Dunedin, New Zealand (11th Mar 2008)
Invercargill to Dunedin via Slope Point
Driver: KaraDistance Travelled: 335.0 + 37.0 Km / 208.2 + 23.0 Miles
Accumulative Distance: 1998.7 Km / 1241.8 Miles
Since the place we had been sleeping was quite rural and secluded there wasn't much noise to wake us up and as it was so cold outside of the bed covers, it was just too easy to keep on pressing snooze and avoiding the fate that was getting up which we didn't do until sometime after 10am! Back on the road and things were bleak, the weather was horrible and the drive itself was through bare scrubland with the odd pasture dotted around with the odd sheep grazing. Rather than taking the state highway we decided to try and follow a more scenic route that passed through the Catlin's Coastal Rainforest Park and hugged the islands southern most coast.
As we were plodding along we found out that not far of the route we were taking you could visit a place called Slope Point which is the actual southern most point of NZ. The scenic road that we were on was already a bad 'B' Road and as we turned off, following the brown tourist signs, tings got a whole lot worse. The road soon disappeared from under us and was replaced with a pothole ridden dirt track, which we later found out was a farmers private land; when we finally pulled up the van was absolutely filthy and you could no longer tell what colour it was, never mind read the supposedly witty graffiti. There were a couple of other campervans pulled up next to the access gate which lead straight into a muddy field which contained a simple homemade sign which read, "Follow Yellow Marks" so we presumed that meant to Slope Point and set off ankle deep in the brown stuff.
Fifteen minutes of walking, twice in the wrong direction and after Mark had chased and scared all the sheep around, we caught sight of some kind of meteorological station that was out near the edge of the cliff so we headed that way, where we finally spotted a sign telling us we had reached NZ most southern place. We knew it was never going to be anything particularly spectacular and for us it was more just to say we had been there, all there was there was a sign which pointed both North and South, North to the Equator (5140 Km)and South to The South Pole (4803 Km). Out of the edge of the cliff the wind was unbelievably strong and it made for taking a photo of us together impossible, Mark tried and failed more than once to set the camera up on the timer, but the wind kept on either blowing the camera over or spinning it around and getting a photo of some rocks; we had just about given up and got separate photos of each other, when from nowhere and elderly couple arrived and offered to get one for us. Even though both us and the van got totally covered in thick mud, windswept and wet, it was still worth it, it not every day you can get that close to the south pole.
Getting back to the main road was just as challenging as getting off it was, as we slid in the thick mud on the corners and struggled up and down the steep hills. We were now on the lookout for signs which had little pictures of mountains on them which would take us in the general direction of the Catlins but they never appeared or we must have missed them because before we knew it we had passed a sign welcoming us into Catlin country... For a scenic route, it wasn't much kop and it might have been the weather that helped to put a downer on things but we sure weren't too impressed with the whole area and it made for a dull drive all the way into Dunedin.
Finally, as we began the drive into Dunedin city centre, the sun popped its head and began to shine as we wound along the coastal road. Although it wasn't too late in the afternoon when we arrived, it probably was too late to try and cram something touristy in today so we made our way over to the tourist information centre to see what we could do and what deals we might be able to score. It was packed to the rafters when we arrived and we could hardly more, mainly due to a couple of coaches that were parked up outside; we managed to get ourselves some really good AA guide books, maps and tour discount vouchers before squeezing through to join a booking queue. Things didn't get off to the best of starts when we got to the front as the woman who was trying to juggle three or four tasks at once was failing miserably. As well as training a young girl, half taking our order, half ignoring us, stopping halfway through taking to answer the phone and take other bookings she was just not very professional at all, she couldn't have set a worse example to her trainee. When the woman behind the desk finally did get round to serving us, she was a real b****, snapping at us and snatching the money out of our hands, not once making eye contact or remembering the basics (please, thank you).
The drive around the city en route to the tourist information centre had been a nice surprise at unlike all the other so called cities we have been to, Dunedin, is a real city and it seemed great, the architecture, well laid out roads and it seemed to have the buzz of a city. As we said, it was still early and definitely not time to be heading to bed quite yet and we couldn't go out to drink as we would still need to drive later on, and that when Mark remembered what he saw advertised in the information centre... Ten minutes later and we were parked up rummaging in the back of the van, because we were going to the swimming baths, which had a spa/Jacuzzi and most importantly showers. The Moana swimming pool was just outside of the city centre and for NZ$4 it was a no brainer. Once inside we made a mad dash for the Jacuzzi where we sat and did nothing for the first half an hour, it felt so good to have had a shower already and now to be fully submerged in the nice warm bubbly water, it felt so good. Just over an hour later and we had turned completely pruney and we couldn't believe how long we had been in for, spending most our time in either the kids rapids or the wave pool. The best and real reason we had come was to use the showers afterwards, something we both did for at least 15minutes as it was only the second shower we had managed to have in a week.
Feeling clean and well and truly refreshed we headed now back out of the city centre slightly, back in the direction we came in as Kara had already spotted a good camp site earlier which was right next to the beach in a place called Green Island. We did the usual when we arrived and made up the back of the van into dining room mode and cooked ourselves something delicious from a tin! After dinner we thought that since we had yet another lovely place to stay that we ought to make the most of it and headed for a walk on the beachfront as the sun was setting in a sky full of red and blue clouds; we soon realised that this particular walk wasn't going to last too long as the tide was on its way back in, and at a pretty fast rate and it was getting cold anyway, so half an hour later we were back in the van snuggled up and ready for sleeping which was going to be needed as we had a full day ahead of us in the morning.
As soon as we woke up we made the short drive back to the city as we wanted to get a few things sorted out before we started our first tour of the day which started at 11am. We had seen the day before that the city library offers free internet and use of computers, so after struggling to find a parking spot we headed over to try and save a few dollars. Probably for the first and last ever time, we had to stand and wait 15minutes for the library to open as we got there so early and what a disappointment it was when we did manage to get inside. The library, did, as advertised, have free internet use, but with two pretty major catches; the first being that checking email cost and secondly the filtering software that they used was so strong that it blocked 99% of the sites we tried to get on, even the BBC site! Since hotmail cost to use, we tried to go on Facebook and use that, but according to the filtering software our pages contained "Profanities" and "Unsuitable Material" which meant that was also out of the question, we must just be too hardcore for the Dunedin library system!
By the time we had managed to do absolutely nothing at the library it was getting on for the start time of our first tour of the day, The Cadburys Factory! We managed to arrive a little ahead of time and after being checked in by the giddy young man on reception in a purple suit, we were shown into a small area in the foyer which we could browse at our leisure before the tour began. Most of the area we could walk around was designed to like a trip down memory lane in the Cadburys world, they had all sorts of old packing, tins, commemorative stuff, old TV adverts on loop and all kinds of memorabilia, some of which you could buy if you so wished (we did not). One thing that we did do, and instantly regretted was trying a raw cocoa bean, it tasted like what we might imagine a dog turd would taste like, only mouldier and with a hint of coffee, it was absolutely foul and was the only thing we could taste for ages afterwards. Luckily it didn't take too long for our guide to appear and get things underway.
The lady who came from nowhere was a real sight, maybe 5 foot, 70+ year's old, wild white hair, way too much make up and wearing a purple pair of overalls and a Cadburys visor backwards, it was hilarious; as we could tell from her get up she wasn't quite your normal granny and as expected she was hyper, bouncing of the walls and screaming and shouting, but at least she was dishing out free chocolate bars, left right and centre. We were shown into a small room which was full of seats, like in assembly at school and we were told to sit down and watch a welcome DVD which explained safety blah blah... While we waited for the DVD to finish hyper granny came doing her rounds, giving out hairnets and for Mark a beard snood since he hadn't shaved since getting to NZ in which he looked like a bank robber.
Annoyingly, just as we were getting taken through to the factory, the guide told us that we would all have to take of our coats, jewellery, watches and leave our cameras behind. The tour lasted about an hour and to be honest was a bit of a disappointment as we didn't get to see any actual chocolate being made or packed or moved or anything, it was like the factory had been abandoned, to which we were told all the staff were on their weeks holiday after having just finished making all the Easter eggs and selection boxes for Christmas. One upside to the factory being deserted was that we got given extra chocolate and nobody was there to stop hyper granny opening up a box or two. The grand finale came at the top of the one of the silos, where just for the tour groups they have set up a chocolate "waterfall" where basically they have a big tub of molten chocolate (1 Ton) and pour it down 4 floors in front of you and it splashes all over covering the floor and handrails and some splashes onto the unlucky people who were stood to close. At the end of the tour when we got our stuff back from out of the lockers were able to quickly pose for 5 minutes next to the old delivery trucks that were near the start which was quite good. As with any tour ours ended at the shop, where you can buy all type of weird and wonderful chocolate and chocolate related things, some of which we have never even imagined existed, but since hyper granny had already given us 7 or 8 chocolate bars each for free we didn't really need to spend any money buying any more and make a hasty exit.
The Cadburys tour hadn't lasted as long as we were expecting so since we had some time to kill before our next tour at 2pm, we thought we would go try and find Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street that has a 1 in 2.86 gradient (that's real steep). Getting there was pretty easy and it wasn't until we pulled around the corner and sat at the bottom looking up how steep it really was. When Mark said to Kara that we now had to drive up it she thought he was joking and it proved a real challenge for the van, who in first gear, all the way, just about made it up the 161.2 metre climb to the top, it was mad and on the steepest section it felt like the van was going to back flip down the hill. The pavement is so steep that it has in the last few years been replaced with steps as it was just too hard to climb and on the way back down we parked the van for a photo to try and show how steep it was (look at the house roof in the background).
Our second tour of the day was the one we had been looking forward to the most, the Speight's Brewery Tour, "the pride (beer) of the south". Our tour started promptly at 2pm and the first half was spent been taken around the museum that they have on site which explained the origin of beer and how Speight's came about and soon became the biggest, most popular brew in NZ. On e of the most interesting things that we learned and couldn't believe, is that back in the good old days when they first started, each worker could take home a 23litre keg of beer, each day, but most workers just drank their entire allowance whilst at work in the day time and they have had no recorded work place accidents as a result! Our tour guide was local young guy and was pretty funny and looked like Nick from the comedy show My Family, who now does the BT adverts.
The second half of the tour concentrated on the beer itself and how that Speight's in Dunedin is one of the only breweries in the world that still does gravitational brewing, so to get things started we headed to the top floor in the old original service elevator when the brewing begins. One other good thing is that unlike the Cadburys factory, we could take our cameras in and they were much more relaxed about you touching things and interacting. Over the next forty five minutes we worked our way down, systematically through the floors and got to see the huge copper brewing vats and the old fermenting gyle's that they used to brew the beer in and now do speciality brews in once a month. We also got to see the main ingredients they use in brewing and could have a smell and handle of them. The tour saves the best bit to last and this was one of the real reasons we had come here, to go in the onsite tasting room/bar where they let you try all 6 different brews they are making currently straight from the vats in the factory.
Speight's make 6 brews currently ranging from the regular beer (Gold Medal Ale) to a stout (Old Dark) with a few others in between. In the bar area the guide jumped behind the bar and began pouring the 10oz glasses of beer for us all to try with Marks favourite being the Pale Ale (Pilsner) and Kara's the Distinction (Wheat Beer). For the last ten of our allotted 30minutes bar time the guide came back from around the bar and told us we could just go for it and help ourselves to as much more of the beer as we wanted, so that's exactly what we did, since free beer is always the best tasting; everyone had at least three more, with the exception of Kara who was our designated driver for the day. After 30 minutes of binge drinking and after already absorbing that pub smell we needed some fresh air so headed back outside to sit down for a bit as soon as the tour was over. Whilst we were on the tour the guide had explained that the Speight's brewery is on this particular site because directly under the building they had a natural spring that would provide the water that they need to make the beer and that since 1990 something they have instated a tap on the front of the building which members of the public can use to get free mineral water. The tap comes from what is fashioned to look like and old keg and since we had loads of bottles in the van, we filled them up, over 12litres in all.
For the rest of the day we walked around the city taking in some of the smaller sights and getting a real feel for the place and snapping a few photos. The final thing that we did was probably our biggest extravagance yet in NZ, we went for a fancy meal in a very posh looking restaurant right on the Octagon (city centre area) in a place simply called The Terrace. As it has been a week now and still Mark hadn't tried the national dish, Lamb, so that was an obvious choice for him with Kara opting for veggie Lasagne. The food came pretty quick while we were watching some Premiership football replays and Marks came with a bit of a twist... He was presented by the waitress with two 6-7oz fillets of lamb, raw and a big red hot slab of granite on which he could cook them to his exact liking and he thought it was amazing, both the Lamb and the cooking experience and we were so happy picking up the bill that came to less than £20, it was amazing!
After dinner we decided that it was time to get out of the city before we spent any more cash and since it had already been a very long day we headed back to the same place we had stayed the night before, set up the bed and went straight to sleep.