Sunday was a very active day for Jane and I in Dunedin, NZ. On Saturday we reserved mountain bikes from Dunedin iBikes, and Nick delivered them along with helmets on Saturday evening. He also suggested routes, so on Sunday morning we began to check them off. Our first ride took us east along the northeastern shoreline of Otago Bay. During this one hour ride we joined in the Masters Games, as a large group of race walkers shared our track.
After we returned to the CBD (Central Business District) we headed northeast until we found Baldwin Street, allegedly the steepest street in the world. A crowd of people choked the base, and many groups accepted the challenge and ascended the six blocks of pure vertical. I wish I could announce that I completed the climb on my mountain bike, but I turned around at the location where the grade shifted dramatically and then returned to Jane for some photos. After surrendering to the hill we elected to swing back to the Euro 315 to remove some layers, as the 46 degree F temperature at the start quickly rose to the 50’s F.
The last leg of our cycling adventure was to power our way east on the Otago Peninsula. The initial couple of miles were a bit dicey, as we maneuvered through a mix of city streets and bike paths. We stopped a helpful cycling couple at one point and asked for confirmation that we were headed toward the Otago Peninsula. Not only did they assure us, but they also outlined the next two turns including a “left at the teeth”. Sure enough after another kilometer we encountered a series of eight sculpted teeth, and just as they suggested, we were on the Portobello Cycle Track heading northeast.
Unfortunately the off road trail ended halfway through our outbound trip, and the remainder of the ride was along the narrow shoulder of Portobello Road. We survived and returned to the Euro 315 by 12:30PM, and Nick stopped by at 2:15 to retrieve the bikes.
The Otago Peninsula ride peaked our curiosity, so we studied some maps and our guidebook after lunch. John and Brenda were scheduled to be picked up by a commercial tour service, so the rental minivan was available to us. We jumped in the Hyandai IMAX and completed the 45 minute drive to the tip of the Otago Peninsula. This was my first extended stint driving the IMAX while steering from the right side and driving in the left lane. It was certainly a challenging start, as Portbello Road was a two lane highway that twisted and curved endlessly along the contour of Otago Bay.
The Royal Albatross Centre was situated at the end of the road, but a $30 NZ charge for the guided tour dissuaded us from that option. Instead we took advantage of the plethora of information in the Royal Albatross Visitor Centre. We educated ourselves on the various species of albatrosses and shags (duck-like bird) and their life cycles and studied photos in case we were able to observe any of the large resident birds. We exited the visitor center and began our self-guided nature walk.
The Pacific Ocean (east) side of the point featured three wooden viewing platforms. We stood on all of them and marveled at the powerful wind and surf in front of us. We now attempted to put our recently gained knowledge of the appearance of shags and albatrosses to use, and we peered intently into the sky north and south along the coastline. Much to our satisfaction we spotted six albatrosses, as they glided in the strong air currents along the ridge high above. In addition several shags flapped their wings and powered their way by our viewing platform. Jane carried the binoculars, and they were invaluable for zooming in on the majestic albatrosses.
Once we soaked in the bird watching spectacle, we crossed the parking lot and descended to Pilots Beach on the bay side of the point. Another viewing platform existed here for observing the arrival of the blue penguins, but we decided against waiting for the 6-8PM show. Instead we chuckled at the frolicking fur seals on the rocks to our right. In total eight chubby mammals occupied the rocky shoreline.Three glided about in the water, while the others lazily basked in the warm sunshine. I was amazed how clumsy these creatures were on land, yet they morphed into sleek water acrobats once they entered the ocean.
After the multiple wildlife shows we began our return drive along Otago Bay to Dunedin. After ten kilometers we noticed a sign for Wellers Rock. Since my last name is Weller, I could not overcome the desire to stop and investigate the origin of the name of this landmark. A rectangular plaque was embedded at the base of a large rounded rock next to the bay, and it stated, “1831 – 1931, THIS TABLET MARKS THE LANDING PLACE OF WELLER BROTHERS (WHALERS) WHO FOUNDED THE FIRST WHITE SETTLEMENT IN OTAKOU (OTAGO) IN 1831”. I eagerly snapped a photo, and I was shocked to learn that I had famous ancestors in New Zealand!
We continued on and returned to Dunedin. We changed into comfortable clothes for dinner and visited The Reef, a seafood restaurant four or five street numbers away from our hotel. Jane ordered a shellfish bowl, and I chose prawns. Oohs and ahs echoed about the dining room when my dinner arrived, with eight shrimp displaying heads and antennae. The large orange prawns were stacked on a metal skewer that dangled over my plate from an L-shaped hanger. It was a striking presentation. We savored our meals and reminisced about our wonderful day in Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula.