01/24/11 - Oamaru to Dunedin
Katie had me feeling like a queen in the morning. She made me breakfast while I wrote in the common room of the hostel. I turned my chair toward the window so I could gaze out to sea as I typed. Sitting cross-legged in my chair, I enjoyed some hot oatmeal and instant Irish Cream coffee while writing my blog. A blissful start to my day. Thanks, sweetie.
We were sad to leave Old Bones Backpackers. We truly wished we could've stayed another night, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Stopping back in Oamaru, we took a quick walk through their Botanic Gardens thinking a good stretch of our legs was in order before hitting the road. Not surprisingly, we decided to stay a tad bit longer in order to visit a local cheese making factory: The Whitestone Cheese Co. Their cheeses were award winning, so we paid five dollars to have a true cheese tasting experience. It was delightful. Their camembert was creamy and their cheddar was divine (my personal favorite). We also snuck a picture of the interior to their cheese making factory even though it was against the rules (Look at us Americans! Breaking rules left and right! Who do we think we are?!)
Fresh farm cherries were picked up at a vendor before we headed out. Our first stop: The Moeraki Boulders. I didn’t know what to expect, really. I’d seen pictures of them in the guide book – giant spherical stones sitting on a beach – but I’d never heard anything other than it being an interesting place to stop at for a few minutes. Well, it turned out to be one of my favorite places ever!
It didn’t hurt that the sun was shining as we made our way onto the beach. There were quite a lot of people there, but not so many that they diminished from the experience. Once there, we took in the strange vision: Huge rocky globes resting inertly upon the shore basking in the love of curious humans. I was immediately fascinated. How did they get here? Why do some have pattern-like cracks? What are these strange crystallized chunks of rock scattered on the sand? We quickly rationalized that even though these natural wonders seemed like they’d been washed up on the beach, it was far more logical that they were once tucked into the hillside and erosion exposed them. (Ding! Ding! Ding!). Next, it became obvious that the strange chunks of crystallized rock were actually pieces of broken spheres, and the spheres themselves were in fact giant geodes (Ding! Ding! Ding!). As it turned out, these spherical stones were created four million years ago at the bottom of the sea, and due to the passage of time, they have now become our giant play things.
I loved these things! No two were alike; spherical, oblong, lined, cracked, split, broken, or still eroding from the hillside. Every one of them was unique. You’d think this area would be roped off from the public and marked with a sign, “Do not pass!” but it wasn’t. It was open and free and amazing. I mean, how often are geological phenomena available to climb on top of, run across, and crawl inside of? Simply awesome sauce.
On that high note, we continued on to Dunedin while eating cherries and listening to music. We got there just in time to sign up for one of the last Cadbury tours. I’m sure you all know that Cadbury is synonymous with chocolate, which happens to be one of my favorite food groups. We weren’t allowed to take our cameras in, but before the tour started we took a photo of us in the elegant headwear provided for all guests.
Our tour guide was an American from Maryland (I’d say that was a surprise, but at this point it wasn’t). She was very friendly, informative, and led us on a chocolate making adventure! Okay, maybe it wasn’t as exciting as all that. Chubby kids weren't falling into rivers of chocolate, and greedy girls weren't blowing up like blueberries, but it was fun! And the best part? If you answered her questions correctly she gave you free chocolate! Guess who was answering questions left and right? That is, until a certain curly-topped cutie told me to let the kids have a shot. In my defense, I’d only answered two questions at that point, but yes, she was right. I instantly repented and changed my ways. From that point on I paused a good three seconds to give others a chance, and then I pounced. You snooze you loose...
All manner of information was "fed" to us, from the essence of chocolate to the wonders of Easter eggs. Finally, we ended our tour with a walk into a purple silo. We were at the top, the light dim and dark. Once inside our guide told us we had to yell “We love chocolate!” to turn on the lights. We complied, the lights rose, and we saw that we were standing atop a spiral staircase in front of a giant funnel covered in chocolate. She explained that once we were comfortable we could step forward to the railing. I assumed she meant comfortable with the height, being up so far, so I immediately stepped forward seeing as I don’t have a problem with heights. WHAM! A huge chocolate waterfall splashed down in front of me straight into the giant funnel. Air rushed passed and I could feel tiny flecks of chocolate hitting my skin.
Okay, so I wasn’t expecting that. She unleashed one ton of liquid chocolate, and as we walked down five stories we could see the path of chocolate making its way through the various metal vats and contraptions. Does any of this have a purpose? No. She said it was simply for fun. And it was fun. It was silly, messy, gratuitous fun, and the highlight of the tour.
We were planning on having a low key evening, but of course vetoed that idea in favor of driving the Otago Peninsula. The peninsula lies along one side of the bay, and since we were in Dunedin for only one day, it seemed like we really should drive out to see it. And do I have to even say it? Yes? Okay then… It was beautiful! The weather was gorgeous, the bay sparkled, and at the end of the peninsula was a spectacular sea view. Royal albatrosses cruised over the cliffs as the sun began to set. We spent a while relaxing and bird watching before returning to our hostel.
(Side note: While resting on the bluff we could see a giant hillside across the way with tiny moving specks on top. We assumed they were animals, and they were – several thousand of them. Through the binoculars we could see tons of rabbits hopping around without a care in the world. I have yet to mention that this country is teeming with rabbits. They are everywhere! I’m surprised we haven’t seen rabbit on any restaurant menus. Anyway, they owned that hill.)
We meandered home under the glowing sky. It was a very fulfilling day. But just in case you were wondering what it was missing, I’ll tell you: Photos with giant teeth.