. By the time we get back they are giving out 10 and 2 hasn’t even left yet! Frustrating. Could be waiting a long time because, of course, the paid for Shore Excursions go first.
We have decided to just stay around Akaroa which is suppose to be a quaint town and it is an hour and half bus ride to Christchurch. That is not our idea of a fun day and could really wreck havoc with Gail’s leg sitting in an uncomfortable bus all day.
In the end we get on a tender for the 25 minute ride at 11:05 am. The passengers, to say the least, are not happy. The biggest issue has been lack of communication. It turns out that no tenders were leaving for almost an hour and a half. Their story was swells, well if you look out the window it looks incredibly calm to all of us. I am sure there will be a lot of complaints today.
When we finally get on shore we find a cute town of old cottages most of which are now shops or accommodations.In Maori Akaroa means ‘Long Harbour’. Historically the Bank Peninsula was considered the storehouse of the Rakaihauti one of the early explorers of the area.
There is a huge French influence here, included the town logo has a French flag under it’s name. Founded by a French explorer Jean Francois Langlois in the early 1800’s he purchased a parcel of land and then headed home to tell others. In 1840 63 emigrants came from Rochefort France landing fidrst in the Bay of Islands and then venturing on to Akaroa. Thinking that this would be their land they found the British had already claimed it. None the less, the numbers that settled here had enough people to create a strong French influence.
We wander the streets through some lovely old cottages and some in much disrepair. This area did not escape totally the destruction of the earthquake. There is a large outdoor garden off one of the cottages turned into a restaurant and wine bar. We decide, as they have live music, to stop of a glass of Chardonney, Alan Scott’s which we had visited.
Then back to the waterfront for lunch where Gail has clams and me a pate parfait. Once again the shellfish, like the mussels, are just okay. Time for Gail to stop having New Zealand shellfish.
We decide to take the tender back and the weather has decided to cooperate. That means we can sit up top in the sunshine and get some great shots. The area is in the heart of an ancient volcano and around the dark soil is the lush hillsides we have come to know as typical in New Zealand.
When we get back Gail heads down to see the doctor and see if there is anything stronger they can give her for her leg. I head to the poolside as there is little breeze now and the sun is shining. Gail joins me with her new pills… hope they work. We read a little, then have a hottub before getting ready and heading out for dinner.
Tonight we are joined by a little old man from UK, Ron, travelling on his own and two ladies in early 50’s from US who are both in the restaurant business. Ron has a great sense of humour and is thrilled to have a table of ladies all to himself. A fun evening.