From Milford Sound we drove straight across the country to the east coast as we were a couple of days ahead of schedule due to the weather earlier in the trip. With time to spare we thought we would drop in to Dunedin, which hadn’t made the cut previously, before heading back to the south west edge of the Fiordlands National Park for our three day hike. En route cross country we stopped in at Lumsden again, because we knew where to find the free wifi, and used the opportunity to dry out our wet gear in the sunshine and have some lunch.Caro had a delightfully bizarre experience in the public toilets where a woman was determined that her Chihuahua, Lily, should join her in her cubicle. A one-sided conversation ensued to the tune of: “come on Lily, come in Lily, Lily over here, don’t be silly Lily, come on!” Caro was rather on the side of the Chihuahua in this particular situation observing that unless Lily is a hitherto unknown type of assist dog, there really was no need for her to join her owner in the toilet. There was no dog in evidence when she emerged from her cubicle so Caro had to assume that Lily had finally been prevailed upon and had to stifle a fit of the giggles at the mental image of the two sat facing each other in the cubicle, Lily sporting an unimpressed “Now what crazy woman?” look.
We decided to camp south of Dunedin at Taieri Mouth Beach Holiday Camp, another quirky spot run by a lovely brother and sister and their dog Wilson. The sister had named him Wilson because she liked “that Tom Hanks movie”, you meet the absolute best people running campsites. We were a 5-minute walk from the beach and, after our long day of driving, decided to walk along the shore and round to the river mouth to stretch our legs. As we are incapable of encountering a body of water without getting in to it, Caro marched confidently in to the river only to sink right up to her knees of the first step and stagger around for a bit before clambering sheepishly back out, it should have been obvious that the river would probably be pretty deep with the tide in.
Having had a glorious afternoon of sunshine we noted, with some apprehension, the dark clouds rolling towards the camp on our return. We made it through dinner before the wind whipped up, the lightning flashed and the heavens opened. James was slightly dubious about the ability of our shelter to withstand such a battering and spent the next 30 minutes stood in the corner holding it upright against the lashing rain.Caro helped by taking selfies
We did have a smashing view of the resultant rainbow.
We were, once again, camping in a swamp but the inside of the tent was dry and we retired there after the worst of the storm had passed. In the morning the rain had abated but the entire campsite was soggy so we decided to leave everything pitched and stay another night, with the hope that it would dry out by the next day.
Dunedin is a pretty cool town, more often than not it is referred to as a university town but there’s plenty to see and do for the regular tourist and we spent 4 hours wandering its streets. We know it was 4 hours because that was how much parking we paid for and we were damned if we were wasting a second of it. A stop at the i-site revealed that Dunedin has a street art walking tour, and that was pretty much the next two hours sealed up.
Dunedin hosts some of the best street art we have seen so far, the sheer quantity of it was surprising as was the scale and detail of some of the pieces.There were many many more examples that we could share as the artwork is spread over the whole city centre and our street art tour therefore doubled as a general walking tour of the city centre where we could observe the interesting mish-mash of different architectural styles all tumbling over one another.
Our walking tour brought us conveniently to the railway station and the cultural hub of Dunedin. Our first stop was the excellent Otago Settlers Museum with its extensive exhibits covering decades of Dunedin occupation and we loved it instantly because of the lovingly restored steam train, Josephine, in the lobby.
Next up was the train station itself, which is a real treat and takes about 60 seconds to look around.
The true treasure trove of the train station is housed on the second floor. For the teeny fee of NZD6 each you can enter the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and immerse yourself in its exhaustive tributes to New Zealand’s greatest sportsmen and women, and there have been so many. Surprisingly and refreshingly, rugby makes up only a corner of this gold mine and women are deservedly well represented. A particular favourite was the section dedicated to Ned Shewry for competitive woodchopping.
On route back to camp the weather was looking good so we stopped at Tunnel Beach, so named for the tunnel that has been cut down through the cliff to give access to the shoreline. It is pretty cool, though the walk down through farmland is steep and lung busting on the way back up.The tunnel itself echoes with the crashing waves below, and the volume increases as you venture down the steps towards the wild sea below.We needed to make our way back to Tuatapere (have a go at pronouncing that one, we’ll reveal the true pronunciation in the next post) for the start of our hike and so we made our way to the Southern Scenic Route the following morning. The route runs all the way along the south coast from Dunedin and then up to Te Anau. Our first stop on the journey was Nugget Point, which we approached through low hanging cloud. When we got there the car park was bathed in glorious sunshine but the pathway, the lighthouse and the bays below were completely shrouded in cloud. This meant that we could hear but not see the birds, seals and sea lions which inhabited the area. Nonetheless, the effect produced by the clouds was very cool, you felt as if you were on a floating mountain.As we walked to the end of the headland, we passed through patches of hot and cold air until we reached the lighthouse. The bay below was just visible through the mist and the effect of the waves, rock and seaweed was very cool. As James tried to get a picture, another tourist spent quite some time striking a pose and arranging her hair for a photograph, apparently unconcerned that she was whipping James in the face with her hair and that he was undoubtedly in every single photo with her.
After stopping in at a couple of waterfalls and lunching at the aptly named Picnic Point, Caro absolutely insisted that we pull in at the Lost Gypsy Gallery in the small village of Papatowai. She’d read about it in Lonely Planet and the reality looked even whackier that we had anticipated.The chap who runs it uses pieces of scrap metal and general rubbish to build handle operated and mechanised doodads to enthral and entertain overgrown children such as ourselves. The first part of the gallery is housed in a converted bus and walking in to it is akin to falling down the rabbit hole; the walls are completely covered in shelves and every surface covered in machines of all shapes and sizes that play music or turn on lights. A model train runs in a circuit at eye level, causing lights to switch on and horns to blare as it passes.Often the simplest of creations gave the most joy, a swinging pendulum that connected alternate circuits, causing lights to flash or a deaf clock.All of this can be seen for free, for NZD5 you can see “the good stuff” and we duly paid up and ventured through the gate to the main gallery. We won’t spoil it too much but it is very very cool, with a loch ness style monster of scrap metal that emerges from the shrubbery when you turn a handle and a room of lights and bangs entirely controlled by a piano in the middle of it.One of the real joys of the place was that the proprietor and creator had no pretensions whatsoever and was clearly thrilled to have people walking around enjoying his creations. On our way out we stopped at the on-site food truck which served a total of 4 meals of striking variety (omelette and Thai beef salad both featured) and indulged in some boysenberry ice cream. This is a Kiwi favourite and we thought we had best indulge before passing the excellent mailbox and making our way back to the car.