Dunedin

From Queenstown we made our way down to Dunedin.  I must say, it was much nicer driving than taking the bus. We arrived in the afternoon, walked around the museum, then explored around the University of Otago.

The last time I was here, mom and I were freezing cold, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it actually felt like summer this time around.

Today we went down to the train station to take another of New Zealand’s great train journeys – the Taieri Gorge Railway.  100% a tourist train, it takes you through the gorge and back to Dunedin in about 4 hours. I stood outside on the viewing platform on the way there which was good, as it did start to rain on our way back to Dunedin.

And the train station itself was gorgeous as well!

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Our next stop in Dunedin was the Cadbury Factory! I learned from last time and prebooked our tour.  We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, but I can guarantee we were all chocolated out by the end.

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As this was Janetta’s first time here we did walk around the octagon and take in a few more sites before resting up for our long drive tomorrow.

Otago Peninsula

From Larnach’s Castle we headed further into the Otago Peninsula to do some wildlife spotting. On our way to the Royal Albatross Center we saw an owl and had to make a pitstop

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When we finally made it to the Royal Albatross Center, we were brought to their viewing platform.  The center is the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross.

At our time of arrival, the eggs are being incubated by a parent at all times.  We were hoping to see one flying off the cliffs, but they were all incubating their eggs.  We did see a ranger check out an adolescent couple, which made them stand up in indignation, but we didn’t get any in flight.  With a 3 meter long wingspan, we’ve been told we would know if we saw one.  We did get fantastic views of the water, and we did get to see some fluffy baby seagulls.

From here we moved on to Penguin Place – a penguin conservation area and rehabilitation center. The majority of penguins here are yellow-eyed, the only anti-social penguin.  If they spend too much time with humans (more than 6 weeks) they will start to die, and they will only mate in private.

We saw our first penguin at their hospital.

As we moved into the conservation site, we got fantastic views of the water and beach, and saw some surprising guests along the way.

This is the time of year both penguin parents are out catching food for their young.  We weren’t able to see them returning from the sea, but one little guy was hiding right by the viewing area, so we got a great view of him!  At 4 months old he hasn’t developed the yellow stripe around his eyes yet.

Here’s a fun penguin story.  His parents are quite old for penguins, and his dad seems to be over raising kids anymore.  In the beginning, one parent is always with the chick while the other parent looks for food, and then they switch roles.  At some point they decide the chick is old enough to stay alone, put him in a new nest (so predators won’t smell him), and both parents go out for food.

When the mom got home from catching food, she found the chick and father at a new nest.  She grabbed the chick, brought him back to the old nest, and turned her back to her husband.  Usually they preen each other but he was in the dog house! This occurred for 2 weeks, until the mom finally decided he was old enough to stay on his own.

Lastly we got on a boat.  We had a one-hour wildlife cruise, and then stayed on the boat and had an hour long cruise to Dunedin’s city center. We saw seals and birds, and even had some albatross flying over us.

All in all we were so pleased with the day, regardless of being very cold.

Larnach Castle

This morning we checked out New Zealand’s only castle – Larnach Castle. I’ll start with the history of the castle, as told to me by our guide Bruce.

William Larnach, born in Australia, was offered a banking position in Dunedin and moved here with his wife Eliza and their children.  They started living above the bank, but eventually he decided he wanted his own land so he bought many acres on top of the hill that looked over the bay and started building his castle.

He travelled a lot so Eliza asked her half-sister, Mary Ellen, to move to Dunedin and help her raise her 6 children. Mary Ellen agreed, and soon moved.  Unfortunately Eliza died unexpectedly at age 38, leaving William a widow and single father of 6 children.  The two boys were sent to private boarding school in London, and Mary Ellen stayed on to watch the 4 girls.  But William decided it wasn’t proper for them to be living in the same house unmarried, and so Mary Ellen became his second wife.

Unfortunately she also died at age 38. At this point his oldest son finished school and became a lawyer in London.  His youngest son, Douglas, decided he wanted to become a farmer and moved back to Dunedin. With the death of Mary Ellen, William married Constance, a much younger woman. William was often away, as he had become an MP and often had to be in Wellington. Now, Douglas was back in Dunedin and his job was to take care of the farm and property while his father was away.  However his new step-mom Constance was only 6 years older than him, and one of his self-appointed jobs was to ‘take care’ of her in his father’s absence. Douglas tried to get Constance to leave his father, but she knew Douglas had no money, and convinced him that she’d remain married to his father and be his lover.

One evening in Wellington, Constance was waiting on William to come home.  When he didn’t arrive after dinner she sent her brother to find him.  Unfortunately he found William in a locked office with a pistol in his hand and a bullet in his head. It is known that he received a letter from Dunedin, and it is assumed to be from Douglas with something along these lines:

“Dear Papa, I’m in love with Constance and she is pregnant with my child. Love, Douglas”

William knew he’d be completely humiliated if it came out that his wife was pregnant with his son’s child, so decided the only honorable thing to do was kill himself. In the end Constance was sent to England to have the child, she never got back with Douglas, and neither of them inherited any of William’s fortune.

Here’s pictures of the castle, grounds, and fantastic view of the city. It took 12 years to completely finish the exterior and interior.

We were told that an older man visited the castle once, and before he left he mentioned to the guide that his mother used to live here.  By the time the guide told the castle owners and they realized he must have been Douglas and Constance’s son, they were unable to find him.  But they believe he must have been their child.

Dunedin

After a great time in Queenstown it was time to move on. We got on a bus this morning (one of the first without wifi!), and 5 hours later arrived in Dunedin.

My brother went to university here for a semester 10 years ago, so it has a really special place in his heart.  Mom and I wanted to see that same place that was so special to him.

Unfortunately it was really really cold! You can’t tell in the pictures, with clear blue skies, but it was extremely windy and cold. So we stayed out just long enough to walk through town.

We started at Cadbury World, but we made it too late to grab a tour.  We did get delicious hot drinks though.

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The Chinese Gardens were nearby so we decided to check them out.

We moved on to the octagon (i.e. the city center).  It was freezing, so we went inside Otago’s first church to warm up.

There’s a statue of Robbie Burns in the middle of town, so my brother requested a picture of it, and I also grabbed a snap of a parliament building.

Our last stop was to walk around the University of Otago, to see the school my brother studied at.  We tried finding his old house, but it seems they’ve torn it down in the last 10 years. The campus was beautiful, and if it wasn’t so cold out, we would have been happy to stay there for hours.

We’re staying in a hostel tonight, so joining their movie night sounds like the perfect way to end the day.