Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 15 - Dunedin - Otago Peninsula

June 15 - Dunedin - Otago Peninsula

We woke up this morning around 8:15 AM to go to the Otago Peninsula. We had taken showers the night before so all we needed to do was eat breakfast and be on our way. Around 8:40 some old guy that worked at the hostel came into the kitchen and asked what we planned to do for the day.

We told him that we wanted to drive out to Otago Peninsula. He then proceeded to give us directions which took about 15 minutes. He included landmarks, but never said street names. After about 2 minutes I was lost and just quit listening. He is the second person I have heard from New Zealand give directions that made no sense. A few days before I heard a guy giving directions to two other people.

He also told us about places to see penguins and albatross. The albatross area is blocked off unless you pay for an expensive tour, we didn’t plan to do that. He said that most of the penguins come in the morning and would be gone by the time we got there. We also have a chance to see sea lions. Maybe we will see something.

It was about 8:55 when we stopped talking to the guy and had to get to our car before 9 because that’s when you have to pay to park. It was only a few hundred yards to the car so it wasn’t a problem. Plus it wasn’t like people were watching to make sure you paid.

It was cold and drizzly outside. The clouds were low and covering up the hillsides around us and the city, but it still looked neat. We needed to get gas so we drove down to the main road and found a cheap BP. Gas is about $2.05 a liter. Kind of expensive really.

After we got gas we just started following the signs to Otago Peninsula since the directions we were given didn’t make any sense. It seemed like lots of people were out driving around. As we got to Otago Peninsula there was less traffic. The road follows the waters edge and there is no railing at all. It’s literally a few feet from the road to a small drop off and into the ocean below. I’m sure lots of cars wreck in this area because a lot of the turns are very sharp.

We drove about half way and then decided to go see Larnach Castle, which was built by an Australian banker in the mid-1860s to impress his third wife. He later killed himself. The drive up was very foggy with lots of green pastures and sheep all over the place. We kept calling it the Shire.

The road to the top was very steep with lots of sharp turns. At the entrance we had to pay to enter. We just wanted to take pictures of the outside, but to see the gardens and outside of the castle was going to cost $12.50 NZD per person. To go inside was going to be $27 NZD per person. At the door we could pay the difference if we decided to go inside.

When we got there only three other people were walking around. It was cold and drizzling rain and sleet. We took some pictures and then walked around. The gardens were basically an open grassy area with a few trees. It was nice, but not much of a garden. I wanted to go to the bathroom to warm up and get out of the rain. In this area is a huge dinning room that is usually used as a cafeteria, but it was having repairs. We were able to get pictures though. On the opposite end of the hall way was a view into the castle itself. It seemed like a small living area with a staircase.

We walked down the trails and road to see a lookout over the hills to the ocean. It wasn’t really the ocean, but more of a bay. There was a covered gazebo to take pictures from to get out of the rain. We did a few gopro shots walking around the grounds. We walked around to the back after stopping at the bathroom one more time to warm up and dry our hands.

In the back was a small run down building hidden in the trees and the horse stables. You can stay the night in the castle or in the stables if you want to pay a lot of money. It was renovated and seemed pretty nice. They sold food in this area and it was slightly way over priced.

After warming up by the fire and watching a New Zealand Travel Channel show for a few minutes we walked back to the front of the castle for a few more pictures. It had stopped raining, but it was still really cold. It was very foggy and dark in a lot of our pictures so it made it seem like Scotland.

We never went inside because it didn’t look like much of a castle. It was shaped like a castle, but it was pretty run down. The previous owners didn’t take good care of it so the new owners were doing a lot of renovations. It was still neat to look at though.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle we decided it was time to continue our drive to the end of the Otago Peninsula. Along the way the weather started to clear up a lot. We stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the bay and the surrounding scenery.

We made it to the albatross center around 12:00, but it didn’t open until 12:30. I didn’t realize that at first and just thought the place was deserted because of the bad weather. A few minutes later a couple of workers showed up and a campervan.

While we waited in the parking lot we had lunch. We ate ham sandwiches, chips, and cookies. We put cucumbers on the sandwich and it made it taste pretty good. We didn’t plan to go inside the albatross center since it was so expensive, we were mostly just waiting for the weather to improve.

I wanted to get a picture of the lighthouse that I had seen just around the corner from where we parked. It was about 20 yards to walk to the side of the hill to be able to see it, but I didn’t want to get out of the car. So we drove around the corner. It wasn’t much of a lighthouse so we drove back to where we originally were parked.

While we were sitting there a few more people started showing up. Maybe they were going to make some money after all. We saw a rainbow so we jumped out of the car and started taking pictures. As we were standing there the rainbow started getting bigger and closer. It eventually became a full rainbow. The end of the rainbow was in the water down the hill just below us, and the other end was on the hillside just across from us. I had never seen a rainbow where you could see the end of both sides.

After getting enough pictures and the rainbow disappearing we got back in the car and headed back. There are two parts of the road to Otago Peninsula. A low road, which follows the coast, and the high road, which overlooks the two sides of the peninsula from above. We came in on the low road, so we were heading back on the high road.

There was a trail to Sandfly Beach that we wanted to do in order to see penguins or sea lions if there were any still there at this time of day. We drove for about 30 minutes until we got to the turn off to the hike. The trail was supposed to take about an hour to complete, but I didn’t know if I wanted to walk the whole way. I mostly just wanted to see views of the ocean.

We came to the end of the road and found the trailhead. We had to walk through a gate and through a sheep pasture for a few hundred yards along a relatively well marked trail. There was a steep drop off down to the ocean below. There was no danger of falling off because there was a fence.

We walked for about 3 minutes in this area until the official start of the trail head. There was a little platform with overlook where I had my picture taken. We then started hiking. This portion of the trail was becoming less defined. There was a sign stating that would be the case.

We were going down to the ocean, so it was basically a straight down hike through a short forested area and then onto a steep sand dune. It was easy to walk along, but my feet were sinking. After a few hundred yards we were at the ocean.

I immediately walked over to touch the water. To the right was a steep cliff with huge waves crashing one after another. In front of us was ocean with smaller waves coming one after another, but it was very choppy and not safe for swimming. To the left was the beach that led to cliffs off in the distance. Somewhere in that direction are the sea lions and penguins.

All across the beach were huge pieces of kelp and sea weed. It was pretty neat to see. We walked around for a little bit taking pictures of the beach and the small sand dunes around the area. Before we started our hike back up we stopped to take a pee on the sand dunes and sea weed we had seen.

The hike back up took about 15 minutes. It wasn’t very hard. At the top we took a few last pictures and then hiked back through the sheep pasture to the car. There was a small gate that had to be opened and closed as you walked through so sheep couldn’t escape. I stood up on top of the fence to take a few more pictures.

I thought maybe off in the distance I could see some sea lions, but it was pretty far and they weren’t moving so it may have been rocks. I looked back down the road behind me and I saw a car coming towards us. Earlier on the hike we had seen a group of three people, two girls and a guy. They had stopped when they got to the steep sandy part because they didn’t want to get dirty, but other than that we were the only ones on the hike.

As the car approached I jumped off the fence just in case he owned the land or something. It ended up being an old man that liked to come out to the area and just watch the sun go down. He said he had done the hike about 30 times over the years. He kept looking off into the distance where I thought the sea lions could be. He kept saying “yep, those are seals down there. Well, maybe.” I was starting to laugh so I had to turn away from him and cover my mouth.

There is no way in the world he could see if those were sea lions. It was at least 2 miles away, getting dark, and he was about 80 years old. He kept talking for about 10 minutes about random things. He reminded me of the crazy old guy from the movie Pet Cemetery. I finally told Andy we should go so we could get out of there. The crazy guy said he shouldn’t probably go to.

When we got back in the car I started laughing and said “crazy old coot.” There was no way he could see that far. Andy thought he was Sauron from Lord of the Rings because he could see really far like the seeing eye.

We started back down the road. We stopped a lot to take pictures. We saw an old rock fence which was neat, and good views out into the ocean over the hills. The drive back to town took about 30 minutes. It was around 4 PM and the skies were much clearer, especially on the side of the bay that we started on in the morning.

We went back to the town center and stopped at the train station to take a few pictures. The parking cost money, but we just stopped in a spot for a few minutes to take pictures and then got back in. We had to park on the side of a hill on a street that offered free parking. It was about twice as far as our other parking area. We couldn’t park there for free until after 6, so this would have to do for now.

We decided we wanted to see the churches in town and take pictures of those. We parked and then started hiking back into the center which took about 7 minutes and was mostly downhill. We saw an old church, which was next to a large government looking building, possibly a courthouse. It was starting to rain slightly at this point. We had been looking for Merino Wool t-shirts and I saw a store across the street so we walked over there. Most of the stuff was way over priced and he didn’t have the brand we wanted. We were looking for Icebreaker since we had read about it’s no stick ability and it’s wicking power. Those shirts are made in China and the owner of this store only sold products made in New Zealand.

We then hiked down the street to the train station and a few other buildings with neat architecture. It was almost 5:30 at this time and starting to get dark. We were trying to find a church, but we could only see the steeple and couldn’t find how to get to it. We walked down the main road a little in front of the train station to get a better view. We turned back up the road and then had to turn back towards the road we had previously been on when going towards the train station. We had walked in a complete circle.

As we walked up a little more we could see the church to our left. I don’t know how we couldn’t see it before. It was a Presbyterian Church. It was pretty cool looking, especially in the dark. It had two large spires in front with a huge door. We then headed down the road to the next church.

I’m not sure the building we saw was a church. It had been turned into a movie theatre, but from the outside it looked just like a church building. Right across the street was another building that looked like a church, but had been turned into apartments. I guess nobody goes to church in New Zealand so they just convert them to something useful.

It was now about 5:45 and very dark. It was getting colder and raining a little bit. We made one last pass by the courthouse, took a few more pictures in the dark, and then started back. Across the street the other direction was a rugby store so we went in there for a minute. It didn’t have anything we wanted and I had no money with me so we left.

We hiked back to the car and decided to look for a closer spot to park. We spent the next 30 minutes driving in circles all over the town center looking for a spot, mostly in the same area we had parked before. We didn’t have any luck and eventually parked in the exact same spot we had left on the side of the hill. The hike down wasn’t bad, but I didn’t want to have to do it in the morning with all of our stuff, which wasn’t very much. I just didn’t want to have to do it with all the groceries we needed to take in for our feast.

Along the way we got lost. I was in front of Andy by about 50 yards and somehow turned down the wrong street. We walked for about 2 minutes the wrong way before we decided it didn’t look right. We turned around and figured out where to go.

We got back to the hostel and decided we wanted to have some dinner. We made spaghetti, a sliced carrot each, salad with cucumbers, carrots, ranch, and lettuce, steamed broccoli, and milk. It was more food than I had eaten the previous three days combined. It was a pretty good meal. We intended to put the broccoli in the salad, but as we were washing it off we found two small green worms on it. We figured if we steamed it then anymore would fall off or die.

After dinner was over we went back to the room. In the living room people were watching Futurama and Parks and Recreation the two times I walked by. Some of these people never seem to leave. Back in the room were the same Germans, sitting around playing on the computer.

It was about 8:30 PM and I was ready to write my journal, charge my batteries, and then go to bed. One of the Germans decided it would be a good idea to shave his head. He was taking pictures of himself during the process. It took him over an hour to get it done. Occasionally one of his nerdy friends would help him and they would laugh and talk really loudly.

I eventually fell asleep around 10:30 PM. I woke up around 11:30 and turned off my computer. Tomorrow we are planning to drive to Queenstown.

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