Dunedin, New Zealand–It’s summer here? I don’t think so!

Dunedin was a nice city.  We started to feel like we lived there, as we spent a month pet sitting for Libby, a cute mutt of a dog!  Her owner, Lindsay, was traveling back to Great Britain to see her family, and then spending a week in Malaysia exploring.  (In the U.S., you can arrange to pet sit or to get a pet sitter on “Trusted Housesitters.”  In NZ, they also use “Kiwi Housesitters” which is where we arranged two pet sits for our time here.)  Pet sitting is great because you get free housing and you also get to be around pets, which is a luxury for us pet-less folks.  We sought out a pet sit on the south part of the south island so Christmas would feel like Christmas like we’re used to (aka: cold).  We also sought to stay in one place for a while, and to experience New Year’s there as well.  The house we stayed in was a modest three bedroom with views of horses across the street (and there were sheep two doors down).  Despite the fact it was considered summer here in Dunedin, we had hail three times while we were there!

Dunedin Building

Libby!

House View:  Horses Across the Street:

The Sheep a few houses down

Here are some of the things we did while we were in Dunedin:

(1) We went to the Otago Peninsula and went to the Royal Albatross Breeding Centre.  There are only two in the world, I believe.  We also got to go into the bunker and learn more about how they stayed prepared during WWII.  It was fairly interesting but windy!

The Otago Peninsula

Royal Albatross

An Endangered Species of Seagull.  This Seagull type is more endangered than the Royal Albatross but it gets no love!  He has polka dots on his tail.

Nicholas Cage.  No, wait, this is a sheep on the Otago Peninsula.

 

 

(2) We also went to Larnach Castle, which is also on the Otago Peninsula.  We had a nice time exploring the castle, the beautiful grounds and playing the lawn games they had set up for visitors.

Larnach Castle, the castle itself, the views, and the grounds

The Coolest Trees!

They actually had this sign in the bathrooms there!  Were they expecting monkeys to visit or something?  Don’t they know no one sits on the seats anyway?  They should show someone squatting…

(3) We went to Sandfly Beach to see the yellow-eyed penguins.  We went right before dusk, as this is when the penguins return to land for the night.  We also saw a sea lion.  Luckily, they call it Sandfly Beach because of all the wind causing the sand to fly, rather than after the nasty insect.  This walk down to the beach involved sliding on the sand dunes and having to climb your way back up.  It was a beautiful beach with hardly anyone on it though!

Sandfly Beach

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

Sea Lion–Big Guy!

(4) We shopped for Christmas!  There were real shopping malls and stores here.  It had been a LONG time since we had a real mall available!  We also got a small live Christmas tree from the only place that sold them there.  The strange thing–they don’t sell Christmas tree stands ANYWHERE!  I couldn’t figure out how people could set up trees without a stand.  One girl said: “We just use a bucket of rocks.”  What?  A company here in New Zealand hasn’t capitalized on the curious lack of tree stands?  Anyway, we got ourselves a bucket of rocks.  We paid $7 whole dollars for a tree and spent $7 buying rocks to put in a $2 bucket!  It wasn’t the most elegant solution as our little tree never did stand up straight, but it was still a tree–and it smelled good.  One thing about Christmas–it is not the commercial, overdone experience like it is in the U.S.  Not many people put up outside Christmas lights and the whole holiday seemed quite downplayed actually.  Although I don’t always buy into the hype of Christmas marketing, we all did miss seeing all the neighborhood houses lit up for the holidays.  Of course, in Dunedin, it didn’t get dark until about 10 o’clock at night, so that may not motivate people to put lights on their houses; hardly anyone would get to see them!

(5) We had dinner with Ann (Thornton) and Barry, who we first met on the island of Niue the night we sailed in.  They were vacationing in Niue and we happened to meet them and share some drinks at the “yacht club.”  Fast forward a Facebook friendship and six months, and we were sitting across from them on the southern end of the south island of New Zealand having dinner!  What a small world it really is.  Ann and Barry invited us over for an AMAZING Christmas dinner, and we enjoyed Christmas with Ann’s daughter, Lydia, and their granddaughter, Caris, at their home in Dunedin.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were so happy to be with a second family in NZ!  We also played cricket before dinner and pigged out on great desserts!

Lindsay’s Deck–Getting Ready to go to Ann and Barry’s House.  After a year in flip flops (jandals here in NZ), it was time to clean ourselves up a bit.

Dinner with Ann, Barry, Lydia, and Caris

(6) We went on several hikes, some which gave beautiful and expansive views of the city–and one of which Libby decided to roll in sheep dung.  There is nothing so refreshing as a hike into the mountains and returning with a dog who smells like sheep anus.  This day ended in bathing a stinky dog!

(7) We spent New Year’s playing Catch Phrase with the kids and then headed downtown for Dunedin’s New Year’s celebration on the Octagon.  2016 ended with a bang (truly–they lit off a canon that shook the whole square, and had the obligatory fireworks).  We finished the night with a bottle of champagne when we got back home.  (I was the designated driver!)  I sure wish Ari could drive already, geesh!

Crazy drunk guy in a wig dancing by himself.  Huh.  Maybe it was Billy Idol.

(8) We drove to Oamaru up the coast and we saw its adorable downtown, had lunch at a craft brewery (with a good beer!) and visited the Steampunk Museum, which was small but cool.  We also visited a book store that had only adventure travel books; Dan loved that place.  😉  On the way back, we also stopped by the Moeraki Boulders, which were so incredibly unique.  This is what they are:  “The Moeraki Boulders are a group of very large spherical ‘stones’ on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. These boulders are actually concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs that back the beach.”  They are only 60 million years old.

Oamaru Beachfront:  they had an amazing park too but I don’t think I took a picture of it.

Steampunk Museum

Dan on a motorcycle that’s a bit too big for him…

Strange Steampunk Exhibits

This was a cool, mirrored room in the Steampunk Museum.  It’s small, you’re in the dark with just your family, and they have this light show and music.  With all the mirrors, it is quite peaceful and serene!  I only had my cell phone so it didn’t capture it very well.

Oamaru is for lovers.

The Brewery in Oamaru

The Moeraki Boulders:  So Cool!

Man and daughter share boulder.  For the record, Ari is not intentionally posing.  She doesn’t intentionally pose.  It’s not her style–unless she’s on stage and playing a character.

I, on the other hand, do pose sometimes.  

Strange concretions–some were large and some were small.  Ryan’s thought:  why am I standing sideways on a dinosaur egg?

(9) We toured the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, and overdosed on my favorite milk chocolate in the world.  Wow, melted warm dark and milk chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…sorry, just dreaming for a bit.  You can’t find it in the States, but my new favorite chocolate bar is a Cadbury toasted coconut milk chocolate bar.  It is seriously addictive.  I need to go back to the gym.

The Moving Dioramas at Cadbury–and a few of their Old Delivery Trucks

(10)  We saw three plays while we were in Dunedin; Ari and I really missed theater!  One of the plays had only two (professional) actors who played all of the parts in the play.  It was called “The Mystery of Irma Vep” and it was hysterical!  I can’t believe they were able to change costumes as quickly as they did, and they didn’t even mess up their characters.  It was great! The second play was a community theater production called:  “Charley’s Aunt.”  It too was good, and Dan and Ari later met the funniest actor in that play; he was the man who checked Ariana’s contacts she ordered at the optometrist’s!  What a small city.  Finally, the kids and I went to another play that was the year-end conglomeration of an acting teacher’s students, ranging in age from kids to adults.  Some of those segments were also quite good–and thought-provoking.

(11) We went down the Guinness Book’s “World’s Steepest Residential Street.”  It is called Baldwin Street in Dunedin.  (FYI–they are in the Guinness Book in error.  Apparently, they aren’t really the steepest residential street in the world.  Oh well.)  We drove our Bento Box up the street.  I seriously thought it was going to explode.

(12) Dan and I went on a date night down in the St. Clare area of Dunedin.  It was a great dinner and a nice evening.  We also went for breakfast just the two of us one morning while the kids did school (and ate breakfast at the house).  Breakfast is much more expensive in NZ compared to the U.S., but strangely, you don’t tip in NZ.  They must pay servers well compared to the U.S. because tipping is not customary.   We ate Turkish food two or three times (with the kids).  It was so good there!

Date Night Down in the St. Clare Area of Dunedin

Yup, just ring the bell if you see one!  And if you’re in the water, then you better get out.  But, really, if you’re in THAT water, you must be crazy because it is so cold, so you may be too frozen or just plain not smart enough to get out of the ocean.

(13)  We went to a few museums while we were in Dunedin:  The Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, the Dunedin Art Museum, and the Otago Museum.  We also visited the Botanical Gardens.  Actually, I think we just about did everything you could do in Dunedin.  Thankfully, there was enough to fill a month’s time.

The Story of the Takahe

Takahe

This man was related to the people in the photos behind him (at the Otago Settler’s Museum).  We learned ALL ABOUT IT.  Twenty minutes after he started talking to us, he was still talking AT us…We later saw him cornering some other unsuspecting victims.

Dunedin Botanical Gardens

Poor Dan is too old to walk now.  It’s about time our kids start carrying us around.

Beautiful Flowers at the Botanical Gardens in Dunedin (oh, and birds)

(14) We went to the horse track.  That was pretty interesting because it was MUCH more casual than any U.S. race track.  We bet a bit, rode a ferris wheel, and exposed our kids to gambling.  Fantastic.  For real, though, this is just an excuse for Kiwis to tailgate.  Bring a cooler full of beer and wine, put up your own tent, and drink the day away while you bet on horses.  How cool is that?  It’s like a football game but with horses…and no football…but there is beer.

(13) Dan’s dad arrived into Dunedin and the following day, we went on the Taieri Gorge Railway, a 4 hour train ride that provided beautiful scenery, and it happened to be sort of warm that day!  (Note:  by warm, I mean you weren’t that cold when you wore a fleece jacket!)

The Impressive Dunedin Railway Station

I really like this one of Gabe.  We are so high up here…

    

With the advent of cell phone cameras, NO ONE can take a picture on a regular camera without getting their finger in it.  Else this man was just trying to block me out of the picture.  I’ll let you judge.

This was funny.  The train conductor has to deliver a schedule of when the train will be going through the upcoming tunnel.  Why?  There are a few houses on the other side and the only way for the residents to get to their houses is to walk through the tunnel.  They park their cars on this side (see photo below) and walk through a tunnel to their house.  I guess it’s a good idea they know the train schedule, else little Johnny gets flattened like a pancake.

This house is only accessible by walking through the train tunnel.

How many photos can a person put into one blog post?  Did I win?