Bike tour part two

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dunedin and Otago Peninsula

Dunedin gets a post all to itself, as we spent three whole nights there. Aside from the 12-hour stay in Christchurch, Dunedin was the biggest city we stayed in by far, and also one of our favourite places. There were just so many things that we planned to do here, including visiting the Speight's brewery, going up the steepest hill in the world, and seeing penguins!

After a successful escape from Christchurch via bus, we arrived in Dunedin just in time for businesses to open up in the afternoon of Anzac Day. Anzac Day is basically the same as Remembrance Day, except instead of marking the end of the war, it occurs on the day of the first military action by Australian and New Zealand troops. While the dawn cermonies were long past by the time we emerged from our bus, we wandered around for a while and happened across the war memorial, which was being visited by other cyclists:

Cyclists pay their respects. Note the high-vis vests!

Dunedin reminds me of sort of a combination of Guelph and Victoria. It's a university town with the corresponding concentration of pubs and bars, but it's also right on the ocean and very picturesque. We found ourselves in a private room of a very friendly hostel right in the middle of downtown, and then set out to discover some of the features of the city. First stop: the Cadbury factory! Unfortunately, it was too late for us to take a tour, but we were allowed in to the "exclusive-access" gift shop.

So much chocolate!
This would be more exciting if I liked Cruchies.

The next day we hopped on our blissfully unloaded bikes and headed up. the 300 m hill to "New Zealand's only castle". As castles go, it wasn't particularly exciting, but the bike ride and the views were spectacular. Here's some pictures!

Taking a break on the way up
Guardian lions. Roar.
This view reminds me of the view from the 100 hills area on Saltspring, but with fewer trees.

We'd pre-booked into the Speight's brewery tour the night before, as it's popular enough that you can't just show up and expect to get in. For good reason, too - it's probably the best brewery tour I've ever been on, with a whole museum describing the history and the evolution of beer making techniques. A lot of the equipment is original, if repurposed, such as these old mash tuns that are now used to store water:

Beautiful old copper mash tuns.
Our enthusiastic tour guide.

It also helped that our tour guide was particularly entertaining. When it came to the drinking portion of the tour (the part where they put you in a room with beer taps and a time limit), she encouraged us to pour beer liberally and not care about waste. "If you don't like it, just tip it out, don't worry." I only had to tip out one of them... for a national-brand beer, Speight's is pretty decent.

Mmmmm, beer. And cider.

The next morning we biked over to the north end of town to check out the world's steepest hill (38% grade!). It's really hard to capture steepness in a photo, but I'm going to attempt it. I did not, however, attempt to bike up it. We made it almost as far as the asphalt/concrete line, which is nowhere near the steepest section.

Ryan giving up the bike attempt.

Even walking up this road is tricky enough that instead of a sidewalk, there's stairs. That's steep!

The steepest section just drops away.
Walking back down on the sidewalk stairs.

One of the major reasons we wanted to visit Dunedin was to visit the penguins. We would have been happy to see any penguins, but we were especially fortunate to be able to visit the rarest type: yellow-eyed penguins. There's apparently only 4000 of them in the world, and they can't be adapted to live in zoos. They're really picky about their nesting habits, as they can't breed in sight of each other (kind of like humans...) and so there's only a few beaches acceptible to their lifestyle. Fortunately, one of them (Penguin Place) is protected by a private conservation effort, fully funded by people like us who go hide in trenches and watch the penguins come in from fishing journeys in the evening.

The Penguin Place beach.
Our first view of a yellow-eyed penguin!

Penguin Place was an fantastic experience. My only regret is not having a better zoom! This is an extreme crop, as close as I could get.

This guy waddled up the path and kept turning around to call to his buddy! So adorable.

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