Southern Road Trip

One of my work perks is that I get to go to as many rugby games as I could possibly want, including All Blacks games. This year I decided to take advantage of this and use it as an excuse to go to Dunedin, a city I’d not yet visited, and also fulfill my ambition of seeing a game at the super cool enclosed Forsyth Barr Stadium – it always looks so fun on the old tv. I couldn’t resist. So, a couple of weekends ago, the boyf and I set off down south.

The South Island is arguably the prettier of New Zealand’s two halves but it’s about as pointless as comparing Liam and Chris Hemsworth – both are pretty in slightly different ways, depending on your preference. (In this analogy, the South Island is Chris because it’s colder and snowier and therefore suits his blondeness while Liam is the North, slightly darker and a bit edgier.) It’s also the less populated and pretty much hemmed in by mountains everywhere and more often than not you have to fly teeny planes into places like Dunedin or Queenstown, which makes it stupidly expensive to get there. So we flew to Christchurch and made the 4.5 hour drive down instead. We weren’t alone either, there were more than a few All Black shirt wearing passengers on the plane and we passed one memorable group in their campervan more than once on our roadtrip.

It was actually a lot of fun. We aren’t really strangers to these random long car journeys, having made the trip north to Taupo for my birthday last year as well as trips to the Hawke’s Bay where his mum lives. Long car journeys are kinda just par for the course down under (in which I lump NZ with Australia yet again, risking affront by everyone I know. We should have an EU type agreement people! But I digress.)

Along the way, we stopped first at the Cookie Time factory in Christchurch for a kilo bag of choc chip cookies because sustenance is important, then dawdled along to Timaru to drop in on a friend for the lolz, and had a tourist stop at the Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach. The sun was just starting to set and the tide was coming in, but still very worth the stop. My fave was the one that looked like the Death Star and I couldn’t help thinking it’d be pretty cool if they were giant eggs of a dragon or some such. I just think it’d be cool if something mythological like that turned out to be real, after all this time. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Game of Thrones.

Dunedin itself was pretty cool, if freezing. It’s like a mini Edinburgh really, which is pretty much how it was designed so I shouldn’t be surprised. It has a real provincial feel though and it all felt very much southern hanging out at the farmer’s market on Saturday morning – incidentally the best place to get a coffee in Dunedin as all the cafés we’d tried up until that point had been rubbish.

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After wandering around town taking photos of their ludicrously pretty buildings, we managed to cram in a visit to Tunnel Beach. Getting to the beach involves shambling down a steep path that cuts through someone’s farm and then clambering down some super slick steps down a tunnel carved in the rock, which my claustrophobia did not enjoy. We timed it perfectly though as the tide was out so we could wander around the beach for a bit before clambering back out and hanging out on top of the tunnel rock, eating M&Ms. Of course the horrific part is that you have to then climb back up this steep path to get back to the top where you left your car, and I can tell you that neither my legs nor my lungs thanked me for that. But it was worth it so whatevs.

As for the rugby, well we trounced Wales 46-6 so that’s always fun. The stadium is one of those almost vertical ones and it was a lot louder than Wellington – I still find it really weird how quiet kiwi fans are at rugby games. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad to have done it.

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The drive back to Christchurch was a bit dreary as it was alternately foggy or bucketing down. We left some time to hang out in town as neither of us had really spent any time there. I was pretty shocked by the state of the place. Five years on and the devastation of the earthquake is still there in the gaping empty lots and crumbling abandoned buildings, looking like they’d withstood heavy bombing. Very sombre and odd and sad. But out of that there have been some cool things, like a thriving street art scene and the cardboard church and the storage container shopping mall we briefly hung out in. Rebuilding is a slow journey.

So yes, yay for roadtrips! I’m currently in Vancouver airport, waiting for my flight to London, so there will no doubt be ramblings about that at some stage.

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