Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflective Sunrises, "Beach Balls," and Flying Kiwis in Disguise

We had a fairly tame day following the adventure in Hooker Valley as we headed back out to the east coast with a brief stop in Oamaru. We continued just south of there to our lovely campsite on a grassy cliff overlooking the beach where we had a bit of an epic dinner preparation while trying to battle the severe winds! 

When broomsticks weren’t cutting it, I was stationed to hold up the kitchen door which was supporting tarps to block the wind so the stove wouldn’t blow out… that is until I used a bit of “kiwi ingenuity” and suggested a supportive strap being attached to the bike rack on top of the trailer!

Aside from cooking adventures, however, we had a pretty low key night and many of us were up for the spectacular sunrise the next morning!

We headed south after breakfast to visit the Moeraki Boulders on the way to Dunedin. Now, I have included numerous pictures throughout my blog and several of them have contained rock formations I found fascinating. In response to a snap I posted on Facebook, a friend commented, "This blows my mind. Nature is awesome in NZ. Geographical oddities galore!” My response? "Nature is awesome everywhere, it just
likes to show off in NZ ;)” which I find absolutely true. I’ve gone on before about the intricate coastlines, unique rock formations, endless cave systems, awesome rock climbing areas, dramatic mountains, and stunning beaches – all squeezed into this tiny country! 

If you have seen many pictures of the bizarre rock formations found in NZ, I guarantee you have come across the Moeraki Boulders.  Giant, perfectly round balls just sitting on the beach don’t exactly blend in to the background! They are slightly touristy, in that these boulders are ranked among the “must see” sights, but I enjoyed the opportunity to visit them.

The intriguing part of the Moeraki Boulders it that nobody knows how or why they came into existence. As with most geographical peculiarities found in NZ, the Maori culture has its own explanation of the boulders through a legend that says the boulders represent the remains of an ancient shipwreck. Baskets of food or simply fancy erosion, the boulders are certainly neat to look at – and climb on/in – but not much more than that! After we’d had enough of the boulders, the bus continued south to Dunedin.

Several of us who were keen (myself and a bunch of guys) hopped off on the way into town to enjoy a bike ride, cruising downhill! We were told to meet the bus at Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. I spotted it coming and yelled ahead to the two guys in front of me to make a left. We all kept as much speed as possible, downshifted, and attempted to make it to the top!

On a hill like that, you have to shift your weight forward or the front tire (spelled tyre, here in NZ) doesn’t like to stay very close to the ground! The street seemed to get steeper as we progressed up it, and eventually we were all making S turns, much like you would descending a ski mountain. Unfortunately as I was making one of my turns, my tire went off the road at a curb cut in someone’s driveway and did not cross back over before the end of the curb cut. All momentum was lost as I tried to get back on the street and I soon realized I would not be able to restart on that hill! I resigned to this fact and instead took a video of the two guys, documenting their attempts.

I made it about halfway up the hill, and one of the guys made it about ¾ of the way up before he ran into a similar problem and was unable to restart on the hill. One ridiculous guy managed to make it to the top, which was highly entertaining to the nearby tourists!

Despite my lack of success, attempting to cycle the steepest street in the world at all felt like an accomplishment! 

We piled back into the bus and stopped in Dunedin for a few hours of exploring the city everyone says is “so much like Scotland.” Scottish influence or not, I enjoyed wandering this city with its beautiful architecture, “college town” feel, lovely botanical gardens, yummy cheap sushi, ginormous grocery store, and awesome access to free wifi!

That night we stayed at a campground at Kaka Point and cooked our dinner at the local pub, which was the spot to hang out for the night. It was decided we would have a “fancy dress” night… which was to be interpreted however we saw fit. Some brought out their summer dresses, some donned togas, some found wacky wigs, and others simply got creative with whatever clothing they happened to have with them. 

I was aiming not to spend any money, and set out on a mission to dress as Holly, our tour guide. It might not seem terribly exciting to pick a random person to dress up as, but Holly does not exactly have a “mainstream” look about her. Let’s just say it was a bit of a challenge to try to pass for someone with gauged earrings, a few extra piercings, dread locks, and one side of her head buzzed! I did what I could, and may have borrowed a shirt without permission, but I think I pulled it off pretty well!

The next day consisted of a couple of cycle rides (one on the way into Te Anau, and the other through Hollyford Valley to Gunn campsite where we were staying). 

Both were lovely and we spent the evening playing games in the common room, avoiding sandflies. 

Yet another successful couple of days involving a balance between exciting adventures and quiet socialization ended in a puddle while the rains flooded our tent overnight! 


  1. Wow, Kirstin! It looks and sounds like you're having an amazing time!!!!
    I look forward to more updates on your life down under.
    -Jessica Owens

  2. @ Jess, thanks! It has been an awesome time so far! Best of luck in your Avon competition! You so deserve that contract!

    @ everyone else, go here and vote for Jess, she sings pretty!


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