Taking in the S(pe)ights

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03/03/08
Greetings folks. I’m back and I’ve got a couple new stories for you all today. I had the day off to enjoy some leisurely pursuits in Dunedin. Lovely city Dunedin is, and I suspect that it will be rather difficult to get back on my bike and start back on the road. However, I’ll sort out that little bit later. For now, you might as well here my tales of excitement in Dunedin. I did a number of things all throughout the city, and more or less stayed inactive for most of the day. I visited museums, shops, a really steep road and even a brewery to cap the day off. I put together my standard little map, and there are some pictures there for you to enjoy as well, so read on friends.

To get things rolling, I decided to give myself a little extra rest in the morning before heading out. Although it wasn’t raining too hard, it still looked like it might be raining just a little bit. First stop for the day was taking the city bus to head out to Baldwin Street, the worlds steepest street, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The bus was a quick 6km jaunt down the road which cost around 1.80NZD. Once I actually arrived at Baldwin Street, the weather seemed to want to clear up. However, it was still quite cold, so I kept on my sweater and jacket. Since I was on foot, all I could do was walk up the hill. I feel like I cheated a little bit, as I should really do it on a bike. I plan to rectify that on my way out of town, at which point I’ll be using the road to head out of town. Well, not Baldwin, but one perpendicular to it. As such, I decided not to buy the certificate until I’ve been able to try biking up it.

From the street, it was off to the Botanic Gardens, yup, that’s right, I visited gardens. Wait till I tell you about the fact that I visited an art gallery! What can I say, I decided to get a little bit of culture on my day off. Anyway, I strolled the gardens for a while, admiring the various plants and gardens, including the Winter Garden, a rock garden, rose bushes, an alpine garden, a knot garden, etc. etc. It was actually quite a pleasant walk for such a day. On the way out of the park and back to town, I decided to wander through the University of Otago. Dunedin is actually a university town, which boasts having about 29,000 students. It was quite a funny area to walk through, as I strolled right through the student housing streets. I was amazed at the state that students down here live in. Then I realized that it was the first week of school, so they had just been through frosh week, and the partying that goes along with it. At Speights we were even told how the brewery has to brew an extra 50,000L of beer just for that week.

From the University, I carried on my walking tour heading back towards downtown, stopping at the railway station to check it out, and then off to the Cadbury factory. I didn’t do a tour there, but I ran into a girl staying at the hostel, who was heading to the Otago Museum, as was I, so I tagged along with her. We wandered all through the museum, which had a cool display of bicycles, including a really funny 50’s movie made with monkeys to instruct kids on the safety aspects of biking. I liked it so much that I wanted to buy a copy, but unfortunately it was the only DVD version of the archival footage that they had. Too bad. Charley the monkey was hilarious!

From the museum, we headed over the public art gallery as well, which was a nice distraction for another hour. They had a Monet there, which had an explanation of some of the underlying elements that they had uncovered using visible light, x-rays and other things. The other displays were pretty good as well, with one really good sculptor whose exhibit I really dug. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this to show you, as photography was strictly forbidden. Too bad. I can’t even remember her name, but I know she was Wellington based, so that’s a start, right?

The only other thing on my busy schedule for the day was a brewery tour at the Speights Brewery. I was under strict instructions to drink too much, which in retrospect was a bad thing, as I took that advice to heart. The tour started at 6pm, and was to last 90 minutes, with the last 30 minutes spent in the tasting room, which is where things took a turn for the dark side for me. The tour itself was actually quite good, The Speights’ brewery is one of the only gravity-fed breweries in the world, which means that the ingredients are put in from the top down, and make their way to the brewing floor 6 stories below. I also learned about the origins of the phrase ‘Skulling a beer’, which comes from the viking days. Also a bit more about the Egyptian origins of beer, and the whole story of James Speight, the founder and brewmaster of Speights for a time.

Of course, the real story starts where we hit the tasting room. The first little while the tour guide was pouring the beers, but eventually, he turned over the control of the taps to us, which was bad news. I had met a few nice folks on the tour, and we had a good time pouring beers. One of those people was a girl from Ireland who was just getting ready for some cycle touring of her own. She was a cardiologist as well, so that was pretty interesting. Luckily, she, and a couple other lads from Ireland and a Swedish dude were all in the mood to drink, so we all headed over to the Speights Ale House to keep the party going. From there, we were off to another pub, but after that things get very foggy. Apparently there was a scuffle to determine who got to bike the bike to the next bar, and there was even a run-in with the police for running a red light on a bike with no helmet, which carries an up to 300 NZD fine. Nope, it wasn’t me though. I was somewhere in the background at that point.

At any rate, there’s not more to really say about the night other than it was nice to truly unwind for a night and make some new friends. The end of the night found me back at the hostel and a quick snooze on a couch before finally heading to bed. I had to get some good shuteye before the morning as I was off to the railway station for the Taieri Gorge Railroad, but of course that’s a story for the next post. Till, then, take care kids.

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