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Dunedin Travel Blog

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Benmore Dam is a real drama queen, when she spills water, she does it in a spectacular way.

Another day starts and once again we don’t manage sleeping until our alarm clock sounds. At 6.45 my dad snores us out of a quiet sleep for the fourth time and we figure we might as well get up now. Since we were so late in the hotel yesterday we didn’t unpack much of our stuff, so there isn’t much to pack either. The restaurant is not in the same wing of the hotel as our room, but it is decorated very much like it. Lots of browns and warm reds, it all gives me the feeling of being in a well heated log cabin in the mountains with snow piling up high outside. As I said; it’s just a feeling, because the sky outside is blue as ever and the temperature isn’t bad either.

Obviously they’re not used to early birds here, when we enter the breakfast area the staff are still preparing.

Aviemore Dam, also spilling, less special effects.
Only the cold buffet has already been set up. Basically that’s all we need, so there’s no harm done, although it takes them quite a long time to supply us with a couple of slices of toast… The quality and taste of it all is fine, so I’m not complaining.

When we have put our belongings in the car, we drive to the town centre again. We saw a supermarket there yesterday and want to take in some supplies for on the way. Our destination today is Dunedin, but there are several things to see en route. Up until Benmore Dam we are eating the kilometers away, from then on we are playing tourist again. We get off SH83 and take the slow, but beautiful road that winds along the northern shoreline of Lake  Aviemore. The first dam we encounter is Benmore Dam, which is part of a power plant.

An itchy family, meeting visitors on the edge of town.
We are in luck, because the dam is spilling water, which is a spectacular sight. There has been so much rain in the last couple of weeks that the lake is filled to the brim and therefore the water is let out under controlled circumstances. Thousands of liters of water rush down a steep concrete canal, gushing meters up into the air before plunging into the river and calming down again. We can’t resist stopping a few more times (even on top of the dam), before winding our way towards Aviemore Dam. Aviemore Dam is also spilling, but in a less dramatic way, here the water slides down gently into the river below, without the special effects. This was one of the better drives so far. There’s one more stop along Lake Aviemore, near the Waitaki power station, although not very spectacular, still worth a couple of minutes…

A little further down the road, the people of a village we are passing through have been showing off their creativity by building a complete family out of hay bales.

The Maori paintings weren't quite what I expected...
Before we reach Duntroon, we stop to check out some Maori rock paintings that, to preserve them,  have been placed behind a fence. It makes sense, but it does take away some of the magic. But the famous paintings are still to come.

With Duntroon behind us we pull over near the Maori paintings that this region is renowned for. These too are behind fences and to be honest, I expected something more than the vague sketches I am looking at right now. With the help of the signs that tell us what to see, we can make out a boat, dolphin like creatures and some people. I guess I got my hopes up a bit too much…

The Elephant Rocks are our next break, a strange scene in a hilly landscape: in a sheep paddock huge limestone boulders that have been shaped by wind and water lie around, looking like bulky deformed monsters or, if you open your mind’s eye, elephants.

The site of the Elephant Rocks was the location of Aslan's camp in The Chronicles of Narnia.
A peaceful place if it weren’t for cars coming and going with people on a day out. We never get the feeling here that we are going boldly where no man has gone before. Still it remains a place that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. For the film fans: It was Aslan’s camp in the 2005 Narnia movie!

When we have finished our stroll between the stone elephants we start our drive over the winding road towards Oamaru. It’s quite a long drive and as time goes by the sun, that is shining in my eyes makes me more and more drowsy. We drive straight to the centre of the village, where we park our car at an expense of 60 dollar cents per hour.  In the spur of the moment I let it all hang out and chuck in a whole dollar.

The church in Oamaru.
It’s a little past lunchtime now and my stomach is growling like a mad dog, so the first thing we do is eat our French bread with cheese and shop for extra supplies in the Countdown supermarket. Then, most important of all, we go to the pharmacy. My hay fever is acting up seriously and my medication is on the shelf at home in Holland. The lady behind the counter asks what she can help me with and my answer “A preferably instant cure for hay fever” makes her smile. Within seconds she’s back with a small box and the pills inside should do the trick. When I mention my epilepsy she dashes off again to make sure that my medication will not wage war on the new drugs. And I’m glad to hear that the two will get along fine.

Knowing that the medicine will kick in within the next twenty minutes we walk to the Harbour and Tyne Historic Precinct, which is known for its commercial buildings from the 19th century, built in a colourful array of styles, from Gothic revival to Venetian Palazzo.

Harbour and Tyne Historic Precinct in Oamaru.
They do have on thing in common: they are all built from local limestone a.k.a. Oamaru stone or whitestone. Today they house a bookshop, a theatre and a museum. Still, thinking away the odd car or two, it breathes the atmosphere of 200 years ago.

We get back to the car just before my parking-dollar runs out, and it’s a good thing we do, because only metres away an officer is fining people that didn’t make it back in time.  Just outside the town there is supposed to be a penguin colony and it looks good from a distance, birdlike creatures galore on the rocky shoreline, but when we have parked the car and take a better look there isn’t a penguin to be sighted. The “penguins” we saw are all cormorants that look like penguins when they sit in a certain way.

Even giant marbles break when you drop them too hard...
This minor setback doesn’t spoil our day, we simply take Wharf Street out of Oamaru, towards Kakanui, following the lovely coastal road. Part of this road is under construction, rendering the State Highway the only option to get to Moeraki. Not as beautiful, but a lot faster.

The moment we get to the parking of the Moeraki Boulders we can tell that this, too is a place where every passing tourist pulls over. It is about a ten minute beach walk to the actual site of the boulders and I decide to take off my shoes, the spots I want to take pictures from will get me wet feet anyhow, so I might as well do it now.  It is almost impossible to take any pictures without a flock of tourists on them, but some of the more remote boulders are deserted.  Nobody really knows how the boulders got here, of course it is a phenomenon of natural wear, but it looks like some giant child dropped its marbles and walked away.

The Moeraki Boulders, it's like a giant kid dropped his marbles here.

After cleaning and drying my feet we start the final stretch to Dunedin. Even though the clock is ticking towards five in the afternoon, traffic is quiet and we get to the city pretty fast.  We refuel the car for 61 dollars (1,039 dollar/litre) and follow the instructions of the service station attendant to get to the hotel. After a 268 kilometre drive today, the car finally gets a rest on the parking of the Mercure Leisure Lodge. Our room isn’t big, but it suffices.

We walk towards the city centre to find a restaurant called Bisztro, Lonely Planet’s choice. We find the address, but the place has a new owner, a new name (Rainforest) and a new type of food (Malay).

Town Hall in Dunedin.
We go in anyway , Trudy and I love Indonesian food (not the same, but close) and my dad is willing to adapt. We have a lovely meal, with a lovely satay amongst other things, but tomorrow I’d like to see a huge piece of meat on my plate.

To get our digestion going we walk to the Octagon, an eight sided roundabout-ish square with its old buildings, i.e. St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and the Town Hall and Municipal Chambers. We conclude our walk with a visit to Dunedin’s Railway Station, built in 1906 and probably the prettiest stone building in the whole of New Zealand. The designer of the structure, George Troup, was knighted for it. The building is completely erected in Flemish renaissance style and has a glorious departure hall with a nine panel mosaic floor, depicting a small English Puffing Billy (classical steam engine).

Dunedin Railway Station, one of the prettiest stone buildings in New Zealand.
A video is playing on an LCD tv, showing the route the tourist train runs nowadays. We note that, should this tv have stood on a Dutch railway station without anyone guarding it, it wouldn’t have been there for more than five minutes. The tourist train to Taieri Gorge is spending the night at the station. Pity that the old steam engine has been replaced with a diesel powered locomotive. The carriages haven’t been replaced and still exuberate romance and nostalgia.

It’s getting chilly and we walk back to the hotel, walking past the Speight’s brewery and the Cadbury’s chocolate factory. My cell phone rings as soon as we are in our room, my mum, after several attempts she finally got through. She’s very happy now, but all the futile efforts before drove her frustrations almost through the roof.

The glorious departures hall of the Dunedin Railway Station.
All’s well in Holland and we all can doze off into a peaceful sleep.

hummingbird50 says:
Oooo I wanna go there:)
Posted on: Nov 13, 2009
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Benmore Dam is a real drama queen,…
Benmore Dam is a real drama queen…
Aviemore Dam, also spilling, less …
Aviemore Dam, also spilling, less…
An itchy family, meeting visitors …
An itchy family, meeting visitors…
The Maori paintings werent quite …
The Maori paintings weren't quite…
The site of the Elephant Rocks was…
The site of the Elephant Rocks wa…
The church in Oamaru.
The church in Oamaru.
Harbour and Tyne Historic Precinct…
Harbour and Tyne Historic Precinc…
Even giant marbles break when you …
Even giant marbles break when you…
The Moeraki Boulders, its like a …
The Moeraki Boulders, it's like a…
Town Hall in Dunedin.
Town Hall in Dunedin.
Dunedin Railway Station, one of th…
Dunedin Railway Station, one of t…
The glorious departures hall of th…
The glorious departures hall of t…
The train to Taieri Gorge.
The train to Taieri Gorge.
The mosaic floor of the Dunedin Ra…
The mosaic floor of the Dunedin R…
A beautiful stain glass window in …
A beautiful stain glass window in…
The power station seen from the to…
The power station seen from the t…
Waitaki Power Station, a little do…
Waitaki Power Station, a little d…
401 km (249 miles) traveled
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photo by: crystalware