Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Day...sometime in the 35th millenium
Day 35: Dunedin to Oamaru
Pics: Sunrise at the Brothers, Brothers from street level, the steepest street sign, Fleur’s Place and lunch, baseball rocks, Oamaru cottage, punk from around Oamaru, a yellow eyed peguin
Breakfast same-same, check out, total for two nights with the bro’s is $350, including breakfasts. Stroll through Dunedin to the Uni (as they call all universities here) and back to pick up some local wine, Montana Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), and a bottle each of Anchor Steam and Lagunitas IPA (each bottle equal in price to five in the Bay Area). The store carried quite a selection of N. American brewskies (no CA wines), and tonight we are having dinner with friends of a friend, and they are from Montana. Let’s hope the wine does their namesake state proud (hmmmmmm….DB reports: not bad!).
We are lazily strolling to get back to the car and THB has to stop DB…she has walked by a couple of friends of ours from waaaaaaaaaay back when LB was in preschool. So, finally, zero degrees of separation! Penny and Steve have 2.5 weeks here in NZ and have been traveling mostly by bus. Like us, they’ve made a few adjustments due to the earthquake, and there have been a few overlaps (e.g., the jeeet boat on the Dart River, Abel Tasman NP). Who else is roaming out there awaiting a chance meeting?
There is a famous restaurant on our route today, Fleur’s Place, and we might be eating there tomorrow night. So, it can’t hurt, maybe we can give it a try for lunch, too. Uh Oh, the sign out at the highway sez they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (what day of the week is it? No clue…What month is it? Don’t know that either). We head towards the water, and sure enough they are closed… the restaurant is closed, the caravan is open!
There is a trailer in front of the restaurant serving a few items, so we order up: seafood chowder with mussels served in a flour tortilla, beans and mussels something (yes, it is a burrito though they don’t call it that on the chalkboard), a grilled scone with butter and chutney, and lemonade, $32. One of our best meals, sitting at a picnic table overlooking the harbor, right there at Fleur’s (okay, not RIGHT there, close by!).
Next a stop at boulders sitting at the edge of the waves rolling up onto the beach. At first, THB is a bit skeptical; we paid $3.20 for this? (Actually the cheapest - and voluntary - entry to any tourist stop on the entire trip.) To see rocks on the beach? DB correctly figures out that if Andy Goldsworthy had put these here, people would be traveling thousands of miles to see the installation and paying thousands of dollars for his one-of-a-kind photographs of the place. It is pretty special, and the rocks themselves very unique, almost like deteriorated giant stone baseballs placed in the water…hey, maybe we can put some out from of the Oakland Coliseum?
With the help of Ms GPS (Susan), we find the cottage up above Oamaru, about 2 hours from Dunedin. What a find!!!!! It has two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen/den combo, a bathroom/laundry room combo, and is quaintly furnished with period pieces. As we walk in, Leonard Cohen is playing on the stereo…turns out the landlord has figured out everyone loves Leonard and he makes a nice greeting – at first, we’re a bit confused, have we walked in on someone? Clarkie the landlord shows up and gives us the tour; total for two nights paid in advance: $270.
A walk to town, pick up some bread for toast tomorrow (we find out later, this is the best bakery in town, THB has the bakery nose!), and look at the local art scene, a bizarre mix of Victoriana and odd train and other post-industrial metal sculpture. Turns out our Clarkie the landlord and a bunch of other people here are part of something called Steampunk (see pic of Steam Punk building), sort of a Jules Vernes sci-fi gone wild era where steam power is still widely used. Maybe they are prepping for the post-oil period if something else is found to make steam…
Just nearby, 5 minutes or less from the cottage, we go to see the yellow-eyed penguins. See the last pic and, since it is compressed, you won’t be able to enlarge it so you won’t be able to see the one lonely distant penguin on the beach. Neither could 50 other people - we were lucky enough to be standing next to the sharpest eyed 70 year old British woman in NZ. THB could not understand a word she was saying, DB had to tell THB later that she was actually speaking English (THB is still doubting that claim).
Dinner at Katie and Tom’s house, also nearby (since Oamaru’s population is 12,000, pretty much everything is nearby). They are here with their two boys, 5 and 3, as Katie is doing what we think is a gap year after finishing her doctor’s residency and before she and Tom and kids go back to Bozeman at the end of the summer (US summer!). That means she’s subbing for docs on leave, vacation, sabbatical. There’s a need for GPs here, many recent Kiwi graduates leave for Australia and higher wages and don’t come back. Tom is the house husband (taking time off from teaching at uni) something that is pretty much unheard of here and looked upon a bit suspiciously by the local women as the local men (all of NZ) are basically stuck in the pre-feminist era. He’s makes a great dinner: roasted chickens, stuffing, new potatoes, chutney, berry crumble with ice cream and NZ pinot noir.
After dinner, we go in search of the smaller blue-eyed penguin, and have not trouble spotting them: they are leaving the beach at our end of town and walking cautiously across the road. They are small and appear to be traveling in groups of 3-5. It is pretty dim out so we can’t see them all that well. On other hand, the sky is full of stars and the Milky Way is easily visible, along with what we think is the Southern Cross.