February 21, 2002- Another Milestone Reached...I finally made it to Dunedin

Last night was rather strange. Even for the Asylum Lodge, it was an unusual occurrence, since it is rather out of the way. It was a dozen Dunedin 18-20 somethings, who came out to celebrate the birthday of one of them. They took over the living room, but were pretty well behaved. It was actually a pretty good idea. Have a party and not have to worry about getting home. Sort a giant sleep over. Fortunately, they were in a different part of the hostel than the rest of us.

I also found out about something called WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). It is a program where people work four hours a day on an organic farm (or something close) in return for room and board. Frank also took in WWOOFers to help in his garden and with his construction projects.

There was an American guy in my room last night who had just arrived as part of this program. He was actually quite interesting, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him except for a short time this morning. He had just come from spending part of the summer working at the South Pole, building a utility tunnel under the base there. He was spending some time in NZ before going back to Antarctica, for the winter, to do construction work at another base. He has a 14 month contract to work in Antarctica. He said the work was hard, but the pay, accommodations and meals were excellent.

I seem to have entered the land of hills this week and I'm not sure if I can climb too many more. When I left Seacliff this morning, I thought that it would be downhill to where the Mount Cargill Road began. It wasn't. The road was more like a roller coaster. There were at least two short killer hills that I couldn't get up without stopping several times. I was really dreading the Mount Cargill Road.

It turned out that Mt. Cargill was much more tractable than I thought it would be. The road was virtually empty, since most of the traffic uses the motorway into Dunedin (bicycles not allowed) and the grade was fairly uniform and I could just pedal up hill in my lowest gear for about a kilometer at a time without stopping. (I expect that the motorway had an easier grade, though). It actually worked out pretty well, since the views as I go higher were pretty spectacular and I could just stop and look out as I rested.

Part of the lower road was through forest so there wasn't much more than trees on both sides, but I did stop next to some really big gnarly pine trees.

After two hours plus, I finally reached the top of the road, completely beat. There was a great view of the harbor and the Otago Peninsula, so I rested a while, ate a couple of apples and enjoyed the view. It was literally all down hill from there. I don't think that I pedalled all the way down until I was in Dunedin. The trip down took about twenty minutes. I stopped at Baldwin Street, a side street near the bottom, which is in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world. Needless to say, I didn't try to make the climb

So far, I've been to the factory where they baked the World's Largest Cookie, seen the World's Largest Jumper (sweater) in a shop in Geraldine and now, the World's Steepest Street. Who knew that there were so many superlatives on the east coast of the South Island.

Finding a place to stay in Dunedin was a real trial. I called all of the highly rated hostels and they were all completely booked. I went to the Information Center in town to look for a reasonable B&B, but there was nothing under $100/night available. This is evidently their busy season. They suggested a campground with cabins about 2km out of town, just over a small hill, they said. I started up the hill, realized that it wasn't very short, and steeper than anything that I had been up today. But there, done that. I knew that if I managed to get up and over, I would never make it back to Dunedin. I went back to the Info Center. They directed me to the Leviathan Hotel (great name, interesting building).

The Leviathan is an old-fashioned hotel, that has been recently refurbished. They had a single at NZ$70. As I was talking to the owner/manager about cycling down the island, I mentioned that this was most expensive place that I had stayed in. He said that he had another place, the Dunedin Lodge, that he had just acquired, that was only NZ$45. a night. It is a smaller older building, that had only 15 rooms and was in the process of being refurbished. I went over with him to look. It isn't too bad. It doesn't have an on-site staff, so I have a key to get in and all of the facilities are closed, but I can use the commercial kitchen if I want. There are only a couple of other guests at the moment. One is a family with two kids who have been staying there for a couple of weeks.

The room is clean. I've slept in less comfortable beds and the shower is quite good, so I should have an okay night.

Dunedin looks like an interesting city. It has 120,000 residents, 30,000 of whom are university students. University of Otago is supposed to be a good school and there is also Otago Polytechnic. There is also some very interesing architecture here. A good selection of imposing 19th century stone buiildings. The city is flat in the center and is surrounded by hills, steep hills, but there are no tall modern buildings (some short modern buildings). I'll probably look around a bit tomorrow.

As I was riding into town, I noticed a lot of big 30's era touring cars parked in several of the motels on the outskirts of town. I happened to pull up to a stop light next to one, so I asked what was going on. It turns out to be a tour of the South Island by a group of 60 old Bentleys, shipped over from England. All the ones that I saw were in perfect shape, just like out of some period British film.

Since the cheap hotel room doesn't have a phone (or a TV for that matter), I spent the evening in the Arc Cafe writing email and the weblog while having a potato and mushroom curry (good curry, mild though), a chocolate tart and a latte. They have Internet access and I can plug into their network for free--comes with the meal. The curry was pretty good. The tart and latte were excellent. The internet access was fast (ASDL).

As I was writing, this guy came up and asked me about my computer. I thought he was a student or something. Instead, he was just strange guy who sat down and droned on endlessly about being from Australia and he thought he had cancer and the doctor said he didn't, but he did and on and on... Finally, I had to ignore him and go back to writing before he would leave.

Updated: 26 March 2002