After winding our way around the Catlins, we were greeted with more spectacular views in Dunedin. The second-largest city on the South Island is named after Edinburgh, Scotland. Dunedin is a mixture of college town with European flair with the friendly Kiwi feel. When they designed the city, they failed to consider the topography allowing for the creation of the steepest residential road in the world (we decided to skip out on walking up that road). Instead of a town square or circle in the middle of downtown – hold on to your hats – Dunedin has an octagon. Jokes about Octagon fights might have occurred – first rule of Dunedin Octagon – don’t talk about Octagon cage fights. Alright, alright – the octagon is nothing like that. Instead, it’s a a string of roads intersecting in a cool octagon shape where they have lots of cool shops, restaurants, markets and events.
We checked out the Valentine’s Day Market Thieves Alley Market in the Octagon (still sounds better if you say it in a wrestling voice). Check out what some people were wearing here. The market was packed with people, live music, and of course our favorite taco truck. While the day started off dark and dreary, the sun came out allowing everyone to stroll the market enjoying sunny weather.
Arriving in Dunedin- we drove to meet Kim and Matt -friends of friends who were kind enough to host us for a few days. We’ve met quite a few people on the road and gotten to hear lots of stories, but always in passing. It was really nice to get to meet Matt and Kim – hear their stories and get to share their world for a bit. And what a world. The dynamic duo moved from Denver to Dunedin a few years ago to start their own taco truck. Genius since New Zealanders don’t have a lot of Mexican or Tex Mex. In fact – when buying canned jalapenos at the grocery store, the clerk eyed the mysterious jar before scanning it with a “humph.” Matt and Kim are also theatre gurus. Matt just did the sound engineering for a production and Kim was in her opening week of directing a play at the local University (Uni in Kiwi). In the midst of one of their busiest weeks, they took the time to show us around the city, provide us with a home cooked meal of Enchiladas (frickin delcious), joked with us about the difference in culture and made us feel welcome. All while we got to enjoy the views from their house.
A few days later, we moved further down the Peninsula to a place we had rented. Let’s talk about the road around Otago Peninsula for a moment. The road boarders the water with no median on the side. Kim and Matt joked they were told you’re not a real local til you take a trip in the drink. We avoided it as much as possible, but the road is not for the feint of heart. But the views. Sigh.
The rental house was pretty far down the not-for-feint-of-heart road. When picking up the keys -across town- the lovely couple that owned it asked us about our travels and gave us fresh green beans and courgette (zucchini) from their garden. We were greeted with views of the seagull highway (the seagulls are surprisingly absent from this photo). While the sun went away for most our stay, it was amazing to look out the window and be greeted by the beautiful lake. At night, it also provided us with a clear view of bright, starry nights in New Zealand. The night sky really does look different here.
The rental house was also pretty close to glamping – glamorous camping. The only available water is rain water, so we had to drink bottled water or boil water for coffee and such. The cottage had a lovely Foreman Grill that Will got really excited about and made a grilled sandwich every opportunity he got. We played New Zealand monopoloy (excited to see different places we had visited on the board) and listened to Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park (the only CD the cottage had to listen to). Glamorous Camping at its finest.
We ventured out and into Dunedin to see Matt and Kim in action at their taco truck
On a cold, blustery day we were getting a little stir crazy and went for a hike down to Sandfly Bay. For the first time we had to layer up and wear our warmer clothes. The first part of the hike led us through a lambing area where we spooked the sheep when we started walking through. Sheep crossing. If we stopped moving, they often stopped moving. We played a game of red light green light with them – I don’t think they like it much.
After running down the sand dune to get to the beach (it took much longer going back up the dune on the return and not nearly as fun), we walked along the beach. Two sleeping sea lions sprawled in the corner near rocks on one side. Seagulls walked sideways against the wind along the water’s edge. We followed along the beach and saw signs for a penguin hideaway. More penguin watching? Why not!
*note: We have decided we are not the best penguin hideaway watchers. I didn’t have my glasses or contacts and forgot the zoom lens for the camera. Whoops. Will and I scoured the shoreline, watching a seal (maybe a sea lion) make its way into the water for a swim. But no penguins. Craggy rocks… no penguins. A kind French couple next to us were excitedly pointing to something on the hill to our left – but we thought it might be an albatross. Because what would a penguin be doing on a hill? After pointing out the blurry figure, they let us use their binoculars. I pretended to see it (Will did an excellent job helping me decipher the where’s Waldo penguin later). And sure enough – the penguin was hanging out on the hill. Where’s Waldo the Penguin? Not the best picture, but you can find the little penguin.
Cold and not ready to stay in the very quiet hideaway any longer, we started our return to the car. On the beach, we were walking past a sand dune when Will yelled out, “Holy Fuck, a penguin!” It took a second to realize he wasn’t looking towards the water, but to the sand dunes to our right. And sure enough, this little yellow-eyed penguin was waddling his way up the dune. Penguins on a hill? And a sand dune? Mind = blown.
Our time in Dunedin flew by. We met Kim and Matt for an amazing dinner at Eureka Cafe where Will got a taste of New Zealand lamb (I tried not to think about all the sheep we’ve seen on the journey – leave it to the vegetarian to be sentimental). Afterwards, we saw the opening of the play Kim was directing at the Uni: The Larimie Project. A play about the murder of Mathew Shepard and the reaction of the town of Larimie. Not going to lie – it was a bit of a mind fuck being in New Zealand – seeing pictures of Wyoming, hearing the reactions about Matthew Shepard all in the lilting Kiwi accent. That being said – Kim and her students did the whole thing in 5 weeks. And they did a beautiful job. It was heart wrenching and captivating. Amazing.
As we left Dunedin, we could easily see why Kim and Matt had picked the city with a small town vibe to call home.
Next up on the trip is Christchurch – the largest city on the southern island. But on the way to Christchurch, we stopped at the Moeraki Boulders to stretch our legs.