Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Final Leg: Dunedin, Magic, Castles and Bros

The South Road Round

When planning a trip to New Zealand, it is very hard to tell which parts are worth going to and spending time in, and although there is a wealth of information and resources available, it is near impossible to allocate how much time you can spend in certain places before you actually arrive there.

A perfect example of this was that as we headed to Invercargill we had little idea what to expect. The landscape got gradually flatter as we drove away from the Fiordland, and became increasingly developed and grey as we approached Invercargill itself. While other visitors may have had a great experience and feeling, we were reaching the tail end of our trip, and after seeing the majority of the landscape of both the North and South Islands, it was definitely not one of the more inspiring sights to greet us.

The Final View of the Fiordland

After parking up and walking around for a bit, we had an emergency conference over a coffee, and decided that as it had taken much less time than we had allocated to arrive, and there not being much to do that we would change our itinerary. Though we had originally planned to see Bluff, the furthest point south on the Island, we agreed that it would be near impossible to see a sight more impressive than the rolling hills and epic mountain range, and after consulting the Lonely Planet and our remaining time in the country decided to head towards Dunedin up the East coast.

Arriving in Dunedin, I could instantly feel the effects of the Scottish heritage, and the age and layout of the buildings really reminded me of home. Set on hills, rather than the flatter towns around, the grid system fails to remove the sense of curiosity and interest that the winding and vastly altered gradient of the streets creates.

After assessing the options from the Planet, we had decided that we would stay at one of the more unique hostels, Hogwartz. Although themed on the Harry Potter series, this hostel was largely unaffected by the tacky potential that such a half arsed attempt at recreating the Hogwarts Castle could have had. This said, it may have been largely due to the lack of alternative accommodation on the weekend we arrived, or the fact that no one else was British that the hostel held a great niche appeal on this front. While you could be easy to be put off by the name and description at face value, I would highly recommend the hostel for overall cleanliness, of rooms, bathrooms and kitchen, the helpful staff and the crowd that it seems to attract.

The old Sunny's time draws near

We were given a full map with great details of where everything was and how best to get there, and set off to see the city. I would really recommend doing this before setting out, as we usually would have done, for walking down the wrong hill can lead to serious arguments in a group if you have to walk back up.

While it was not term time at the University, we decided that we would go and see the campus, which is quite interesting, but I wouldn’t bother with it if you were here for only a limited time.

One particular attraction is the World’s Steepest Street. While this is a tourist attraction, there is no charge to walk or drive up it, but on reaching the top, you have to wonder about the credibility of the claim. While I agree that it is indeed, very steep, the top isn’t that far away, and cars can still drive up it with relative ease (NB: Don’t try to take a camper van or small car based on this) it holds little on the hills in San Francisco, although I doubt that you would visit Dunedin just for this attraction so that is probably of little consequence.

It was in Dunedin that we were to meet two of the most influential people in our travels. When we returned to our hostel, two Australians had moved into our room and were just starting their New Zealand trip. There names were Josh and Jake, and after realising a shared love for beer, we headed into town. While this was to be our last night in Dunedin, we all got on really well, and decided that we would keep in contact as we planned to head up the east coast of Aus the following year, and would meet up in Brisbane. Jealous of their upcoming NZ adventure, we headed off the next day, but not before realising a shared love for the fine range of baked and fried goods on offer at 7-eleven. Seriously, an absolute bargain, especially the Cordon Bleu. highly recommended to all. 

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