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2010 August 8
by rob

March 8, 2009

Ben made a great breakfast today: french toast with real Canadian maple syrup! He used a bit of vanilla extract in the french toast, which was a nice touch. We also had “American Streaky Bacon”, which is just regular bacon. The Kiwis had a funny name for it. I was amused. Streaky!

Ben needed to go to Dunedin to pick up some polyporps (thermal underwear) for his upcoming school trip to the Catlins. I needed to go there anyways so he offered to give me a ride. We drove on the Southern Scenic Route to get there, which was rather pretty. We ended up at St. Clair Beach for lunch. The weather was cool and windy so no one was using the beach for swimming. There were numerous people windsurfing up and down the shore, though. After some lasagna at the Esplanade Restaurant, Ben dropped me off at my backpackers hostel, Hogwartz.

This hostel was in a grand old mansion overlooking the city centre and Catholic cathedral. It was quite an excellent place! I had a four-share room with no bunks. This place was the third in a row that I’ve had the luxury of sleeping in an unstacked bed. It was cheap, too, only NZ$23/night (CA$16). The only problem was the draught. The room was quite chilly. Thankfully, I had thick blankets to sleep under.

I moseyed on down to the Countdown supermarket to get food. The weather continued to be cool, drippy, and blustery, so I didn’t stay out very long. For dinner, I had some kind of vegetable soup.

The place had a good collection of DVDs and I discussed with Erica, from New Jersey, about which movies to watch. We ended up picking Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which I’ve officially renamed to “The Harry Potter Babies”. We also picked Amélie, but I was too tired after Harry Potter, so I went to bed.

March 9, 2009

I had some mild ambitions to go sightseeing today, so I walked around the charming city centre a bit and took photos. The weather wasn’t very cooperative. It would alternate from raining and no rain, and traverse the entire continuum in between. Sometimes the sky would be sunny, an sometimes it was overcast. Somewhat illogically, though, these periods did not coincide neatly. Sometimes it was raining heaps, but with a sunny sky. This pattern held true for most of my three days in Dunedin. It did result in the occasional rainbow, though.

Cathedral in Dunedin

Cathedral in Dunedin

Plaza in the Octagon

Plaza in the Octagon

I spent several hours that day at Modak’s Café. It seems that visiting the arty café in each city was my newest hobby. I enjoyed a chocolate ristretto (something like an espresso and some super-sweet chocolate syrup) and a blueberry yogurt muffin. Putting yogurt on top of muffins before baking them seemed to be a common practice in New Zealand. I’d enjoy trying a muffin like that again! The café had some very cool paintings for sale. I was very tempted to buy them. I was even pressured my Meps over SMS to get them. She’s certainly a bad influence. I was strong, though, and resisted the temptation to spend money on the big expensive things.

After the café I went over to the famous Cadbury’s factory. Their chocolate was very good (much better than any Cadbury’s in Canada) and I wanted to buy chocolate at the giftshop. There was also a tour of the factory. I heard it wasn’t very good and didn’t want to pay NZ$14 for the privilege of seeing some machines. The gift shop was only open for people who took the tour. Bah! I crossed the road to the Countdown Supermarket and purchased my chocolate there, instead.

Even though I didn’t get the painting at the café, I was definitely in a rare souvenir buying mode. Not only did I pick up large amounts of chocolate, I bought a Vintage Rock T-Shirts picture book at a comic book store, some posters at a record shop, and some more books at a used book store. I also went to an actual souvenir shop to buy some paua shells to give as gifts and a small stuffed lamb to give to baby Colin Lee.

I did continue my sightseeing expedition that day to the beautiful old train station. The building was gorgeous and harkened back to the age of steam when trains ran from here north to Christchurch and beyond. Trains did still run from this station, but they were only tourist trains that ran into the nearby hills.

Dunedin Train Station

Dunedin Train Station

For dinner, I was finally able to satisfy my cravings for Japanese food. There were many Japanese restaurants in Dunedin! I assume it was to cater to large numbers of tourists. The place I went to was a proper looking izakaya where I had some yakisoba and Kansai-style okonomiyaki.

On the way back to the hostel, I walked through The Octagon (the centre of Dunedin) where I ran into Erica again. We chatted for a bit on a park bench. She was waiting for her friend Paul to come by so they could watch “Slumdog Millionaire”. They let me tag along. What a great movie! Although… for a movie with that many Indians, there certainly wasn’t a lot of dancing.

I’m happy to say that it seems like most of my travel depression was resolved. I wasn’t hiding from everyone anymore. I was happy to talk to other backpackers again. My quiet time on Stewart Island and visiting my old friend Ben in Balclutha seemed to do the trick. Being able to sleep in non-bunk beds definitely helped, too.

March 10, 2009

I did so much stuff the day before! It felt like a great accomplishment! I still had the ability to do proper sightseeing! There was still hope for me, after all. Today, however, wasn’t a very eventful day. I needed to rest!

At noon, I joined the English couple, Alex and Louise, from the hostel for a tour at nearby Speight’s Brewery. As far as brewery tours go (and I’ve been on quite a few), this one was quite decent. The brewery still used many old-timey copper brewing vessels that were very handsome.

Speight's Brewery

Speight's Brewery

I was disappointed to learn that sugar is added to the beer during the brewing process. That makes the beer seem less authentic to me, somehow. They showed us some videos of some TV commercials that were produced several years ago and featured the iconic New Zealand “Southern Man” — the closest thing in New Zealand to a cowboy. These commercials portrayed the Southern Man as a hardened outdoorsman who preferred beer, the rugged wilderness, and sheep to cities and even the company of women (though they still would have acknowledged that Southern Women are the best). Many of these ads have made it to YouTube and can be seen there.

After the tour, many samples were proffered, of course. I enjoyed the Harvest Ale — a limited summer apricot and wheat brew. It was filtered to remove the cloudiness typical of most wheat beers. My favourite Speight’s was the Distinction Ale. It was just flippin’ tasty! Just before we were released from the tour, I got to try my hand at pouring a couple of draughts myself!

The Bartender

The Bartender

I went to a nearby pub with Alex, Louise, and a random English couple who were on a cruise and stopped in the city. I indulged myself by having a great meat pie for lunch. The ones in New Zealand are certainly the best that I’ve had.

After all the beer-tourism was complete, I returned to the hostel to write in my journal and prepare a big pile of stuff to be mailed home. In addition to the stuff I bought in Dunedin, I also sent home some t-shirts, some sweaters, and my huge hiking boots. It added up to 10 kg worth of stuff! It cost NZ$160 (CA$110) to mail it back to Canada! Ouch! It would be very nice, though, to finally lighten my load.

That night, before bed, I chatted with my two roommates: Sam (a girl from Ireland) and Aurelie (a tall and cute French girl!). Aurelie had a Daft Punk t-shirt which she wore to bed and proudly showed off. I was impressed and countered with my Garbage t-shirt. We discussed matters of Daft Punk for a while (truly a legendary band) and traveling in Asia. I confessed that one of my few regrets on my trip was that I spent too much time in Australia and not enough time in Asia. Of course, by the end of my time in Asia, I was all to eager to get out of there.

Rob Szumlakowski
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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