Homeward Bound: Owaka to Dunedin

We were under instructions to go the the Ramsay Lodge while in Dunedin, should we wish to meet up with Mark and Amanda again. It's Sunday. So we talked about it in the car and decided that, even though we'd met them twice already, the first time was on a roadside while fixing their car, and the second time we'd all had free internet so we were all buried in our laptops most of the evening. Baby G made the very good point that 'buried in a laptop' is no way to get to know someone better, and we both agreed we'd like to get to know them better, so we decided Ramsay was the way to go.

Dunedin is an interesting town. It's known as a university town that follows rugby with cult-like fervor. It is frequently, from what we've heard, grey and rainy, although the weather he;d out for us and it was actually our most beautiful day on the South Island to date. Town is nestled between rolling hills not far from the Pacific, and sits at the mouth of the Otago Peninsula, home to penguins, seals, and the world's only albatross breeding colony. Dizzle told his parents Monday that if you were to picture the South Island as a clock face, we were spending the night at 5 o'clock, and needed to get to 3 by Wednesday.

We checked into Ramsay very early in the afternoon – well before Mark and Amanda made it this far East – and managed to land a double room in a house that was not attached to where we thought the hostel was. Turns out the 'backpackers' was TWO Victorian houses: both very old and very big. In our double room there were also two extra SINGLE beds, so we had plenty of pillows and warm blankets for the night.

We decided to explore Dunedin a little for the afternoon, figuring Mark and Amanda would be able to make a connection around dinner time. So we asked Burt, the proprietor of Ramsay, to help us our with the map. After getting flawless directions from him, we were on our way.

There is a road we had to drive TWICE last February, north of Auckland, that is scary. It is OVER a mountain and therefore very steep, and it seems to slice through a rainforest, so at least one pass over was very wet, as well. That was the scariest road Dizzle had ever driven until ANZAC Day a couple weeks ago, when he drove over the Rumetaka Range to get to Andrew and Barnsey's place in Martinborough. That record, too, was swiftly broken here on the South Island near the Fox and Frans Josef Glaciers, where the road could be icy, steep, curvy, fast, and let's not forget the danger of falling rocks and avalanche. That title, “Scariest Road Dizzle has Ever Driven” (not counting NE DC – different kind of scary), was replaced about 24 hours later on the way to Milford Sound last week. All of the same dangers are present – just add breathtaking views, attacking parrots, and make it REMOTE. We are going on and on like this for one reason: Outside Dunedin, on the way to the peninsula, there is a twisty road along the coast. It is beautiful, and we were on it on a lovely clear day with views of the city and the Pacific, but so were every tour bus and campervan in the country, apparently. This road takes “S” curves on the edge of the sea at the standard 100kph, so it probably wasn't unlike many of the other areas we'd driven thus far – with one glaring exception: No guardrail. There is literally nothing stopping you from flying off this narrow little road and taking an accidental swim if you're not careful. We almost did a couple times.

In the middle of the Peninsula is Larnach Castle, the only castle in New Zealand. It was built in the 1800's by a politician who's claim to fame is that he's the only New Zealand politician who committed suicide... IN THE BUILDINGS OF PARLAIMENT. One almost HAS to wonder where, exactly, the other ones did it and how many there were. Regardless, it's a beautiful castle with gardens surrounding it, and we had a great time wandering around and looking at the old stonework and sculptures and whatnot. As the castle is on a hill, we were also able to have a picnic (PB&J, of course) overlooking the Bay and Ocean. It was truly unforgettable.

After winding our way back downhill, we figured we still had time to check out “The World's Steepest Residential Street” - which is in a Dunedin suburb. And guys, it's EXACTLY like you'd think. We walked it and regretted it. Then we thought, “Hey, our little Nissan Sunny has been through a lot this week. Maybe he'd enjoy going DOWN Baldwin St.” What seemed like a good idea at the time turned into us getting mildly lost and going straight uphill for much longer than Sunny was comfortable with. But, ever the trooper, Sunny pulled through in fine style, and got us to an ATM, gas station, and grocery store before making it back to Ramsay Lodge...

...where it turns out Mark and Amanda had checked in! They had talked to Burt about sharing our room with us, in the two remaining single beds, and he told them he'd be happy to do it, but would have to refund US some money, as we were technically downgrading from a 'double' to a 'dorm'. Even though it was with the friends we were trying to hang out with anyway! Bitchin'.

So, we spend another evening with our new friends from Canada. We made grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, soup, and chicken parmesan to share and compared our respective chocolate collections for dessert. Then we traded music and movies, and ended up falling asleep to the Will Smith movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness”, which is really only okay. It was still nice to be together. We have quite a bit in common with these two, and so it's been nice to look at pictures and share stories. We're hoping to connect with them again some time in the Northern Hemisphere.

And that's pretty much Dunedin. We missed catching a rugby game here, and we missed the botanical gardens, but we feel by seeing a castle, the world's steepest street, and almost dying on the road a couple times, we lived Dunedin to it's fullest. Tomorrow, we're actually throwing OURSELVES a curveball: We're headed back inland. We figured, we could either spend an extra day in Christchurch, or we could go check out the NZ's tallest mountain, Mt. Cook. So we'll hit the road early, say goodbye to M&A, and holla atcha from west of here.


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