Dunedin — The Final Chapter

Well, our time in Dunedin has officially come to an end. We have enjoyed ourselves and taking care of Mr. Velcro. Emmitt, as mentioned before, has been an absolute joy to hang out with and we are definitely going to miss him. I think he will miss us too, but dogs just have a different zen-like way of viewing those things. Well, to be honest, I think what he will actually miss is our morning walks on St. Kildas beach access road. He knows most of the dogs there now and greets them every day with great relish. I feel sorry for Brandon and Amy that first morning after they get back home and it hits 8:30 and Emmitt starts to protest at the lack of movement toward the beach. But, he’ll get over it. He’ll have his family back.

A light breeze on the Dunedin scale of wind

The general conclusion we have about Dunedin is that it is a lovely town and quite beautiful. There is a wide area of services and goods that make it an easy place to live.

The Otago Peninsula is amazing both for the beaches, hiking and the bike riding. When it is sunny and not too windy, it is glorious.

However, even in the summer we had some days that were pretty cold and the thought of how cold it must be in the winter is a bit daunting. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind, but the wind pretty much howls here 348 days a year. One friend of ours said that “if anybody feels like it resembles Scotland, then it is too cold and miserable to live in.” Probably sage advice.

So, based on that, the Nelson Bays area is definitely the going favorite for where we will live.

Driving and parking in downtown Dunedin is a bit of PITA too. Always takes longer than you think. This might be a function of us having spent time in a lot of small towns in the last year. But, if you had a job here, it would be a wonderful place to live and work. Generally pretty affordable and a fair amount to do. It’s a pretty good biking city too…which is always a big bonus in my book.

The molar sculptures at the mouth of Otago Harbor. Somebody had a sense of humor. I think they should call the surrounding park “gingivitis park.” I might have to petition the Dunedin council for a name change.

A few of the other fun things we did in last week here:

Allan’s Beach: This is a beach that you look down on from the overlook at Sandymount. One day we drove out there to check it out and look for some more sea critters.

It’s a short hike down to the beach and right out of the gate we had to side step around a gigantic male sea lion. Even though we have seen a bunch since being here, they are still amazing and a bit scary every time you happen upon on … even when they are just lying there in sand doing nothing. I brought the big 600 mm lens this time, so it was easier to keep from getting chomped by one.

Keeping my distance from the big dude taking a nap

The whole place was pretty cool, but the wind was howling (that video above was looking down on the beach the day we went there), so it made walking on the beach a little less than pleasant. There were only a few other people around. However, when we headed back out to the car park, there was a big group coming in on a wildlife tour. A huge cruise ship had docked in Port Chalmers, so the wildlife tours were having a banner couple days and this was one of the most easily accessible places to see the sea lions up close and personal.

Tunnel Beach: Tunnel beach is just on the outskirts of Dunedin and is quite famous. We had somehow managed to not go there for the first 5 weeks of our stay, but decided that we better do it. So we did. It did not disappoint. It was a lovely, if not hot day and as we got to the car park we both commented on how much further up from the ocean it was than we had thought. It is a short hike, just 1.7 km down and back. But it is steep. Almost 600′ of elevation loss and then gain.

Let’s just say, if you go, you will not have it to yourself. The car park was packed and there were a lot of people heading down and up the trail. That said, it didn’t take away from the beauty of the place. At the bottom, you can access the beach through a tunnel that has been carved out from the rocks. It’s pretty cool. We wandered around taking pictures, amazed at the grandeur of the place and that it is right there in Dunedin. A definite must visit.

Just love the water color

St. Kildas: I know I have talked about this already, but it just became the thing we did every day. The closed off roadway was clearly the place to come and do a morning walk and was a social hub for Dunedin. Emmitt loved it—we loved it. By the end of our time, we probably recognized 70% of the people and dogs out there. The guy with a springer spaniel that drove a white subaru legacy wagon and always wore a teal jacket. Don’t know his name, but we smiled and said hi every day. I guess we should have stopped and chatted more. I think it gave us a bit of a sense of permanence and belonging. That has probably been the hardest part of being nomads for 2 years, you do start to lose connection with people. So this was nice and we got a lot of “weak ties” in the bargin. Emmitt got to be Mr. Congeniality and greet everyone, and after 6 weeks of this consistent walking, he is looking quite fit and trim. It was the doggy boot camp for him.

Keeping my peeps company while they work

One of the funniest/coolest things was that on the golf course adjacent to the walk, the greens keeper had a border collie that followed him around the golf course while he trimmed up the grass. Every morning we would see him out with the tractor and his dog just dutifully tagged along. Amazing.

I really enjoyed the bike riding here. It is funny when I look back at the blog, a huge proportion of it is taken up by bicycling. I do spend a lot time either doing it, planning it or dreaming about it. I am not sure why it connects with me so much, but it does free my mind and make me feel like a kid again … which brings me to my last story about Dunedin. On one of my rides on the Otago peninsula, I did my usual up Highcliff Rd and then around through the various gravel roads and back along the bike path. It was a glorious day and I was having a wonderful time looking at the views and feeling in the moment. As I was cruising along Otago harbor on the bike path heading back to Otis, I saw a young kid on a bike that looked way too big for him; he was maybe 10 or 11 years old. As I passed him, he smiled and then pedaled like crazy to get in my slipstream.

I was humming along at between 20 to 24 mph and he was keeping up. At one point he attacked me and tried to get ahead. I caught up to him, drafted him for a while (not that he provided much slipstream since he was so small!) and then passed him. As I went by, I smiled at him and said “What?! you trying to beat up on an old man!” He laughed. I told him he was a great rider.

Young kid in an old dude’s body

I took over the pace-making and really put the hammer down all the way to the end and he hung in there. We stopped and he had a huge smile on his face. He said “that was fun! Quite the pace!” I asked him if he raced bikes and he said “not yet.” I told him he should. I waved goodbye and loaded the stuff in the car. As I drove back to the house it made me smile to think about him. Almost 50 years difference in age and we both had a blast together. Now I wish I had taken a picture of us. Anyway, that’s one of these random little moments in life that sticks with you and makes you smile.

It has been nice to learn about the area, but time to move on to the next adventure. Next up is Lake Ohau up in MacKenzie country and big mountains of the Southern Alps. I had hoped to do a day of fishing there, but all the guides were booked up. I did find one guy but he turned out to be a jerk, so that fell through. So we will hike and bike around and explore a new area.

Movin’ on down the road
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