An hour flight later here I am arrived at Dunedin Airport, an hour drive from the center of the city. It’s a nice day and the sun warms the grasslands that compose the landscape. I am finally on the South Island! Its fields and meadows everywhere, its large snowy mountainous areas, its Fiordland and its cold climate. Perfect for the winter! ahahah.
I take time for breakfast, my stomach growling but that makes me miss the shuttle that connects the airport to Dunedin. Not many people in the airport. Fortunately another driver accepts without problem to do the ride for me! He even make me pay less! We discuss along the route and I experience the Kiwi accent tinged with a Scottish accent. Very nice! The rolling of the “r” makes all the difference!
Indeed, Dunedin is THE Scottish city of New Zealand! Capital of the Otago region, Dunedin was founded in 1848 by a group of Scots. Its name is the Scottish translation of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. Dunedin grew thanks to the gold rush of 1881, which brought a huge mass of immigrants attracted by gold deposits that could be find in the area.
Today Dunedin is the second largest city of the South Island. The city kept its Scottish atmosphere and beautiful buildings with impressive architecture but has swapped its gold diggers for students. Yes, it is in Dunedin that the first university was founded in New Zealand in 1869.
I put my luggage in the hostel where I booked for a week, On Top Backpackers, located in the center and 2 minutes walk from the library (essential place in all New Zealand cities to find wifi free). My “roommates” are all here for quite some time! Laura, an Irish, who works in an Irish pub in the city, The Bog, for 7 months already, arrived in the room. She has a very strong Irish accent that my ears have trouble deciphering and a character mixing extravertisme and cynicism. She show me me quickly around and present to me my other roommates.
I leave the hostel and go sightseeing. Downtown Dunedin is mainly concentrated around The Octagon, a place with eight sides surrounded by beautiful buildings. Sympathetic terraced houses line the streets around and the railway station is visible on the other side of the place. I am happy to finally see a city with an architecture dating back to over a century.
The Railway Station is the jewel of the city. Although of modest size, it is one of the most beautiful stations I’ve seen. Designed by George Troup and inspired by the neo-Renaissance style, its architecture blending beige limestone of Oamaru, Otago blue stone, black basalt of Kokonga and pink granite. The roof tiles are from Marseille (Cocorico!) And the interior features a beautiful mosaic floor. Previously decerving Christchurch (further north of the South Island), the station now offers only two touristic lines.
Strolling in Dunedin requires good physical condition! Indeed Dunedin soil is a real rollercoaster, the city being built on the hills surrounding the harbor. Some streets are damn sloping! Dunedin also has the steepest street in the world: Baldwin Street, 35% inclinaison! That goes without saying that live here in the winter is quite a challenge. Morning with frost and snow are particularly dreadful! The city has a record number of car crashes during this time of year.
Like Wellington, I immediately liked Dunedin. The quiet charm of the city and its young population, its architecture, its location, the accent of the people. And the proximity to nature. Dunedin is surrounded by the harbor with the beautiful Otago Peninsula, which stretches towards the sea, a lot of mountains including Mount Cargill which can be spotted from everywhere with its antenna, a pretty seafront with the beaches of St Kilda and St Clair, steep cliffs and a lot of parks (constituting the Town Belt) that provide large breathing spaces inside the city.
Meetings at the Botanical Garden
Another asset of Dunedin is the Botanic Garden. Perfectly arranged, located on a hill after the students area, the garden has a beautiful collection of plants including giant eucalyptus and conifers! The best plan is to go eating lunch while taking the sun on top of the hill where there is one of the quietest corners of the garden. Listening the birds singing, a cool breeze on your face, the smell of pine in your nostrils, with the sun to warm you. Unmissable!
And also (you know me by now now, hahaha), the garden has a fine collection of aviaries with a bunch of beautiful birds! Although I much prefer that birds are free, being able to appreciate the vision a few centimeters from me of a Golden Pheasant, a Red-tailed black Cockatoo or a Kereru (New Zealand pigeon) is something extraordinary. And it is an opportunity to create links !! I spent almost thirty minutes with a superb Red-tailed black Cockatoo speaking about life, relationships, and criticizing the dress code of people passing by (or at least that’s what I had the impression). A very interesting and very funny discussion!
I also appreciated the vision of a Golden Pheasant and its courtship! What a dazzling colors. A real show! During the parade, pheasant pursues the female and position itself laterally to her to present its deployed collar. Very interesting to see. But, the pheasant should be confused or torn by its hormones, because it was courting female Crested bronze-winged dove! Not quite the same species. All the dove of the aviary were courted! Really determined the animal but unfortunately for him, his technique was not successful.
Surprises and reunion
Apart from the visits, I spent my first ten days in Dunedin taking care of administrative things and organizing the rest of my trip.
First bad surprise : To obtain my Working Holiday Visa, I have to undergo medical examinations! Because having spent the last 6 months in Japan, I have to do a chest X-ray to certify that I do not have tuberculosis! Something incongruous since I entered the country on a tourist visa and I didn’t do medical tests. Alas, no way to avoid it. I have two weeks to do the analysis and send the results otherwise my visa will be refused. Meeting with the doctor for a routine check, blood and urine tests and visit to the hospital to do chest X-ray. All for the modest sum of $600 !!! Which of course will not be reimbursed by my travel insurance, the medical examinations being not considered as mandatory (since I was not sick). I had trouble to swallowing the pill!
Other than that, second bad surprise: Me who thought to find a job easily in Dunedin or in the vicinity, well, it’s not really the case. Everyone had the same idea as me and most of the jobs are taken by students. Alright then. I begin with redoing my resume in New Zealand style (provide details of my experiences, highlighting skills and adding referees) and I start peeling jobs advertising websites. Anyway I can’t begin to apply since I haven’t received my visa yet. Which should arrive in about ten days.
So, I decided to make a wwoofing while I wait for getting my visa and finding a job. The only wwoofing located in the center of Dunedin is a Hare Krishna center (based on Hindu scriptures) where the work is to prepare vegetarian meals for students of the University. That sounds interesting, it’s very good located for me (and my job research), this will allow me to learn lots of things in the kitchen and to discover a different way of life.
To offset these disappointments, I meet Sophie again! The French girl I had met in Auckland. Indeed, she doing four months internship at the University of Dunedin to study Alzheimer’s disease. And she live in a great hostel, Manor House Backpackers, way more warm and friendly than mine. The hostel is located as the name suggests in a large old house, full of charm. So I spent a few afternoons and evening in company of Sophie and the “inhabitants” of the Manor House.
On Saturday 9 of July, I finally swap my hostel for the house of the wwoofing. The ride is not very long but mostly uphill. And under a torrential rain, on foot and loaded with my backpacks, it’s hell. I finally arrived completely soaked at the Hare Krishna “temple” (a large house dedicated to the community) where I planned to spend a week or more waiting to find work. See you in the next article for the detailed review and full of wonder my wwoofing at Hare Krishna!
Note: all pictures published in this article are my creations. They are not royalty free. Thank you not to use them without permission.