Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand

We spent the day in Dunedin. The ship actually docked in Port Chalmers but it’s a tiny town and the big deal is Dunedin so we took the free shuttle in.

All the towns here have had free shuttles for us. One of the other passengers told us that, last year on one of the big cruise ships, 2,000 passengers landed and tried to take public transport into town creating a mad house. The bus drivers would only take a few people on each run because they had all their regular passengers to pick up so it took 2 hours to get off the dock on the public buses. The cruise passengers were pretty angry, these people said, and the cruise lines worked together to get free shuttles.

This made the taxi drivers unhappy because they had a captive crowd for the $40 ride to Dunedin (and similar situations in other towns) so the free shuttles agreed to run only an hour after docking so that people in a hurry would take taxis. In spite of that there were buses ready to run as soon as we docked though they hid inside of a building at the end of the dock. As in other towns, the drivers are volunteers but unlike other towns there was no second volunteer to give commentary on the bus.

In town we found a few interesting things. The old train station is covered in Royal Dalton tiles on floor and walls - 700.000 of them.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was built with $60.000 in 1919 on the site of a previous church established in 1863. Construction included 38 steps of Takaka marble outside and Gothic-style pillars with a vaulted roof of Oamaru limestone inside but money was short so a temporary chancel (where the altar is) was built. It took 50 years to get the money for the permanent chancel and what they built was poured concrete cast in a simple, modern style with clear glass windows. It looks a bit unusual with the two different styles in one building.

We saw a few other interesting things such as beer delivery by tanker truck. It reminded Rick of the septic pumpers and made me think of a milk tanker. The driver said he’d been delivering beer to pubs for 18 years. This particular brewery once had a fleet of 50 tankers spreading beer all around the south island but with so many new micro breweries and the influx of bottles and cans, there are now only 2 tankers at work. He was pumping 600 liters into this particular pub.

The other odd thing was the public toilet. It was a little stall with a toilet inside. When one entered and closed the door lights came on. The toilet paper dispensed from a machine activated by a motion sensor. The toilet flushed only when one used the sink to wash hands and then the door opened with a button. After use, the door closed and the many sprayers throughout the room washed it all down. It was free and almost as much fun as the singing Charmin toilets in New York when HM, Susan, Norma and I went. (I can be so easily amused.)

We went to a marvelous museum with all kind of displays including art from China and an exhibit on Darwin and fossils of the giant birds and turtles that once lived here and it was all free. Just can’t get over the free museums.

We visited with a large curly dog and a black and white cat. The dog blocked the way into a store and the cat was at the finest post box in New Zealand. We dodged the occasional rain – storms that lasted about 90 seconds and then disappeared. It was like that all day. Bits of rain; lots of sharp wind; sun; clouds; and then another short downpour.

Back at the ship I stayed on deck to see the tug bring us out of dock and to watch all the birds and see the sheep on the hillsides. The Great Northern Albatross (found in the south but found after another species had been named the Great Southern Albatross) sailed in large, lazy circles over the lighthouse and cormorants dove in the sea. At the end of the harbor a rainbow appeared with a brilliant neon color scheme. Great day!

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