Long post coming – keep your attention riveted! 😉 After we drove out of Queenstown on Thursday morning, nearby Arrowtown came up first on our list. There we had breakfast, and visited their excellent Lake District Museum. Lots of detailed exhibits on local history, quite interesting and well presented.
There’s Jane standing by a display depicting how little appreciated the work done by women was in New Zealand (and elsewhere, for that matter). Women were the “silent partners” of pioneering men, but as such, they had to cook all the meals, sew all the clothes, mend them too, do the same for visitors, etc., not to mention bearing and raising the children. A tremendous effort to perform, and little recognized.
John felt a kinship to the smithy. Jane became particularly enamored with the shopping in Arrowtown, which speaks of high quality, affordable merchandise, with a variety of shops offering such.
After we left Arrowtown, it was Pinot Noir we sought, venturing into the Otago wine regions. First we stopped at the Gibbston Valley Winery, and found some good examples of fine Pinot Noir wines. (Remember this region is at -45° latitude, which puts it at about Oregon’s latitude above the equator). As I was driving, Jane got to be our head sampler, with 4 of Gibbston’s finest from which to choose.
We chose one from their private reserve, and who knows, one year we may drink it? 😉 Here she is confronting those samples. Tough job, but someone’s got to do it, right?
From Gibbston Valley, we headed for Cromwell, but bypassed it for the Carrick Winery in Bannockburn. Very nice place, and quite informative about the local vineyards and their winery. Jane (and I, slightly) enjoyed some good wine there, leaving with a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir to somehow fit into our suitcases to go home. (Not to mention the Gibbston bottle!)
Between Arrowtown and Bannockburn, we stopped for a look at the “Roaring Meg” river. The inset photo shows a couple of significant features, namely hydro-power not derived from dams, and also the attempt to control “wildings.” Wildings are, like many things introduced to New Zealand “innocently” by foreigners hoping to improve the landscape, plants which, having no natural enemies, grow to overpower native plants and throttle the native ecology. So in this photo, you can see the far hillside and left bank of the Meg, where the wildings have been purposely eradicated to create barren land which can now be taken over by native grasses and other indigenous vegetation.
Traveling from Bannockburn on to Dunedin, we passed through what seemed like a variety of climates and sublimates to be seen. In the beginning, we saw rocky, dry soil, like this example taken along the Clutha River. Further southeast, nearing the East Coast and Dunedin, the terrain started looking more like the familiar pasturelands we had come to expect in most New Zealand scenery. At a coffee shop in Roxburgh, we chatted briefly with the owners, who themselves are Wellington transplants. He used to be a Wellington cop, she was a former social worker. Their coffee shop is making it, though it’s a “first” for both of them, and it’s also a “first” for them to be working side by side every day! 🙂 But we enjoyed meeting them and learning a little about their existence. After we finally arrived in Dunedin and checked into our centrally located Scenic Hotel, we strolled over to a nearby restaurant (Etrusco at the Savoy) and enjoyed a great Italian Valentine’s dinner.
Next morning, we jumped on a doubledecker tour bus, which took us all over Dunedin to show us the town’s major buildings, architectural features, etc. Our bus stopped in front of what is Dunedin’s most photographed sight, its old railway station.
We were also introduced to the Dunedin First Presbyterian Church, which has a 54 meter (about 177′) spire, having been operated since 1873. I was able to leap up and shoot a photo showing the spire at actual height (well, me and Photoshop that is!) for your benefit. One of the few spires I’ve seen not obscured by wires! 😉
We were quite impressed by the Dunedin Free Art Gallery (interior shown here) which had an eclectically interesting bunch of artwork, from French impressionist etchings and lithos to local artists.
One painting by Charles Goldie I found quite interesting, of a Maori Chief named Te Aho-te-Rangi Wharepu. Though his getup may look like a joke, it actually demonstrates how serious the Maori were in assimilating themselves into the European cultures of the alien settlers they encountered, Here rangatua (chieftain) Wharepu shows his tribal-custom-dictated facial tattoos, while dressed in western clothing. We were VERY impressed by the gallery’s restaurant – delicious Fush & Chups, and very good quality food.
We also embarked on a nature tour at 3PM. The booking said we’d see Albatrosses, sea lions, birds, etc. We didn’t really read the fine print closely enough, for as it turned out, our “safari” lasted about seven hours, returning us to the hotel (without dinners) at 10 PM! Nonetheless, What we saw was very interesting and worthwhile. Elm Wildlife Tours, our tour operator, has an exclusiive piece of property on the Otago coast that contains habitat and shelter for Hooker Sea Lions, and the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin. Jane and Donna, our travel guides, took us first to the Royal Albatross refuge. From a blind that we had to climb to, we could see a few mothers nesting. One in particular was actually hiding its chick, and it was exciting to see the squawking baby revealed! It is a very interesting process. The young hatchling is nurtured by its parents for about 8 months until it fledges. When it fledges, i.e., leaves the nest for the first time, it flies away from the nest and embarks on a 5-year circumnavigation of the Antarctic Continent. So, as soon as it leaves the nest, it has to manage to feed itself, and fly vast distances. (The Royal Albatross has wingspan up to 11 feet, is a very efficient flier, but…?) I wondered about how much attrition the birds experience, how many actually make the trip around and return to the nesting site. Donna informed me that the success rate is 80%! Amazing, isn’t it?
We left the Albatross reserve and tootled out to Elm’s special spot on earth, hoping to find some Yellow-eyes. Bingo! There was one right on the path down to the beach, and we saw several others while we were down there. Beautiful rare birds, it was really quite an experience to see them relatively close-up. I also took a head shot of one, just to bring out the details.
Yellow-eyed Penguins are endangered, and are one of the world’s rarest species of Penguins. Only about 4,000 exist at present, and many efforts are underway to preserve them, including Elm’s small preserve at Otago.
We also saw several Hooker Sea Lions out on the beach. These get to be rather large, maybe up to 900 lbs, so it’s not good to provoke them. Elm’s beach is a “bachelor pad” for Sea Lions, as the females hang out elsewhere, only show up a couple of weeks/year for doing the necessaries. This big fella had just rolled in the sand before this shot was taken. Jane (the guide) said that being chased by one of these rambunctious critters is no fun at all, considering they are feisty, aggressive, and can run at 20KM/hr! (about 12 MPH).
Finally, we went over to another beach to see the fur seals. It was getting dark, so they weren’t all that easy to photograph, but I did manage to capture a little one suckling its mother. Very nice scene, I thought. For you camera techies, that shot was at 1/20 second, handheld, 350mm focal length. (Thank God for my stabilizer!)
Dunedin is a translation of Edinburgh, and Dunedin has New Zealand’s only castle, a large edifice built and refined over the years 1871-87 by William Larnach on a high bluff
overlooking Dunediin’s Bay of Otago. We visited its restored gardens, but didn’t enter the Castle itself. The gardens were very interesting, but a little sparse, we thought, probably because of our late-summer visit. However, the view from the Sea Walk lookout was another one of those postcard moments, to wit:
Jane said “Who wouldn’t want to live in a place with a view like this?” For our last hurrah dinner-wise in New Zealand, we drove down the hill and visited the beach at St. Clair, then enjoyed nice fish dinners at a restaurant near the boardwalk. Then it was home to the hotel for packing and blogging. See you from Fiji!