Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

March 9 – 11th

After leaving our great campsite, we walked to Purakaunui Falls - the prettiest falls in the Catlins from the ones we saw!

Purakaunui Falls
We took the coastal road to Dunedin, and when we were still far out of town we came upon the "Welcome to Dunedin" sign. It turns out that Dunedin is the fifth largest city in the world - by geographic size! It only has 123,000 people of which 25,000 are University students, but it is definitely large in area.

This area was first settled by Maori, then whalers and sealers, before it was firmly established as a Scottish community in the mid-1800's. Dunedin is the Celtic name for Edinburgh and it is possible to find haggis here, though I am NOT tempted. It also has the largest curling rink in the Southern hemisphere.

We drove straight to the University of Otago where we met Dr. Christopher Moy. Chris, a colleague of both Darrell and Vera, is a professor here and he gave us a tour of campus as well as a driving tour of Dunedin. The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university, founded in 1869. It is a lovely campus as you can see from the photo of our van in front of the clocktower.

The Clocktower with our van peaking out to the right of the tree
Walking around the University we came upon some improvised student housing.  Maybe not as nice as the tree houses at the University of Santa Cruz, but you have to take what you can get!

Prime student housing in Dunedin
The next morning, while Chris worked, Darrell, Vera and I played tourist. Our first stop was the farmer's market near the historic train station. Vera and I were entertained by the youth playing bagpipe's in the garden. Notice the giant purple tower - home of Cadbury Chocolates - behind him!

Bagpipes, British gardens, and Cadbury
We then drove out to the Otago Peninsula. First we tried to walk to Sandfly Bay, where there is a hide for watching penguins (though they are rarely there during the day). The winds were so strong the sand was blowing in our faces, so we gave up and went to the Marine Science Center on the other side of the peninsula.

Marine Science Center on the Otago Peninsula
We lucked out because it was fish-feeding day at the aquarium, so we got to see the fish (including some sharks) get a little more excited than they might normally. We also took a walk to visit more sheep. You can see the effect of the wind on the shrubs here!

Wind-swept trees and ever-present sheep
That evening Chris had a barbecue at his house and we got to meet some of his other colleagues as well as a German group that was there for research and some of the great graduate students in his department.

The next morning I got up early and went for a swim in the neighborhood salt water pool. It is so great to be swimming outdoors in HEATED water. Unfortunately, it is only open in the 6 warmer months so closed on the last day of March...

St. Clair Salt Water Pool
When I got back to the house, we all hung around the kitchen working on computers and drinking coffee. It is fun to watch scientists interact and get excited about the science they are doing.

Working in Chris's kitchen (Photo by Vera)
Chris invited us to return and house-sit while he is off at field camps and doing his own research in April, so we will be back to this lovely place again!

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