We arrived in Port Chalmers at around 8am this morning. Port Chalmers lies in Otago Harbour, which comprises three ports: Port Chalmers, Ravensbourne and Dunedin. Otago Harbour is a bay of approximately eleven miles with Dunedin at the end. The harbour is split into the lower and upper harbours divided at Port Chalmers by the Halfway Islands. Port Chalmers lies 5 miles into the harbour which is entered through a dredged channel just over 36 feet or 12 metres deep.
Explorer Captain James Cook was searching for an elusive southern continent when he claimed New Zealand for the king. Although his first encounters with Maori warriors were violent, he realized he had met with a sophisticated people who were protecting their lands. However in 1800, missionaries were dispatched to address the “rampant sin and depravity” in the South Pacific. In 1840, EG Wakefield established the first permanent European settlement on the North Island and that same year the Treaty of Waitangi recognized British sovereignty but guaranteed Maori rights to the land. The treaty was soon violated. European and Maori concepts of land use were too divergent. No human being could “own” land in the Maori world view: people borrow land from God, who owns all of it. One Maori tract was tribal hunting area and another was for burial. Colonists saw the same plots as excellent farmland. Soon, bloody wars broke out between Maori and settlers (or Pakeha or Caucasians).
Dunedin, established at the site of the Maori village of Otakou, is the South Island’s second largest city. It was initially called New Edinburgh, the city was soon re-christened Dunedin, the old Celtic name of the beloved Scottish city. Growth was assured when gold was discovered in 1861. The city’s Victorian homes are accented with great Gothic spires, Charles Kettle the city’s surveyor having been instructed to emulate the characteristics of Edinburgh. The result was both grand and quirky streets as the builders struggled and sometimes failed to construct his bold vision across the challenging landscape.
For Uncle Eddie, New Zealand’s only domestic whisky is distilled in town.
As we travel into town its easy to see why seeing New Zealand in a week or two is impossible. The roads are twisted with lots of corners, and there is just so much to see and do. On our way into town we pass a construction site – it’s one of the locations for the upcoming World Rugby championships, a new sports centre with lots of glass – they have a hotel and other living quarters being built at the same time (presumably for players, coaches etc.).
Dunedin’s charming central district is the neat, eight-sided Octagon. Designed by New Zealand Company surveyor Charles Kettle in the mid 19th century, the district is a wonderful place of antique volcanic stone buildings and the municipal government. The black and white motif is beautifully repeated all over town. St Paul’s Cathedral is instantly recognized, it’s not the oldest structure in town but it is certainly one of the most impressive with its stained glass and vaulted ceiling.
Bird watching here is very prevalent. Visitors can watch the Albatross Colony at Otago peninsula. The birds are quite graceful, white birds with black wings. They have a wing span of more than 12 feet and their heavy bodies can’t leave the ground in less than 15 knot winds. A pair mates for life and returns to the colony each year to breed. A single egg is laid and the chick is born four months later. Chicks usually hatch in January and their parents shelter them for the first month. Adults are known to circle the globe and have been documented to fly and average of 80,000 miles each year. We can also see the yellow eyed penguin (Hoiho). It’s the world’s rarest penguin. Several species are indigenous to the Otago coast including Yellow eyed Penguins and Little Blue Penguins. Unfortunately many of the animals are nocturnal.
It’s Saturday and there’s a market at the “Octagon”. There’s several universities in town so there’s a distinct atmosphere of young people around the market. Many are local artisans selling their crafts I purchase 2 “bows” they are felted and I know they’ll look good on an upcoming knitting project. The number of stalls was out of this world, I think well over 150 in the area. The market area is just alive with people and it’s actually hard to see everything so we decide to do some exploring first and come back. Our first stop is St. Paul’s Cathedral – wow but it’s just amazing inside. We’re lucky enough to be there just before a wedding later in the day and there’s a flower design contest going on. The flowers are just amazing, with lots of wonderful colours and a great deal of though has obviously gone into making each of the arrangements. The stained glass windows and the vaulted ceilings are just awe inspiring. Yet, there’s a wonderful feeling that’s modern. We later make our way to “First Church” – it is very different. Steeped in history there’s an air that one just stepped into the 18th century. There’s a lovely heritage room at the front of the church with many of the actual documents, bibles and hymnals used in those early days. Both very different church’s and both very attractive in their own way.
After we’ve walked for some time it’s time to get a coffee. We stop at the old Dunedin Railway station, it’s one of three built between 1873 and 1906. The tile work on the floors and walls here is just amazing. What craftsmanship!
Our last stop was the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. Well, I need not tell you that I/we were in heaven. We took a shortened tour and got to taste lots of samples including hot chocolate – gosh it was lovely. We decided to purchase some chocolate for both the crew and us. It was amazing – 200 gram bars of chocolate were only $2 NZ. I think we purchased over $130 and the crew were just delighted – so now our cabin stewards and dining stewards and wine stewards are our best friends. These folks work so incredibly hard they deserve a little thanks, this time in the form of chocolate. I also sent my chocoholic friend Ana a Cadbury card – I hope she gets it.
Gerrit went in to Port Chalmers to find a non-American newspaper, we are tired of one view of the world. The local Otagu paper turned out to be full of well written and informative articles. There were ones about emigration and loss of talented people to Australia, etc., and even ads for the sale of sheep, lambs, alpaca and other livestock. Port Chalmers has wonderful buildings as well, some with interesting names, and once again Poppy has a cafe here. She seems to be a well travelled cat .