During my stay in Dunedin and at Hare Krishna, I took the opportunity to participate in activities within the city and to explore the surroundings. Located in the region of Otago, Dunedin has nice walkways and excursions in the area and a fairly busy cultural life.
Dunedin Chocolat Festival
Let’s start with a very important event: at the end of July took place the Dunedin Chocolate Festival! For one week the city offered lots of activities around chocolate, sponsored by Cadbury, one of the two main chocolate and confectionery manufacturing companies in New Zealand. So I took advantage of my free time during my wwoofing at Hare Krishna to go attend with Flor and Alejandro to the afternoon opening of the festival. Lots of activities were organized on the Octagon (the main square in Dunedin) but were destined for children. At least we had a few free samples of chocolate!
We spent the afternoon watching the children having fun time. And finally in the late evening, the Octagon was illuminated by blue and purple lights and we saw beautiful fireworks. We returned to the temple quite happy with our day but a bit chilled.
On the weekend also took place the famous Jaffa Race on Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world! 2.8 grams of Jaffa (sweets covered with a layer of chocolate with red shell, produced by Cadbury), are dropped from the top of Baldwin Street. Each Jaffa has a number and so the race is a gigantic shot draw! People who bought the numbers of the five Jaffa arriving first are the winners. There are actually three races taking place one after the other with different colors of Jaffa. Lots of chance of winning!
Stormie, Flor, Alejandro and I, take the free shuttle to get to Baldwin Street, located 10 minutes by bus from the center of Dunedin. The shuttle is an old bus dating back at least fifty years ago! Very nice.
At Baldwin Street, crowd has already begun to cluster around the barriers. The atmosphere is very relax. We find a pretty good location down the street and waiting for the start of the race by watching various bands passing on the podium
Around 11:30am, the first race finally starts! My first Jaffa Race! Small red balls are rushing down the slope at almost 100 km / h which is impressive but makes the race very short! Indeed, no time to breathe that the race is already over! The winners are announced and a cleaning crew went up the slope to sweep the Jaffa remained stuck in the ground irregularities. Cleaning takes time! To make us wait again, groups marched to the podium and chocolate bars(Jaffa taste, of course) are distributed for free! I do not miss the opportunity to catch one! It’s good but it sticks much the teeth.
The second race takes place in the same way but with yellow Jaffa, making them more visible. Same for the third and final race but with blue Jaffas this time. In the end a very nice event, but I’m still a little disappointed by the fact that each race is very short.
Visiting Tunnel Beach with Sally
Friday being entirely free during my wwooffing at Hare Krishna, I took the opportunity to visit the nearby Dunedin. Sally and I, go for a walk on a nice weather to Tunnel Beach, a small beach accessible by, as the name suggests, a tunnel carved into sandstone cliffs. After taking the bus for a good half hour to get out of Dunedin, a nice stroll of forty minutes on the cliffs allows us to get to the place in question. Many students have had the same idea as us. We lunch on a rocky promontory, the feet in the air watching the sea rush in natural arches. The waves crashing on the cliffs makes an impressive noise. A small tunnel provides access to a pebble beach where young people are having fun testing their ability to stay in cold water as long as possible. We leave when the weather begins to cover a little.
Stormie, samosa and hiking the Taieri River Track
Another day, it’s JMa (the Hare Krishna center manager) who takes us, Stormie and I, on the east coast about forty kilometers from Dunedin where Taieri Mouth is located, a small fishing village at the mouth between sea and Taieri river. This is also where starts a nice hike of 8 kilometers along the gorges of the Taieri River. Stormie, armed with a samosa (Hare Krishna creation) and I go for a walk on the track in the last lights of the afternoon.
The trail runs along the banks of the river then plunges through a rain forest before attacking the climbing of the hills to get to a nice observation point after an hour’s ride. The Taieri Gorge stretches out before us, illuminated by the warm colors of the sunset. 5 minutes later, the sun disappeared behind the mountains.A window not to be missed! We going back running, which is not a good idea when walking in a muddy ground. It never misses, I finish by sliding and landing, my ass in the mud. Fortunately my camera is safe. We going back to JMa who waited for us while meditating in her car and set off again towards Dunedin.
Otago Peninsula and windy hike on Harbour Cone
One of the places not to miss when you visiting Dunedin is the Otago peninsula. Long strip of land of volcanic origin, the peninsula runs parallel to the mainland for about twenty kilometers. Except a dozen of small villages located on the peninsula the rest consists mainly of wild hills and sparse grasslands.
My first visit to the Otago Peninsula, is done by Sophie company. We head up at the end of the peninsula, to Taiaroa Head, to get a glimpse of the sea and the northern royal albatross, a colony living on the peninsula. Unfortunately the weather is gray and the birds are absent. We leave in the other direction, to reach Portobello, a small town at more than three hours of walking where is located the only bus stop for Dunedin. We walk on the road, the only “trail” available at the end of the peninsula and meet a band of free roosters. The wind blows hard and I can honestly say that we are freezing! But this doesn’t put away the beauty of the landscape. Luckily near Portobello, the sun finally breaks through the clouds and lets us warm ourselves while magnifying the decor.
My second visit to the peninsula is with Sally, to ascend Mount Harbour Cone, a hill with the appearance of a mini Fuji near Portobello. The weather is perfect. The beginning of the hike cross meadows with grazing sheep. As we begin the climb, a terrible wind welcomes us! The climb itself is already damn tough, auditioning gusts of wind, it’s a real challenge! The wind is so strong that I have difficulties to breathe. I feel like Sam carrying Frodo in Mount Doom at the end of Return of the King (third Lord of the Rings movie). Reaching the summit is like a victory against the elements but our appreciation of the landscape is quick. It is far too cold to stay long. Sally and I quickly appreciate the extent of the peninsula before our eyes and then going back, running. A treacherous area (mud covered with a little grass) tends us a trap and we both end butts in the mud. Fortunately no one is here except us to witness this very glorious moment. Nothing serious except a small blow to our pride (it is the second time my butt enter in contact with the muddy ground theses days!). We then stroll along the peninsula for several hours enjoying its hilly landscape and tranquil atmosphere prior to heading to Portobello to catch the bus.
Visit of The Catlins between friends
Apart from my visits with my wwoofers friends, I also discovered the beautiful region of The Catlins, located between Dunedin and Invercargill (further south). Stretching along the coast, The Catlins is a large natural area made of beaches, rain forests, meadows and tiny villages scattered along the Southern Scenic Route.
It is in company of Sophie and her friend Jade, owning a car (the only real easy way to explore The Catlins) that we left for a day of discovery. Jade is from New Zealand and she also study in the Department of Biochemistry where Sophie is doing her internship. It is with great kindness that Jade decided to take us to visit the area! Departure at 7 am on a Saturday by a very cold and covered in ice morning. The landscape, barely visible in the light of dawn is covered with a white layer that makes it magical. I witness a beautiful sunrise from the windows of the car, turning the scene into a real gem but unfortunately it is not possible to stop to take pictures. Damn!
We first decided to go to the farthest points of interest: Curio Bay, a beautiful beach known for being a surf spot. Hmm … nothing special especially since the weather is gray. Next point of interest: McLean Falls. A lovely waterfall accessible by a twenty minutes hikes through a rain forest. It is freezing cold and the trailhead is completely frosted. But the walk and waterfall are very nice.
Next point of interest: another cascade Purakunui Falls, friendly but also less impressive than McLean Falls. We then stop in a tiny village in the only open restaurant to have lunch. The food is really good. Apart from us and another family is a complete empty. Back to the car to go see Surat Bay, supposedly a paradise for sea lions. But weather is still clouded and it even starts to rain. That does not stop us to go walk along the beach but no mammals on the horizon. We look for paua shells, the Maori name for a marine gastropod mollusk whose shell is pearly with bluish reflections. But it’s also not very successful. Aside Jade which find a nice piece with beautiful reflections, nothing for Sophie and me.
We head to the last destination of the day: Nugget Point. Fifteen minutes walk from the car park along the cliff and here we arrived at a lighthouse located at the end of a rocky outcrop. From there, we see a surprising landscape with lots of little rocks eroded by waves, called “nugget” . The cliffs around the lighthouse are impressive as the view from the observation platform. Better not be afraid of the high. Some adventurous or unconscious people (like you want), span the guardrails to go down to the rocky outcrop for a mediation moment. I will not attempt that but the place being so beautiful, I understand them.
A torrential rain fell on us and while we are preparing to leave we notice gray spots on the rocks below. These are Fur seals! A colony lives indeed around. Big squint to see them! They are almost undetectable on the rocks. Pleasant surprise to end the day. We returned to Dunedin in the early evening under a gloomy weather.
Therefore with this article I conclude my time in Dunedin. Next step: two months of work on a dairy farm near Invercargill in Southland! Let’s go see some cows!
Note: all the pictures published in this article are my creations. They are not royalty free. Thank you for not using them without permission.