Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big city, bright lights - Dunedin

Day 12 (Thu, 1 Dec 2011)

Te Anau to Dunedin: 296km

We have another long drive today but we know we will have 3 nights in Dunedin, so we're cheerful. After a while, it gets tiring to have to unpack and pack up to move to a different accommodation every day. So nice to stay put for a change!

Along the way, we stopped at Gore for lunch. Gore is quite a big town, with numerous cafes. We ate at this one, which had a lamb shank meal for only $14.90.

It turned out to be super yummy - tender and a generous sized portion. We've been eating lots of lamb in NZ. Surprisingly, even though there are sheep everywhere, lamb tends to be quite pricey. Beef and steak are cheaper, relative to the portion size. I'm guessing it's because you can get lots of meat from one cow but less so from one sheep.

But whether lamb or beef, the Kiwis cook their red meats exceedingly well.

I took a few closeups to show how the NZ fare has transformed my already tubby son into a rosy, roly-poly boy. His badminton coach is going to faint when she sees him.

The drive to Dunedin via the State Highway was through wide plains and valleys, so it was a smooth ride. I'm beginning to understand why some Americans like to take road trips. If the roads are anything like these, the drive itself can be enjoyable, even therapeutic (for those who like driving, that is).

These were some of the flattest terrains and straightest roads we'd driven on so far. In fact, Kenneth says driving on such roads makes him drowsy as it requires less concentration.

If ever you would use the textbook, over-quoted phrase "sapphire sky", it would be here. We had a sparkling, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. Just a brilliant blue.

I thought I'd mention that throughout our drives across the country, we frequently encountered vacated shops and cafes like these below, as well as many houses with 'For Sale' signs. We heard on the news that many Kiwis and Kiwi businesses are leaving the country, calling it quits as they're finding it hard to make ends meet. It's so tragic that a beautiful place like this can't sustain its people.

The cloudless sky quickly pushed temperatures up and it became unbearably hot - reaching 30 degrees celcius! That's a more than 10 degree surge in just a couple of hours. I know today is the first day of Summer but still, that's ridiculous!

Sitting in the car, I could feel the sun scorching on the exposed skin on my arms and face. You really need to slather on the sunscreen, otherwise your skin will burn. It was so hot we stopped at a Caltex petrol station in Balclutha for ice cream.

As we approached Dunedin, the landscape changed. Dunedin is NZ's oldest city and this was the first city we'd been to, having bypassed Auckland and Wellington. It was almost a shock to be confronted with this many cars and people. We've also not seen multi-storey buildings for a while.

We checked into Dunedin Palms Motel, praying it would be nice since we'd be here a while. We found that it's quite centrally located, although not at the Octagon, which is the heart of town.

It's about 700m to the Octagon, still a manageable walk. But most importantly, we got the keys to our unit and it's gorgeous!

It has 2 bright, beautiful bedrooms and a very modern bathroom. Tvs in all the bedrooms and the living room plus a spacious living area. Yet it costs less here per night than the Te Anau accommodation. Bah. We're so glad we're staying 3 nights here!

Since we arrived fairly early, we decided to take a walk at the malls, to catch up on our shopping (this trip didn't leave us much time for souvenir buying). Dunedin town centre has 3 interlocking malls so it's quite confusing which one you're at.

Each has 3 floors, with rows of shops lining the exterior. This was also the first place in NZ where we've had to pay for parking, and it's not cheap either - $1 per half hour at the malls and $1.50 per half hour for street parking.

Found a couple of Christmas gifts for friends and took advantage of the free gift wrapping service. Exquisitely done, complete with elaborate ribbons and bows.

Following Internet recommendations again, we chose to have dinner at Jitsu, a Japanese restaurant.

It was a great call - only $15.50 for a sashimi bento box and the portions are large. Best of all, it was very tasty.

We miss our Japanese food! We may just come back again tomorrow.

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