Archive for New Zealand
Travel they say broadens the mind. Having lived and worked in Africa, South East Asia and India we were ready to accommodate almost any new culture, custom or belief. Then having travelled to the other side of the globe we pitched up in Dunedin, New Zealand. Here the scenery looked like our native Scotland. The friendly people we chatted to almost sounded Scottish. Their ancestors were Scottish. The buildings were decidedly Scottish. Even the statue of the poet Robert Burns in the city centre was identical to the statue in Dundee. The street names had a familiar sound and the baker shops were brim full of cakes, cookies and confections from the manual of Scottish home cooking. It was rather unsettling in a reassuring sort of way.
So we submerged ourselves in a culture so completely familiar that it felt that time had stood still and we were inhabiting the Scotland of our youth. Driving along country roads the hillsides and glens seemed to be places we knew well and we expected well remembered landmarks to emerge at corners, but of course they didn’t.
A trip on the Taieri Gorge railway refocussed us on the achievements of our Scottish ancestors who carved a living from the New Zealand soil. First cart roads had been dug across the hills. Then the railways blasted inland.
Protecting the natural harbour, the Otago peninsula was home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. Here we sneaked up on seal pups cavorting in rock pools whilst females suckled their young and aggressive males guarded the rocks. Struggling up improbably steep slopes large solidary yellow crested penguins clambered through long grass. Whilst at our feet tiny rare blue penguins regarded us warily as they peered out of their nesting burrows.
The highlight was to be the huge albatrosses. Rangers restricted the number of visitors to the protected colony to minimise the disturbance of the nesting birds. We’d been briefed on the huge wingspan and their ability to stay at sea for months on end. “It’s a wonderful sight to see parents gliding on huge wings to the nest sites,” Bob the ranger told us. “They seem to hang motionless in the strong winds that continuously buffet this promontory, come back at three.” So we did. “No birds flying today,” Bob reported, – “no wind.” Still we watched a bemused albatross sitting on a dummy egg. The real one was safely in an incubator. Mind you these were big birds, even sitting still on a nest.
Statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns in the centre of Dunedin. This statue is identical to the one in the city of Dundee on the east coast of Scotland.
Dunedin has many substantial and imposing buildings which convey the confidence and affluence of the original builders. It is a fine city to stroll around and chat to the many friendly inhabitants.
The First Kirk or First Presbyterian Church of Otago began when Dunedin was established as a Free Church of Scotland settlement. Incredibly this amazing building was opened on 23 November 1873 only 25 years after the first settlers stepped ashore in Dunedin.
On a bright sunny day Dunedin offers many opportunities for alfresco dinning or simply enjoying the coffee culture with the locals. There always seems to be someone interesting to talk to about the city and its surroundings.
The magnificent Railway Station. It’s worth a visit even if you are not embarking on a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway or travelling around the South Island by train.
Margaret enjoying the sunshine at the railway station.
Pictures from Akaroa, New Zealand
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Historical Lighthouse damaged by the Christchurch earthquakes. It stands at the boat moorings outside the beautiful Akaroa harbour.
Yacht tacking across the blue waters around Akaroa.
Hectors dolphins flashing, darting and leaping across the bows.