Dunedin

This travelling lark isn’t all glamour you know. Even in a great country like New Zealand.

When travelling through Central Otago on our way to Queenstown the girl who served us the fruit ice cream mentioned that she hailed from Dunedin. When we asked what it was like she told us not to go there as it was crap.

The day had begun well enough. We stopped off to watch some people bungying off a bridge just outside Queenstown. Then we detoured off to Naseby, a tiny village which houses the NZ National Curling Rink. We only wanted to watch a game but after 5 minutes we changed our minds and donned some warmer clothes. Curling is bloody difficult. It’s very similar to lawn/indoor bowls but much harder. We had a 5 minute lesson and were then left to our own devices. We didn’t bother with brooms and the one slippery shoe, but we did play 4 ends. And despite flirting with competence (I got a thumbs up from someone in the gallery at one point) we could barely get our stones to stop in the target area. The margins of error are so small. That said I would definately play again given the chance.

(more technique you can’t teach)


Now we tended to think that people have a unfairly negative view of their own home town. But in this case we may well have been better served if we had taken the ice cream girl’s advice. She clearly had a point. On our way to Dunedin we started to call the hostels around lunchtime. After unsuccessfully trying to book into 3 or 4 we eventually found out that a huge motocross festival was in town. We continued to phone around and just before giving up we managed to secure 2 dorm beds in separate rooms at a large hostel.

We arrived around 5pm and were greeted by the welcome sight of a mouldy sofa on the doorstep. Upon entering drum and bass music was being played loudly from a stereo in the corridor. The staff seemed a little vacant though soon redeemed themselves with an excellent overview of what was available for tourists locally. We chose which dorm we each fancied. Claire had the room full of women and I had the room with the weird people.

Then we wandered into the city centre for a drink in a Scottish Bar. Dunedin has Velvet Burger, its very own answer to the Fergburger, so on our way back I ordered their flagship burger. It was good. Slightly better than the Fergburger in fact.

That night I slept like a baby courtesy of wedging ear plugs deep into my ear canals. However weird room mate’s 1 and 2 did not as weird room mate 3 apparently snored like a train. I happily stressed the wonders of ear plugs to 1 and 2 in the morning but they seemed to be far from interested….weirdly.

That morning Claire phoned another hostel in Dunedin which received rave reviews in the Guide Book. Amazingly they had a room free and incredibly it was only $40 per night. Cheaper than the dorm rooms the night before.

Upon arrival at our new hostel, which doubled as a B&B, we found it quirky but altogether very pleasant. Then the host showed us to our room….in the decrepid house out back. The room wasn’t pleasant. Clearly this was where the embarrassing backpackers were hidden. Having nowhere else to stay we thought we would grin and bare it for one night.

We then went to visit the world’s steepest street. Which really is steep. The hire car only just made it, dodging the gobstoppers being rolled down the road by kids as it laboured. The road is 1:2.8 at its steepest part and an annual race is held for runners to run up and then down each year. We tried to run just the top section which was hard work.

Then we moved on to the highlight of the day, the Tairi Gorge Railway. This is an old railway built through the most challenging of terrain that had been shut down some years ago. But the people of Dunedin had bought it to run as a tourist attraction. And what a tourist attraction it is! This part of this blog is dedicated to my nephew William. He loves trains. Though not as much as my dad, who is an ardent trainspotter. At this point he is being ushered up the stairs to make only his 6th reluctant trip to a computer.

The railway winds its way along a deep gorge by way of cuttings, viaducts, tunnels and embankments, all the time climbing from sea level up to the station of Pukerangi which is way above sea level. The pictures probably don’t do it justice. All through the trip the on board expert Allan gave a superb commentary, though I missed some of this as I was outside between carriages jockeying for position to take photographs.

When we returned to our hostel a couple of guests had appeared but the mood within the backpackers shack remained sombre. As I walked out to the car I passed the main house to hear jovial laughter from the many big spending B&B guests. One of our new shackmates was a scruffy chap of unknown nationality who only appeared briefly to complain that I had put the tv on. He turned it off and returned to his room. Images of him having a large knife prompted me to zip it (for a change). How we longed to be back in the previous nights crappy hostel!

The next morning we got up early and hit the road.

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