City to City


Having arrived on South Island on 5 Feb 18 we are into our last 10 days or so in New Zealand.  Before we leave and head for Melbourne once again, we have a little matter of a three city tour to complete. From Te Anau we made our way to Invercargill, which is the southern and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world.

Invercargill  or Waihōpai to give it it’s Maori name is the commercial centre of the Southland region and has a strong Scottish presence, many of the streets being named after Scottish rivers such as the Tay, Dee and the Spey.  Some English rivers also feature so as not to be left out!  From Fiordland, with its jagged mountain peaks, the landscape around Invercargill could not be more different.  Vast flatlands are the main and probably only feature as you approach Invercargill, with arrow straight, flat roads making the drive less than stimulating.  Despite this, it is a well planned and spacious city, boasting many highlights including a wonderful park, a combined museum and art gallery, and a hardware shop, yes a hardware shop. However, this is no ordinary hardware shop.  In amongst the  aisles of nuts, bolts, barbecues and brooms, there is a large collection of motor-cycling memorabilia, including the actual bike on which the late Burt Monro broke a world speed record for a motorbike.  More later.

Ours was an overnight stay, so sadly we did not have time for a visit to the hardware store, so we opted for a walk round the park and museum after our arrival.  The area covered by the park is huge, it even has a golf course at one end.  Our first encounter was with a “Stumpery”.  For those who don’t know what a Stumpery is, it is a collection of old logs, tree trunks and branches artfully arranged as some sort of abstract sculpture.  In this case weather worn trees and branches cleverly set into a large area to appear “artfully arranged yet natural”.  I have converted a couple  of these pictures to monochrome and left some in colour so please judge for your self which are most effective.

Views of the The Stumpery.  (For the photographers the Mono pics have been converted using Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik Software)

The paths meandered on and we eventually came across a formal rose garden.  The roses were still in bloom, however many had “gone over” so the overall effect was fading, though I can imagine it was a spectacular sight.

Two views of highlights of the garden – Part of the roses display (L) and the Band Stand (R)  No pictures of the Pyramid Gallery sadly, the best views were spoilt by painters belaying themselves down one side giving it a spruce up.

Finally into the museum/Art Gallery, a large pyramid at one end of the park.  The Art Gallery highlight was a portrait exhibition of children by a Maori artist. This is what the website says about this work:

Four of paintings of the Maori children from the exhibition above.

The museum held an eclectic mix of exhibits and included a room dedicated to the memory of Burt Monro. I must admit I had never heard of this guy but he is a true son of Invercargill having been born in Edendale, a few miles from the city.  As mentioned above, his claim to fame is that he was a motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record, at Bonneville Salt Flats on 26 August 1967 and this record still stands. A film staring Anthony Hopkins called “The Worlds Fastest Indian” was made of his exploits  and a painting featuring Hopkins in the role hangs in the museum cafe.

L:  Sir Anthony Hopkins as Burt Minro R:  Mock up of the workshop where Monro built his record breaking bike.

From Invercargill our next stop was Dunedin.  If we took the main State Highway it would take a couple of hours, however there is a Scenic Highway route which takes you out of Invercargill down to Fortrose then on to the coast road via some quaint settlements such as Papatawai and Owaka.  This would take longer but should be a pleasant drive through the Catlin Mountains which lie to the south east of the city.  With this in mind we set Doris Satnav up to miss out about half of this route because of time, and decided to intercept the Scenic Highway at Papatowai.  What could go wrong?

At first the route appeared easy, leave Invercargill on one of these arrow straight roads.  We turned off this at Edendale and were sent on through a small village called Wyndham. Nice to know our local town has a namesake 12,000 miles away, even if they have spelt it wrong!  From here it went pear shaped somewhat.  About 15km from Wyndham the tarmac road turned to a hard gravel track.  It was smoother (a bit) than the one we encountered at Glenorchy recently, but it ran for about 40km through the forests.  To make matters worse I saw a huge “Mack” truck, in the rear view mirror, much like one of those huge American things, following us down the track.  (Must be okay then if they can get one of those down this track.) Satnav counted down the kilometres and I had visions of getting a puncture or having an accident and never being seen again, it was that remote.

The road turned to dust -literally.

L-R:  Yes there really was a small school towards the end of this track: Centre and Right:  Once clear of the forest the views were rather good. 

After about an hour of driving on this rough surface we came out on metalled road again, but somehow, somewhere, Doris Satnav had directed us the wrong way as we had missed our target village.  Not to worry, as we were on a tarmac road and heading east, which is the way we wanted, we ploughed on, finally re-connecting with civilisation in a small village called Owaka.  This will do for coffee break we thought! What an inspired choice.  The coffee was good, the cafe was great, with a roaring log fire going (It was cold outside) and the welcome friendly.  After a short break, and look round a bizarre second hand bookshop next door, which also had a collection of old motorbikes on show, we set off for Dunedin.

L-R:  Lyn gives this cafe her seal of approval; 1954 BSA 11 – a restoration project for someone; Duccati 904 speed machine – also for sale.

Dunedin has a proudly Scottish heritage being known as the Edinburgh of the South. The name is derived from the latin for Edinburgh, Dun Eideann and the first settlers were a couple of shiploads of Scots who rocked up at Port Chalmers a short distance away, in 1846.  Their number included the Rev John Burns a nephew of the poet Robert Burns. It was the country’s commercial centre during the gold rush and many buildings constructed during that period survive today.  It is a compact city surrounded by hills, though the city centre is fairly flat.

The first item on our “Visit Dunedin” project is a guided City Walk.  We meet at the I-site and our guide, Athol was there to meet us.  The centre of the city is marked by the Octagon and was intended, when planned in the 1870’s, as the focal point of the city centre.  It still serves this purpose today and is a meeting place, a lunch stop for local city workers, a place of celebration and protest, and has been known to host music events.  The Octagon is surrounded by buildings but these do not intrude on the sense of space in this area.  On the south side are older buildings re-purposed to retail outlets, coffee shops and bars with a Theatre among this collection.  Opposite this are the Municipal Chambers or Council House.  Originally constructed in 1880 it was nearly demolished in the 1980’s as the city, in the words of Athol, “lost its mojo”. Realising what they were destroying the city councillors stopped demolition work and came up with a plan to revitalise the city centre and thus started the re-generation that has given the city its buzz.

Clockwise from top Left:  Robbie Burns and “friend” Part of the Octagon; Dunedin Council Chambers; Anglican Cathedral entrance

Next to the Council chambers is St Pauls Cathedral.  It stands high above the Octagon and  was consecrated in 1919, although they ran out of money whilst building it.  The sanctuary area was added in 1971 and and it shows.  The addition looks totally out of character with the rest of the building.  Close to this is the Scottish Presbyterian Church.  This is totally different to the Anglican Cathedral.  The floor slopes down to a wide elevated area at the front where the altar and Pulpit stand.  The intention is that the congregation’s total focus should be on the celebrant at the front leading the service.  In the heritage centre at the rear is  mannequin of John Burns, the first Pastor of the church.  He looks a fierce character and I can imagine that he was a firebrand preacher.

Clockwise from top left: The old and the new, both parts of the Anglican Cathedral Dunedin; Inside the Scottish Presbyterian Church; Town houses Dunedin Origin around 1910; John Burns, nephew of Robbie Burns and founder of the Scottish Presbyterian Church in Dunedin.

The tour continued past old buildings, including the old Norwich Union Building (yes they got everywhere) and examples of Street Art permitted by the city council.

Three examples of Dunedin Street Art.

The final destination was Dunedin Railway Station Building. Constructed of Oamaru limestone and Otago Bluestone with Aberdeen granite used in the columns, the contrast between the coloured stones is striking and this makes the building one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand.  Inside is just as grand with mosaic tiled flooring and beautiful stained glass windows.  The station is not large by comparison with other cities around the world but it was noted that there were not many trains running.  In fact only 3 passenger trains that day were due into and out of Dunedin! This meant the platforms were deserted save for a few tourists taking photographs.

Clockwise from top left:  No trains today; A deserted Platform- not common on London stations!; The outside of the rail station; Us outside; Lyn on the lines.

Upstairs, the space has been taken over by different attractions. On one side is The Art Station, an exhibition and work area for artists, together with sales areas for their work.  On the other side is New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame.  This is an exhibition featuring any New Zealand sportsman who has achieved international fame in his or her field.  There are athletes, cyclists, cricketers, and Rugby players, both League and Union.  A big feature are the All Black teams who have won the Rugby World Cup, in 1987, 2011 and 2015.

Me outside the Sports Hall of Fame; The Marbled floor of the Railway station.  These people are all tourists, not passengers!

Outside and just up the road is Cadbury World New Zealand and a Cadbury Chocolate Factory!  I was surprised to see that here but evidently Cadbury World NZ is as good as the one in Bournville Birmingham.


Yes, this IS Cadbury World.  Entrance is one street up.  This is also the factory.

The city has a number of Art Galleries dotted around but the public gallery is located centrally along one side of the Octagon.  The exhibitions we looked at were not up to much but the interior was quite photogenic.  I have included shots that Lyn and I both took and I leave you to make your own judgement on the galleries architectural merit.

Three views from the Art Gallery.  Nothing really stood out for me but Lyn noted four pieces that she appreciated below.

As with most cities Dunedin has a Botanical Garden.  Located at the north end of the city it is an oasis of calm and peace in the heart of the the University quarter.  We explored it briefly on our first day but decided to have a run around it one morning as it was the only time we could fit it in with everything else we wanted to do in the short time here. What a peaceful and relaxing place.  It is set at the bottom of the hill and much of the garden is set into the hillside.  The more formal areas are on the flat part.  It made for an interesting if challenging walk/run.


Three panoramas of the Dunedin Botanical Gardens

Two more views of the gardens

One of Dunedin’s main attractions is a small colony of Royal Albatross and Little Blue Penguins at Taiaroa, at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, about forty minutes drive from the city centre along a narrow winding coast road. We did not expect to see the Penguins as they are only around at dusk, but when we discovered that the only way to view the Albatross is via a guided tour lasting one hour and costing $50 per person (about £27) we decided just to walk around the peninsular and see what we could see for ourselves.  We saw plenty of red footed gulls, another variety of gull which name escapes me and a few seals chilling out on the rocks.  I saw one albatross on the wing.  They spend most of their time on the ground and apparently only take to the wing when it is windy.  There was a slight breeze so you could say it was a no fly day! Just our luck!

Views from Taiaora on the Otago Peninsular

After three nights taking in the sights of Dunedin, our final stop on South Island is Christchurch.  No drama’s with this drive, just more long, arrow straight roads and a couple of cities, Oamaru and Timaru to negotiate,  We made it safely to Christchurch mid afternoon in drizzly rain which did not bode well for our visit.  More of which in the next blog.


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