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And a Cherry On Top


We woke up the next morning at our usual 8:00, and were pleasantly surprised that we were quite refreshed. The bed in the van, despite the thin layer of padding, is quite comfortable. We took quick showers, then headed in to the common room to eat a quick breakfast of Greek yoghurt, jam, honeydew melon, and tea.

After we had everything packed up, I decided that it was time to teach Dore a bit about driving a manual transmission. The car park seemed the perfect place for it, with few impedences and little traffic. I explained the basics to Dore, demonstrating a little, and then let her have the reigns. I have to say, I was very impressed. She took off in first gear without a single stall, driving around the loop as if she’d been driving stick all her life. She did end up stalling when we came to a stop, but all in all not bad! She was super excited, and was looking forward to doing more. To quote Dore: “I may actually learn to drive stick on this trip!”

Our original plan was to take several days to drive down the coast from Christchurch to Dunedin, stopping in at the towns along the way and generally meandering our way along. As we drove, however, we found that we were making much better time than we had originally anticipated, and the towns were considerably less interesting than we had imagined. Most of the towns were quite small, mere wide spots in the road, really.

We passed several less interesting towns before deciding to stop in Timaru for lunch. The guide books were almost silent on the town, but we actaully found it to be quite charming, with a fun little downtown and a fantastic park by the beach. We walked across the wide expanse of grass to the beach, where we walked along the sand with our feet in the water. The day was beautiful and sunny, a it felt really nice to get our feet wet. The water was a little bit warmer than I’m used to in Santa Barbara, and a whole lot clearer.

After Timaru, we continued down the coast, ticking off the kilometers at a rapid pace. Around 4:30 we stopped to see the Moeraki boulders, an attraction that I’d read about and wanted to see for myself. They are basically huge limestone boulders that formed in nearly perfect spheres. There are about fifty of them down on the beach, and they are really just an odd and fun little thing to see. We played around with the camera for a while, taking silly tourist photos, and then headed back to the van. It was nice to stop for a while, and we were both really happy.

In the beach parking area we did a bit more practice with Dore driving, and she was doing well, switching from first to reverse and back. She only stalled a couple of times, probably fewer than the number of successes she had. There wasn’t quite enough room to go from first to second, so we shelved that for the moment and continued on our drive.

As I said before, our plan had been to stop at a campground along the way, but we found that we were making such good time that we might as well just get to Dunedin a day early. We pushed on, and crested the hill overlooking the town about 5:30. It was absolutely gorgeous. The late afternoon sun was casting fantastic light over the city, which is perched on the hills overlooking the Otago harbor and peninsula. Dore and I were both immediately reminded of San Fransisco, only smaller and more colorful.

The drive into the city was beautiful, with old stone buildings, hundred year old Victorian homes, colorful painted houses, and trees everywhere we looked. Because of all the hills, however, the roads were a bit crazy, and it was only by having our trusty GPS that we managed not to get completely lost. After a few wrong turns (and Garmin yelling “Recalculating!” and other directions) we finally made it to the B&B that we were going to be staying at. We actually had reseved it for two nights in the future, so we weren’t sure if we’d be able to stay, but we’d decided to wing it and see what happened.

As luck would have it, the owners not only had the room available, but they didn’t have any other guests for the entire time we would be staying there. We basically would have our own private B&B! When we called they were outside of the town, so we arranged to meet a bit later, while Dore and I went to pick up a bite to eat.

We walked down the incredibly steep hill (High street, they call it), and went to the Black Dog pub, where we had a really good dinner. Dore got a fish pasta which, strangely enough, was served with a baked potatoe as well as salad. A baked potatoe with pasta? Apparently Kiwis love their starches. I had an amazing cream of chicken soup that was exactly the right combination of savory and lightness — delicious and hearty, but not so rich that you get full after just a few bites. Along with dinner we had our first taste of Speights Gold Medal ale (which, we later learned, is brewed in Dunedin). It was quite nice, with less of the overpowering hops flavor than is found in a lot of the British and American ales.

Done with dinner, we marched back up the hill and checked in. Our jaws completely dropped when we saw our room. In a word, it was amazing. It sat at the corner of the house, with a large set of windows looking over the harbor and city. Right next to the room was the enormous bathroom complete, to Dore’s delight, with a huge claw-foot tub with brass fixtures.

We breathlessly thanked Steven, our host, for showing us the rooms, then brought our bags up and set up for the night. Dore took a hot bath, and I a hot shower, and, snuggling up in the nice cozy bed, laughed at what a perfect day it had been.

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