New Zealand, 2008

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The Otago Peninsula and Dunedin

It took us two days to cycle the 140 kilometres from Owaka to the Otago Peninsula.We passed through the fairly big town of Balclutha, on the Balclutha River. North of the Catlins, the countryside opened up, with gentler slopes and longer views. Still, those gentle hills came one after another, each a little higher than the one before! We spent the night of Wednesday, February 6 at Lake Waihola, not a particularly great campground, but a fine setting.

Stopping for a break beside the bridge at Balclutha

Open countryside between Balclutha and Lake Waihola

Clipping one of the hedgerows seen all over the South Island

Lake Waihola, from the campground
Leaving Lake Waihola on Thursday, February 7, we decided to follow the scenic, coastal route. It required possibly the hardest climb so far, something over 300 metres in about 3 kilometres of riding, an average of 10 percent but certainly steeper in some places. We made it without walking but did stop (to take photos, of course) before reaching the top. Wally said that the climb gave us a wonderful sense of accomplishment, but we didn't need any more accomplishments today!

Climbing the tough hill south of Lake Waihola

View from the top — the sea still beneath a blanket of fog


The climb was worth it. What fabulous views! We zoomed down equally steep hills to Taieri Mouth, where the Taieri River meets the ocean.

Near the bottom, we met an Australian couple who were already pushing their bicycles up the hill. They were much younger than us — geezers rule!

Riding along the coast, we passed one unspoiled, white-sand beach after another, and the cycling was easy for the longest time. We went through Brighton, a small seaside resort.

Soon after Brighton we faced another choice — a more direct route into Dunedin, or continuing on the southern scenic route. We stayed with the scenic route, perhaps a mistake. We had to earn another great sense of accomplishment — a hill away from the coast that was brutal, below.

Beach near Brighton

Barb nearing the top

When we finally reached the top, we began to descend into the Dunedin suburbs. San Franciso is famous for being hilly, but it has nothing on Dunedin! (According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dunedin's Baldwin Street is the steepest paved street in the world, 38%! We will not be cycling it.)

Barbara was glad to reach the top of that one!

Another view from the top

Along the shore of the Otago Peninsula
To reach the Otago Peninsula, it is necessary to ride through the outskirts of Dunedin. We asked a taxi driver for directions.. We also asked him about the terrain along the way. He said it was all flat. Good thing, because if there had been any more serious hills, we would have changed our plans. The information we got was reliable. The road was indeed flat, but it was narrow and twisting along the shore, with lots of traffic, often no shoulders, and very strong headwinds. We arrived at Portobello exhausted after only 65 kilometres of cycling.



We decided to stay two nights at Portobello, mainly so that we could ride out to the end of the Otago Peninsula and visit the Royal Albatross Centre. These huge birds, with their 9-foot wing span, nest here, and the area is strictly protected. It is, however, possible to go with a supervised group to visit the nesting area. We skipped it because it would have cost us over $60, but it was still a beautiful place, and well worth the visit even though we never saw an albatross.

On the cliffs beside the Albatross Centre

The Royal Albatross Centre is the complex of buildings
by the parking lot; the lone building atop the bluff is an observatory.

Near the albatross centre, we took a couple of hours to walk along the cliffs and then to lie on a nearby beach. (It's generally cool and windy here, so we haven't spent much time on the beaches.) We saw shags (a kind of cormorant) on the cliffs, and on the beach, seals and the ubiquitous oyster catchers.

Shag on the cliffs

Oyster-Catchers on the beach

Seal nearly as fat as a sea lion!

On Saturday, the 9th, we cycled into Dunedin. It was a very short ride, over the same shore road, so we had a great deal of time. We stopped at the Glenfaloch Gardens along the way.The prayer on the right appeared near the entrance to the garden. Below, a scene near the entrance, and zzxs in bloom.


Shortly after the gardens, Wally's bike had our first flat tire in over 1700 kilometres of cycing. Replacing the tube, he discovered a broken spoke on the rear wheel. It must have happened at almost exactly the same time since the wheel was still close to true, not even touching the brake pads. It turned out that the spare spokes we had brought from home were just a couple of millimeters too short, so we used one of our emergency spokes, basically carbon fiber strings with a tricky little fitting that threads into the spoke nipple, and it worked perfectly.


It was still only late afternoon when we reached our accommodation in Dunedin, a "backpackers" called Hogwarts. It was part way up a STEEP hill, but worth it. A friendly, comfortable place — except for the soft, saggy mattress on our bed — with good facilities. Most of the guests were young people from all over the world, but there were a couple of older cyclists like ourselves as well.

Hogwartz entrance

Hogwartz is the grey building to the left of the church.

Left, the view from our window over Dunedin


On Sunday, our layover day in Dunedin, we walked a great deal, visiting a little festival of some sort at the Otago Museum. Much of the day was taken up with shopping, getting a proper replacement spoke, and dealing with this website.

A word about Cycle Surgery, a small chain of bike shops here on the South Island: In the Dunedin shop, they were helpful and friendly, answered various questions, searched for some washers we needed, and then pulled Wally's gear cluster and installed the new spoke — all for $2!

On Monday we take the Taieri Gorge Railway to the start of the Central Otago Rail Trail.


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