Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

Archive for May, 2015

All visits to lovely towns eventually come to an end, and the best way to ease the sorrow of leaving is to have an interesting next destination to head to.
And so it was when I packed up and departed the Roslyn Apartment, back in the car for the northward part of my road trip.

I hadn’t yet explored much of the Otago Peninsula even though there is much to see there, so I decided I would squeeze in a detour in the morning before I hit the road north. It’s possible that later in the day I might end up regretting that decision (spoiler – I DO!) but the day stretched out ahead of me and it seemed like I had time for anything…

So I drove to the Larnach Castle which is New Zealand’s only castle and seemed like a novelty to check out.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

The castle was built in 1871 by William Larnach, a banker and politician, for his first wife Eliza. He and one of his sons were horseriding on the Otago Peninsula when they chose the site for the castle – it’s easy to see why they chose it!

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

It took more than 200 workmen three years to build the Castle and a further 12 years designing and furnishing the interior.

William’s story is quite tragic. His first wife Eliza had all six of Lanarch’s children and then sadly died at the age of 38. He later married her half-sister who died five years – also aged 38! His oldest daughter passed away in her twenties, he remarried one more time but then tragically took his own life in the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in 1898. The family struggled after this and sold the castle in 1906. The current owners bought the castle in 1967.

I paid the small fee to enter the grounds and explore the gardens which were quite charming.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

I opted not to pay for entry to the castle as I was short on time and had already gotten my fill with the Olveston House visit. I did visit the tea rooms though and enjoyed coffee and fresh scones.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

The grounds have a few little Alice in Wonderland influences hidden in crooks and crannies, such as a Cheshire Cat in a tree. I later learnt that it is a tribute to the New Zealand reference made in Lewis Carrol’s famous work.

“I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! The antipathies I think… but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please Ma’am, is this New Zealand?”

 

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

The grounds actually reminded me more of another classic book, one I was a bigger fan of as a child – The Secret Garden. There were so many nooks and hideaways around the gardens, some felt like they were all but forgotten until I stumbled on them.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Time to depart as the day was pressing on and I had a 5+ hour drive to Akaroa. I left the Otago Peninsula with a few sneaky detours down some dirt roads to the coastline and stops by the roadside to snap some pics.

Otago Peninsula

My good friend Leah, a pal I met while travelling in India and who I caught up with in Auckland, told me about a great restaurant called Fleur’s Place which she highly recommended I visit as I was passing. WOW – I’m so glad I did!  It is a small cosy ocean side restaurant at Moeraki. While there I saw books on the shelf that had a photo on the cover of the smiling woman who greeted me – Fleur Sullivan. I thought she must be someone interesting to be on the cover of a book so I did some Googling. This interview reveals a fascinating and inspiring woman!

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

I sat inside by a pretty window and enjoyed a delicious seafood chowder and fresh bread.

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

The restaurant is located on right on the water – like, water on three sides! It was incredibly pretty. The site was an early whaling station and is built from gathered collectables and demolition materials from all over New Zealand.

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

OK, so I referred earlier in the post to regretting taking my time heading north.

I lingered a little longer than I should have, and by the time I hit the road I was pushing hard to get to Akaroa before sundown, which I wanted to do seeing as I didn’t know the area at all.

Holy moly. Worst. Drive. Ever.

So I stopped to fill up with petrol at one point. It seemed a bit strange at the time, but even though the station attendant was right there chatting to a truckie, I had to use the pre-pay station. Actually, I was a little put out at the time, because I didn’t know what the go was with the whole pre-pay system (I haven’t come across it in Australia). I picked up the nozzle up and it wouldn’t work, so I was trying this and that, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. The station attendant saw I was having trouble and called out the instructions to me- I had to first walk across the station and use the pay machine before filling it up. I thought it was a bit inconvenient at the time, couldn’t he just interrupt his chat to help me out? But it saved me big time later that night, you;ll see! I hit the road and drove straight through to Akaroa… which got HAIRY people. HAIRY.

Storm clouds rolled in. The sun set. The rain shattered down. My petrol tank emptied. AHHHHH!

It got later and darker, the road got steeper, and then every turn became a hair pin.

road to akaora

Every ten minutes or so a set of headlights would rapidly come up behind me, and in the pouring rain, my windscreen wipers on the highest setting, it would overtake me impatiently. I didn’t pass a single car in the other direction. There wasn’t a building or street light in sight for what seemed hours. As I drove up the incline, I steadily cast glances at the navigation system as my car plodded along the road next to a vast nothingness. I couldn’t see a thing out the window but at some point I realised I was on the water’s edge. I anticipated every minute that the car would run out of petrol and for the first time in my life I had a moment where I thought –

“OK. This is how it ends”

I had a vision of the car stopping, and me being stuck on the narrow road, tucked behind a hairpin and a car coming behind me and nudging me off the road into the water below.

But I kept chugging forward, up the incline, corner by corner. I leaned forward in the drivers seat, hands gripping the steering wheel, peering through the rain on the windscreen, praying to see a building of some sort – preferably a petrol station. I searched on my phone, I searched on the navigation system – no luck!

FINALLY I came across a pub at the top of climb. I eased into the car park and ran inside to find them closing. I explained my plight and the bartender shrugged, he didn’t seem too fussed. I stressed the urgency and he said there was a petrol station at the bottom of the hill, about 15 minutes. I figured if I coasted down I wouldn’t need to use any petrol, so I hopped back in the car and did just that. I drove into the petrol station on the whiff of nothing. AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? It was a self serve petrol station. Which I would not know how to use if it had not been for the station attendant earlier in the day. Without that lesson, I would have assumed the place was closed. But I recognised the self-serve machine and was able to cruise in and fill up. Another five minutes down the road, with a full tank of petrol, I was in Akaroa and outside the hostel I was staying at for the night.

PHEW!!!!!

Lessons learned:

  • Plan ahead.
  • Fill up at every petrol station (almost).
  • When driving alone at night, pack a flashlight at the very least!
  • Be grateful for the gift of every day.
  • And for having a brave heart to make the most of it.

Have I mentioned before how much I love being in transit? It’s always one of the best parts of travelling for me. The practice of travelling somewhere is equal in anticipation to actually arriving somewhere in my mind. Not only do I enjoy the carved out pocket of time where I can just be where I am and that is enough, but I love all modes of transport where I can look out a window and let the world pass me by. Or stand between train carriages and have my hair blown wildly around as I hang on and enjoy the biting wind on my cheeks and the fresh air filling every breath. Not on a Sydney train of course – I’m talking about scenic railways such as the Taieri Gorge Railway in Dunedin!

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

I read about the railway in a brochure I picked up in the Visitor Centre and knew straightaway I was going to get myself on that train. I went down to the Dunedin Railway Station – quite a nice building in its own right – and booked onto the return journey from Dunedin to Pukerangi for the next day. It was less than $100 and I had no problem booking on with such late notice. The journey covers 112km in a four hour trip which includes several stops to stretch our legs and most importantly – enjoy the view!

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

I rocked up with time to spare in the morning, had a poke around the station and hopped on the train when the whistle was blown. I found my carriage and settled in. There is a food and drink carriage on board and I also came prepared with my chocolate stash from the Cadbury World factory tour. I was all set – all aboard, let’s go!

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

After traveling out of Dunedin the train heads south where it turns at Wingatui Junction onto the Taieri branch.

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

The train travels across the Taieri Plains and into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep gorge carved out by the ancient Taieri River.

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

We were free to stand on the platforms between the carriages to enjoy the thrill of the ride and snap photos as the front of the train leads the way, curving around the mountain and offering snap-worthy shots every minute.

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

We chugged along through ten tunnels and bridges galore – picturesque at every turn.

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

Towards Pukerangi one of the train drivers tapped me on the shoulder and jerked his head to the back of the train. “Go stand on the back platform in five minutes, you’ll get the most breathtaking view as the train heads over the bridge.

I didn’t need to be told twice! Down I headed and I spent twenty minutes out the back snapping pics and leaning into the wind.

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

My eyes were streaming and my hair was a-crazy, but I had a big smile on my face. It was amazing!

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

The tunnels were also fun – though I held on tight to my camera and kept all limbs rigid as a board by my side!!!

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

When we got to Pukerangi we stopped for awhile and waited for people who were boarding; then we headed back the way we came :-)

Taieri Gorge Railway - Along the Away

We travelled back the same way, which was A-OK seeing as once was not enough. What a wonderful half day adventure :-)

While in Dunedin I stayed in a one bedroom apartment at Roslyn Apartments. The apartment was beautifully furnished and offered a nice, quiet, cosy retreat from the hustle and bustle of being on the road for almost a month.

It was a bit out of the city centre, but just across the road and up a little is a supermarket and a row of cafes and stores for any immediate needs/coffee, and being up on the hill offers a great view.

Dunedin City Tour

It only took me about 20 minutes to walk down hill from the apartment (maybe 25 minutes on the way back home). Surely it would be an inexpensive taxi ride, though I always walked because it was an enjoyable, pretty journey.

Dunedin City Tour

Dunedin City Tour

Although I often avoid them, sometimes the best way to explore a new city is on a sightseeing bus – you get to cover a lot of ground while someone tells you everything you need to know – plus a lot of interesting trivia.

I was in the iSITE Visitor Centre when I overheard a guy thanking one of the staff for recommending the Good Company Dunedin Tour he had gone on the day before on their recommendation – I intercepted him as he was walking out the door and asked him what else he’d enjoyed doing in Dunedin. Cue a 30 minute conversation chatting with a fellow traveller; he gave me heaps of tips for the South Island, and I gave him tips about the North Island where he was heading next.

I went back into the centre and booked on the afternoon tour, which gave me a couple of hours visiting some of the local stores before hoofing it back to the centre for the bus pick-up. We went in a mini-bus, myself and three older couples, Aussie and English.

Our friendly driver/tour guide launched straight into telling us all about Dunedin – which turns out started out as a southern hemisphere Edinburgh, designed by two Scottish Presbyterians who wanted to create a Presbyterian town free of the politics that plagued their homeland. Dunedin means Edinburgh in Scottish Gaelic; they intended to build the town with Edinburgh’s street layout but had to change it when they arrived and realised that mountainous New Zealand equals a hilly Dunedin, not quite as flat as Edinburgh. One of the more interesting things I learnt was that the  Knox Church was built at the top of the hill, and the Speight’s Brewery was built at the bottom – much to the annoyance of the Presbyterians whose blessed water ended up at the bottom to be used by the brewery!

Dunedin City Tour

Also very interesting is that the Otago girls school opened before the boys school in 1870! Quite progressive for its time.

We stopped for a ten minute walk through the University of Otago which was very pretty; definitely feeling the Scottish influences here – almost a little Hogwarts-esque may I dare say.

Dunedin City Tour

Dunedin City Tour

At the top of Signal Hill Lookout the views encompass the Otago Harbour and Otago Peninsula – so beautiful on a clear Winter’s day.

Dunedin City Tour

There are two large statues at the top, sitting almost Buddha-like, watching over the city. Our tour guide shared a local conspiracy that the statues were ordered to be made in London by the City, but in a cost-cutting measure, they took in two statues that were originally made for a temple in India – hence the robe-like clothing and prayer-like crossed legged poses! I have no idea how much merit that theory has, but regardless, the male figure represents History and faces West, holding a book with the years 1848-1948 engraved on it.

Dunedin City Tour

The female figue represents Future and gazes East, holding ‘the thread of life’ on her lap.

Dunedin City Tour

Along the harbour there are a row of teeth. Strange, yes. Officially know as the ‘Harbour Mouth Molars’ – the sculpures are six wisdom teeth.

Dunedin City Tour

We drove to the Otago Peninsula and stopped to enjoy the rolling green hills and brilliant blue water views. Iconic New Zealand!

Dunedin City Tour

Dunedin City Tour

After getting back downtown as the sun was setting, I walked home past St Pauls Cathedral.

Dunedin City Tour

On the advice of the traveller I met at the Visitor Centre I went to the Olveston Stately Home the next morning and did the house tour there. I’m a nerd and love period homes – probably because I also love period novels and film, so getting to visit a period home furnished is fun (because I can swan around pretending I’m Lizzie Bennet or Miss Fischer).

Dunedin City Tour

I couldn’t take photos inside, but it was an excellent tour – the house is indulgently decorated with many ‘mod-cons’ of the early 20th century as well as furnishings and artwork from across the globe. The tour guide and caretakers know alot about the Olveston family and history so the tour is full of interesting facts and information. Olveston was built for a Dunedin businessman, collector and philanthropist David Theomin, his wife Marie and their two children Edward and Dorothy, who travelled extensively prior to building the home in 1906. Unfortunately no further generations lived in the home as Dorothy was the last family member who died without heirs. She left the house to the City of Dunedin who at the time thought it was a bit of a drag and seen as only an expensive drain on tax payers money – until they looked inside and realised what valuable collections were there.

Dunedin City Tour

My next day in Dunedin was one of my favourites in New Zealand… stay tuned – we are nearing the end of my Kiwi tales but there are still a few adventures to share :-)

So it turns out I rocked into Dunedin the week of the Cadbury Chocolate Festival… Yes, poor me. The trials of the wanderer are fierce.

It was honestly quite the coincidence – you would think an extreme chocoholic like myself might have had a bit more of an intentional hand in such synchronicity, but no. As unplanned as it was there was clearly the hand of the universe at play, which has a way of revealing our destiny to us at the appropriate moment.

Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Dunedin

Unfortunately I was leaving the day of the famous Jaffa race which was the event I would have been the most interested in. I had heard of this many years before from a Kiwi housemate – the steepest street in the world is in Dunedin (Baldwin St) and the city makes good use of it by unleashing thousands of jaffas down its slope one day every year. The jaffas are all branded with a number, each one funded by members of the public. The first ones to reach the bottom of the hill win their owner a prize. Very cool! But unfortunately I missed it.

I did go to the Cadbury World factory though and signed up to go on the tour. It was brilliant. Sometimes these kind of things don’t really live up to expectations, but the tour was really interesting, we got given heaps of Cadbury products in our goody bags, and our lovely tour guide was genuinely enthusiastic about everything she had to show us.

The tour cost $22 and is best booked at least a day before if you’re on any particular schedule. The full tour takes 75 minutes and runs every half an hour during the day so you’ll likely get booked on one with short notice. When I turned up for my time slot I was invited to wander around looking at some momentos from Cadbury’s history until it was time to start.

Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Dunedin

Within five minutes I was approached by an Ompaloompa. I know, that’s a different chocolate factory, but I was flummoxed when a short person came up to me in purple overalls, white long sleeved arms and a white puffy hairnet. I looked around and there was quite a few of them – virtually indistinguishable from each other! My Oompaloompa asked what time slot I was in and asked me to meet by the door, where she would lead the tour from. Our small group of 6 assembled and we started. First of all we watched a short video about the history of the Cadbury family, then we all donned hairnets, and for the guys with facial hair, beard snoods (!!!) All jewellery had to be removed or taped down onto the skin. Our guide explained that the Dunedin Cadbury factory is the last working chocolate factory in the world that you actually tour through and see things in action. It means that we have to take precautions to ensure the factory remains hygienic and up to food safety standards. The walkways we stuck to as we wandered through the place was separated from the actual chocolate production, but it was still reassuring to see the extent they go to to keep the products protected.

Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Dunedin

Cameras are not allowed on the tour so I have no pictures to share, however I’ll paint you a picture of my highlights.

My absolute favourite part was the coloured pipes on the ceiling. There were four colours, and they ran unpredictably, sometimes all four together, then randomly splitting off and criss-crossing across each other. Each colour pumps a different kind of chocolate to each of the machines. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and couverture chocolate. Depending on the Cadbury product that is made at each station depends which coloured pipes run to there. The only Cadbury product made with all four types are Choc Bits, which turn up in the baking aisle of the supermarket.

I was mesmerised by the Choc Bits being piped down onto the conveyor belt in a grid of about a hundred bits or so. There must have been a blockage on one of the nozzles as watching the grid of bits trundle past on the conveyor belt there was a single ‘Bit’ missing in every grid. A little blank space in the neat orderly rows of Choc Bits.

The grand finale of the tour was walking into one of the tall towers that are so dominant from the street. Here, a tonne of melted chocolate is dropped from the centre of the tower and thunders past us. The same chocolate is used for a whole year – it is collected at the bottom, kept warm and pumped back up to the top again for the next group. So obviously, this is not chocolate you would want to put in your mouth!

Luckily they had a special batch for us to try which came from a machine that squirted tablespoons worth down into a tray of about 12 mini-cups. I really loved seeing the machinery aspect of the factory, so efficient!

There is a cafe on site, where the mochas are delicious and served with a chocolate fish!

Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Dunedin

Dunedin is not just about chocolate – it’s a pretty cool town actually! More on my four day visit in the next post.