Welcome to my sentimental journey back to New Zealand through music.

Just as I remember some people, events, days or places by their fragrances, it’s a similar thing with music. Here are some songs which will always remind me my adventure in NZ.

UPDATED new link: Download my trip to New Zealand mixtape

ADDED 00. The Phoenix Foundation: Gandalf. I had listened to this song when I was packing for Australia and NZ. As I was doing it, I had this quote at the back of my head, something what Bilbo learned after meeting Gandalf and later tried to warn Frodo, It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

01. Flight of the Conchords: Bus Driver’s Song. My interest in NZ deepened when I started listening to FOTC a couple years ago. I must admit that they were one of the reasons why I wanted to go to NZ, but when I finally got there, started travelling around the country and meeting amazing people, it was even greater experience than meeting the Conchords. So when I saw Bret McKenzie at the Fly My Pretties concert in November, I wasn’t as stocked as I thought I’d be. In fact, I didn’t hear much of FOTC while in NZ and didn’t listen to it as well. The only time I heard their song was at the backpacker’s in Kaikoura. “Business Time” was played from the speakers.
Also, I’d like to dedicate this song to my friend from Australia who is a bus driver and all those special bus drivers from New Zealand who I was lucky to travel with, I’m thinking of James, Graham and the third one I don’t know the name of, but he remembered me too when he saw me for the second time.

02. Powderfinger: Burn Your Name. My Australian friend, P. played this song for me saying he liked the drum beat in it. I hope that was the only thing he wanted to show me in/through this song.

03. Talking Heads: Psychokiller. Even though I didn’t listen to much of FOTC, there were many other songs and things that reminded me of them. Psychokiller was one of those songs. I heard it soon after I arrived in Auckland while walking along Quay Street in the evening and immediately I had unintentional FOTC moment. Later on I heard this song many times in pubs and restaurants all around NZ.

04. The Woolshed Sessions: Only Your Arms. I got a headache from the noise at Nomads in Auckland and the amount of offers, choices and decisions I had to make at the beginning of my journey. The backpacker’s was in Downtown, close to busy Queen Street and I had nowhere to escape to find some peace and quiet. The Woolshed Sessions reminded me why I loved NZ and went there. They soothed my heart and gave me the peace I needed.

05. Garth Brooks: The River (Sail My Vessel). I already left Auckland, saw the beautiful countryside near Waitomo and spent amazing time with people in Hamilton. I was on a bus to Wellington. James was our bus driver and a Canadian tourist sang this song as part of the karaoke competition. The sun was shining and I had Lake Taupo and then Mt Ruapehu outside my window. I was getting more and more optimistic about my journey.

06. Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra: Sunshine of Your Love (live). It was the opening night of the Rugby World Cup 2011. I was in Wellington and saw them live for the first time. It was a big night seeing Age Pryor and the rest of the band, but Nigel Collins’ voice (and the legendary wind) swept me away.

07. Black Eyed Peas: Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night. It was always played before the kick off at the RWC matches. And then the countdown was starting and the thrill of watching the game live. Later when I was travelling around the South Island, J. the Spanish sang it all the time, mostly just a chorus. There was one more song played during the breaks in a match, but somehow I can’t remember it, nether others could. (EDIT: I remembered! It was Hey Baby, obviously)

08. David Bowie: Changes. The same story as with “Psycho killer”. One of unintentional FOTC moments.

09. The Phoenix Foundation: Supernatural (live). It’s immpossible not to include at least one TPF song in my mixtape. I felt like home when I heard their (and Lawrence Arabia, and The Black Seeds…) songs from the YHA Wellington speakers. It was my dream to see the band in Welly and I got a warm welcome from them. It was like the essential NZ dream to come true. They’re working on a new album and they played this new song. So many emotions and great memories I have listening to “Supernatural” that sometimes I can’t stop my happy tears from falling.

10. WIUO: Sweet Child of Mine (live). This Guns ‘n’ Roses song was again played everywhere in NZ from Auckland to New Plymouth by a cover band and to bars in the South Island. So, I wasn’t really surprised when WIUO played at their new EP release party. You can hear Age smashing the stool on stage at the end of this recording. He really rocked. 😀 It was a great pleasure talking to them after the concert and they loved the fact that they’ve got at least one fan from Poland.
The song is not on their new EP, but other awesome songs are there. I totally recommend buying the CD.

11. Fabulous/Arabia: The Ballad of State Highway 1. Mike Fabulous and James Milne, two awesome NZ musicians released an album together when I was in NZ and it’s so addictive and amazing. Their songs sounded even better live at Mighty Mighty, but the recording I have isn’t the best one, so I took the track from their album. I have driven many kilometers on SH1.

12. The Woolshed Sessions: Waterfall (live). You can guess they were one of the bands I wanted to see live and it happened during my unforgattable two weeks in Wellington. Sunny afternoon on Courtenay Place in front of the Embassy Theatre.

13. The Yoots: Nga Iwi E. Recommended by DJ Mike Fabulous, nuff said. The fact that he, Will Ricketts from TPF, Danny Yeabsley from WIUO and Toby Lang from Fat Freddy’s Drop play there even helps. I saw them live after The Woolshed Sessions.

14. Minuit: Aotearoa. Recommended by R. from Wellington when I was couchsurfing. At first I thought it was too alternative for me, but as it usually happens, Minuit grown on me and “Find Me Before I Die…” is one of my favourite NZ albums.

15. Ladyhawke: Magic. Starting from Ladyhawke till Fat Freddy’s Drop, these are the bands I was listening to all the time when I was writing my blog. I love Ladyhawke the most and I can’t wait to listen to her new album which is due to release in March, as far as I remember.

16. The Naked and Famous: Young Blood

17. Family Cactus: Fields and Fields

18. Fat Freddy’s Drop: Wandering Eye

19. The Black Seeds: Fire (live). The day before the end of the RWC and NZ’s victory. One big Kiwi fest in Queen’s Wharf in Auckland.

20. Gotye (featuring Kimbra): Somebody That I Used To Know. It was already big on the radio there. I had heard this song once before I went to NZ. I had watched the video and really loved it, but I thought I forgot the song. When I heard it again on the radio, I knew I had heard it before. It took me a while to connect the video with the song. It happened in a hotel in Wellington when I was waiting for the All Blacks victory parade.

21. Shakira: Loca. Don’t judge me! It was the song that stuck in my head when I was travelling along the West Coast of the South Island with my friends from Chile. Finally, not German tourists!

22. The Muppets: Life Is a Happy Song. “The Muppets” had its premiere when I was still in NZ and in my pessimism, I must admit that sometimes Bret McKenzie, who wrote this song, is right. Especially when you visit NZ.

23. Fly My Pretties: Journey’s End (live). It was ten days before my plane back to London (according to my first plan) when I went to see Fly My Pretties live. When Barnaby Weir introduced his song, I took it very personally. I was wondering where my journey will end.

24. Pulp: Sylvia. After FMP, I ran to see TPF in SF Bath House, but they had already finished playing. Luke Buda totally cheered me up “lamely” singing me a couple lines of this song before we said goodbyes and see yous in London next year.

25. Piotr Krępeć: Coromandel. I don’t know the name of this song, so I named it myself. I had recorded my friend’s performance when I was still in my home town and driving back to Auckland from Coromandel Town towards Thames I was listening to the recording having a beautiful sunset over the water on my right. His music helped me to say goodbye to NZ and prepare myself to my return to Poland.

26. Queen: Don’t Stop Me Now. I didn’t think of putting this song on my mixtape, but when I was already in London, I heard this song on the radio and automatically thought of this New Zealand advert I had seen so many times on TV. And… I think it’s a good song for the great finale. Or is it really the end of my adventure?

ferry back to Welly

I’m back in London fighting with sleep and will give up as soon as I post this entry.

I thought I should finish the story. Will it have a happy ending?

FRIDAY, 18th November

The bus from Christchurch to Picton via Kaikoura was late, but when I saw the driver, all was forgiven. Graham jumped off the bus and asked me “No pie?”, so I was kinda obliged to go and buy one, since we had still some spare time before the departure. I tried a seafood pie, which was really good with pieces of crabs, shrimps, but I didn’t like the mussel bit.

I was really happy that I could take my last trip on the South Island together with Graham. It was our 4th ride and just felt right. The road was along the coast and it was so beautiful. We passed seals playing in the Ocean or having a rest on the rocks. There were many road works on the way, which were making the bus late, but I trusted that Graham would get us safely and before my ferry to Wellington departs.

The vineyards of Marlborough

We were late about 20 minutes, but it was early enough to board the ferry on time.


Awesome weather for passing The Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait.

When we were getting closer to Cook Strait, it started to rain.

Goodbye, the South Island!

Hello, Wellington!

After getting off the ferry and going out to the streets of Wellington, I got a headache from the noise of the traffic. I wasn’t aware how quiet the South Island was until I left it. That was the only moment when I didn’t like Wellington.

I took the shuttle from the terminal to the Railway Station and from there I went to the backpackers. This time I stayed at Lodge in the City on Taranaki Street; only $15 for a bed in a 10 bed dorm room. It wasn’t very tragic, but the kitchen was a real mess and it was a party hostel. I went to find some peace in the library, but when I came back in the evening, no one in the dining room was eating. They were drinking. When I went to bed, there was only one more person sleeping in my room, the rest of the guys were somewhere on Cuba Street.


THURSDAY, 17th November

Kaikoura has 200 sunny days a year, so I wasn’t worried that I would have a bad weather when I visit that place.

A new driver took me from Christchurch, so I started missing Graham. We left the Canterbury plains and crossed the hills. Some of them were so much covered with yellow flowers that they looked like made of gold.

When we left the hills behind, the rest of the journey was along the beautiful coast. I arrived in Kaikoura after 9:30 am. My hostel was in the town centre, close to the bus stop. On a map there was a short walkway from the bus to the hostel, but somehow I had ignored “Churchill” word. I had to climb an exhausting steep hill to get to my hostel, Dolphin Lodge Backpackers, which I highly recommend after all.

A view from the walkway. Photo taken after I had dropped off my bag.

I checked in but my bed wasn’t ready yet, so I left my bag in the lounge and went to the iSite to take a map of the peninsula and book a Whale Watch cruise at 4 pm. The walk around Kaikoura peninsula can take about 3-3.5 hrs, so I thought it would be safe to book the whales little later.

After buying something to eat in the local shop and having a light lunch back in the hostel, I started my walk at about 12:30 pm.

Would you be interested in having a picnic here?

Or buying a house by the beach?

Fyffe House, an early whalers cottage. Admission $9. I didn’t go, because of money and time.

There were some distractions on the way. I didn’t mind spending money and time on that!

Kai koura in Maori means ‘eat crayfish’ and there were many restaurants in town serving fresh sea food including the local specialty, but the whole crayfish cost about $50 or you could order a half for $25, so I thought that maybe next time. But I wanted to try paua. One of the travelers I’d met said that it was good and I hadn’t known that paua was not only a beautiful shell, but you could eat the inside. So I had a go and it was for $9. Paua has black and hard meat, so it’s smashed and fried with onion, egg etc. I felt lame and like a Japanese tourist taking a photo of food, so appreciate this.

This seal is not dead

They were everywhere!

Pint Kean Seal Colony

Some photos from the walk. Is it Switzerland? No, still New Zealand.

More picnic spots.

I was back at my hostel after 3 pm, had enough time to have some rest and pack a jacket, because I suspected it might be windy on the open ocean when we would be looking for whales.

At 4 pm I was at the Whale Watch Centre, paid for the cruise ($145 and if you don’t see a whale you get 80% back). At 4:30 pm we were officially welcomed and told that there had been one sperm whale spotted that day and if anyone would like to resign and not to go now, he or she could have their money back. But no one changed their mind. We watched safety instructions first, then we got on a bus and were taken to the South Bay to hop on a cruise boat.

We drove by the boat for about an hour to get to the Canyon where whales and other sea animals usually come for food. In the meantime our guide told us some interesting facts about those beautiful sea mammals. When we got to the spot, there was already one more boat with the earlier group. They were waiting for the whale to come up to the water surface, because they had heard him through the sonar that it had been hunting on the bottom of the canyon and now they couldn’t hear anything and that meant it was coming up to get some oxygen. We waited for about 10-15 minutes, when it finally came up. We drove closer.

For about 5-10 minutes we could see the top of its huge head (the whale was the size of our boat, 18 m), hear its breathing and when it took the breath for the last time before going down for another hour of hunting, we saw its beautiful tail.

So unique. I felt privileged to see it.

Going back to the backpackers, awesome wall art.

I still can’t get into the Christmas mood, even when I started to see Christmas decorations everywhere in the middle of November.


WEDNESDAY, 16th November

Luckily, there was a free bed in a dorm room the next morning, so I moved, made some bookings for the next couple days of my trip, because I was guessing the summer season has started and I might have troubles with accommodation again in places like Kaikoura or Wellington. And I was right to do that!

When all was sorted, I went to see the city or what has left after the earthquake and after shakes.
I was going from Bealey Ave towards the city centre along Colombo Street. The closer the heart of the city, the quieter it was. Spooky. Then I finally saw the fence surrounding the CBD. I could only hear the noise of the machines dismantling the wounded buildings. It was like Berlin used to be in the 90s. The city centre was a huge work site.

The containers on the left hold up the wall

The dome from the top corner of Regent Theatre saved

Christchurch is said to be the most English city in New Zealand. And there used to be the oldest buildings. Who knows, maybe it’ll have the most interesting modern architecture on the Southern Hemisphere after the tragedy? New shops Re:Start. I like it!

Down along the street you get again to the fence and you can see the CBD through windows.

Avon River

Christchurch Art Gallery untouched, but closed anyway.

Up Worcester Boulevard, Arts Centre damaged and closed too

Opposite Caterbury Museum, slightly damaged, but all exhibitions open and free.

The highlight of the Museum, Paua House. In Bluff, there used to live a couple, Fred and Myrtle Flutey who decorated their house in paua shells. They became world famous in New Zealand. They had been married for over 70 years! They died ten years ago, and recently the interior of their house has been moved to the Museum.

When I left the Canterbury Museum, the sun was gone and the sky was covered with clouds. Behind the Museum, there were Botanic Gardens, so I went for a short walk around. I could hear some music playing near the Gardens, so I followed the sound. In Hagley Park, there were 10 local bands playing, ticket $10. It was tempting, but I was getting tired, cold and I had to catch a bus to Kaikoura early next morning, so I made my way back to the hostel. Going through Cranmer Square, I saw some tents and there were hours displayed in front of them and people queuing. I came up to one of the people wearing bright coloured vests and asked what was happening. I was told that there were buses going to the CBD red zone and if I wanted to go, they could put my name on the waiting list. H., my friend from Auckland had told me that those buses had recently started running, but I didn’t know where I should look for them. Probably the easiest way would be asking at the iSite, but I didn’t know where it was either. Everything from the centre has been shifted and when I found the Visitor Centre, next to the Museum, it was already closed. While I was waiting for a free place in one of the buses, I had a chat with the helpers and she told me that the best way is to call and book a tour or come and sign in at the square, just as I did.

Buses depart every 10 minutes, cost a golden coin donation, go for about 30 minutes and every one is usually full. Imagine how many people visit the CBD every day! There are tourists, but mostly local Kiwis from Canterbury who finally can see the centre of Christchurch and what has been happening there for almost a year. So it was with my bus at 7:20 pm.

“Victoria is still standing!” I didn’t notice that first, but time stopped there. You could see decorations from Chinese New Year or ads about summer sales.

I’d probably stay here

We stopped by the place where used to be CTV building

“I had a great party in this pub!”, someone said.

The creepiest view, the only human shapes were window mannequins.

The last stop was at Cathedral Square.

I didn’t know that this tour would be so emotional to me, but when I thought about people who died under those buildings, I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing.

Moeraki Boulders and Elephant Rocks

TUESDAY, 15th November

Breakfast. Check-out. Bag in the boot. People in the car (Eeeck! I was responsible for three more lives!) Half hour later: Moeraki. There was still low tide.

some people tried to steal boulders by swallowing them!

The Boulders Family

My next destination was Christchurch and I had booked my bus at 3 pm. By 12 pm we saw the boulders and had plenty of time and petrol to go somewhere else and there was nothing to go but Elephant Rocks again. The valley looked different than the day before, even though I was driving the same road. It was because the clouds were higher and I could see the higher mountains behind the ones I had seen earlier! Because I turned back and went to Oamaru another road, we came across the proper Elephant Rocks!

There were more beautiful views, but I was worried that I would miss my bus, so I didn’t stop anymore.

2:40 pm, back in Oamaru. The whole trip cost us $14 each! And my friends told me that I drove very well and they were falling asleep on the way back. We didn’t have the radio and no one wanted to sing instead.

2:45 pm, I returned the car and asked the rental guy for the lift to the bus stop, which he gladly did.

2:50 pm, by the bus stop and had the time to go to the toilet and then buy a pie.

Who was my driver? Graham! He remembered my name, waited for me to finish my pie (no hot food or drink on the bus!), then asked me to sit at the front, so we could talk on the way. After 3 pm he started the engine when I swallowed the last hot piece of my pie.

I was a bit worried, because I’d arrive in Christchurch in the evening and I hadn’t had time to book my hostel there and I totally didn’t know the plan of the city, which hostels would be close enough to the centre and where the bus stop was. I told Graham about it and he said, he would show me some hostels. In fact he did more than that. When we got to the city and all the passengers left the bus, he told me to jump in and he dropped me off close to the Kiwi basecamp backpackers. Unfortunately, it was full! I tried to stay calm and went along the avenue. I found out that the bus depot and a lot of backpackers were on Bealey Avenue and a couple numbers down I found Rucksucker Backpacker. They didn’t have any free beds in a dorm room, but there was one in a share room, so I took it. I shared it with a French guy and it cost me just a couple dollars more than for the dorm bed. But it was only for one night and if I got a dorm room bed for the next night, I would have to wait till the next morning. I was fine with that as long as I had a place to sleep for now.


MONDAY, 14th November

Guess which bus driver took me to Oamaru? Graham! But it wasn’t that time yet when we became friends. More to come.

I arrived quite early in Oamaru, at about 10 am, and checked in at the Empire Hotel backpackers in the town centre; a little bit of a walk from the bus stop, though.

I had a coffee and went along the street to the iSite to check out what were my options for going to Moeraki.

I could go by a shuttle, but it would cost me $70, unless I’d find one more person to share the cost with or I could rent a car for half a day, which was 4 hours for $25 and go by myself. I thought it was a better option and went to the rental to ask about the conditions. The rental was across the street behind the building with a clock, which is Waitaki District Council building.

It was called Smash Palace and it was also a garage. A guy at the rental suggested renting a car for 24 hours for $45 and I’d have it long enough to see more than just the boulders. There were Elephant Rocks at the Waitaki Valley and other beautiful views along the river. It was tempting, but I hadn’t explored Oamaru yet to decide that I needed the car for that long.

Oamaru is famous for its whitestone and the buildings you see in the photos are made of it and look very monumental and intimidating. It’s not a typical New Zealand town sight. In a park near Aquatic Centre, there were workshops. Different artists were carving modern and more traditional sculptures. Whitestone is very soft and easy to work in.

Walking along the streets and passing by second hand shops and cafes, I was getting this feeling that time slowed down in Oamaru if not stopped at the end of the 19th century.

At one of the cafes the waiters wear clothes from the Victorian era. There is also a photo studio where you can dress up in the period clothes and be photographed ($30 per photo).

The buildings between Tyne and Harbour Streets are art galleries and workshops of local artists and you can go and admire their works, which are very interesting. I couldn’t take any pictures of the art work, but I could take a photo of the view outside the windows.

Friendly Bay

By 3 pm I saw everything what I wanted in town. I had read in my guidebook that Elephant Rocks was the place where Aslan’s Camp was filmed for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so it was the reason good enough to go and see them. I rented the car, automatic Nissan Bluebird, and off I went again on the road. It was great to sit behind the wheel once more!

Going out of town I tried to find Janet Frame’s home on Eden St where she spent her childhood. Janet Frame was an Oamaru born novelist. I had seen Jane Campion’s (yep, the one’s who directed The Piano later on) film version of Frame’s autobiographical An Angel At My Table and got a bit excited that I was in the writer’s hometown. I wasn’t successful in my searching. I probably passed the house driving my car up the street and it was getting late. I had read the house was open till 4 pm, so I gave up and went to Whitestone cheese factory, tasted some delicious cheese in a shop by the factory, bought some brie and finally left the town.

Those cows were very friendly and came up to me to say hello.

I thought that these were Elephant Rocks, but I was wrong, when I saw more on the next day.

The Waitaki Valley

I wanted to see Maori rock paintings, but…

It was very disappointing.

I had been driving for quite a while, so I crossed the river in Kurow and went back to Oamaru. It was about 8 pm when I was back in town and went to the Blue Penguin Colony. I thought it would be for free, but the ticket was $25 ($20 for YHA/BBH etc. members). I’m not that big penguin fan, I had already spent some money for the yellow-eyed penguin, so I passed on that and went to the look out. So easy with a car!

And back to the hostel, which was almost empty. I guessed everyone went to see the penguins. Later in the evening when some people came back, they said that they had waited on the car park and saw some blue penguins walking between the cars. So if you’re going to Oamaru and don’t want to spend money, wait on the car park in the evening.

I had another unexpected meeting at the hostel. One Austrian girl I had met in Dunedin came to Oamaru on the next bus after mine. I asked her if she wanted to go with me to Moeraki the next day and she said yes. There was also a couple from Malaysia and they were interested in going with us, so I was glad I would have the company and someone I could share the cost with!


FRIDAY to SUNDAY, 11th – 13th November

After catching some sun on the Peninsula, I had to experience some rain in Dunedin. It wasn’t that nice on FRIDAY and the best way to spend it was to stay inside. But I didn’t stay at the backpackers all day. In the early afternoon, I went to the iSite to book tours to Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Speight’s Brewery. Buying a combo ticket for $39 saved me $3, almost enough for a cup of coffee.

My tour to Cadbury World was at 2 pm, so I took a slow walk from the Visitor Centre on the Octagon to the factory passing First Church on the way.

It started to rain just before our tour and kept pouring for the rest of the day.

Cadbury World

Before we started the tour, we had to put caps on, like this kid was still wearing after the tour was over.

We couldn’t take any pictures inside the factory. We saw Easter eggs being already made. Our guide told us, they had started their production in June or July and they would be making them until January. All the eggs will be eaten by New Zealanders within a week. An average Kiwi eats 10 Easter eggs, so do the maths how many eggs Cadbury have to make.

For some people the tour could be boring, because even though the guide tried to keep us entertained and was coming up with different quiz questions and giving sweet awards, most things we saw were presented on DVD. At the end of the tour we saw a chocolate fall – one tone of liquid chocolate being poured down. It was just a tourist attraction, not something what they do with their chocolate to make it better. Every year they change it giving the old chocolate to pigs and filling up with the new one.

The loot. We got four chocolate bars, tasted some liquid brown elixir (very sweet!) and I bought the rest. The block that looks like a bitten chocolate bar is a fridge magnet and it smells like chocolate. 🙂

In the afternoon, at 6 pm, I took a tour at Speight’s Brewery. Somehow, it was more interesting that Cadbury World and I could take photos. This one was taken the next day, when it was drier. On the left, there was a tap with spring water for free and people were coming all the time with plastic bottles to fill them up.

The line “walk like an Egyptian” gained a new meaning when I saw this board:

Chimney with its top in the shape of a barrel

And at the end of the tour we got about half an hour to try their five kinds of beer and cider, but I had enough after 10 minutes.

On SATURDAY the weather got much better and it was a perfect day to explore the city.

Dunedin, Edinburgh of the South, has a lot of old buildings and was the only city in New Zealand where I sometimes felt that I was back in Britain. I was even expecting to hear the Scottish accent everywhere! The first settlers were Scots who had the plans of Dunedin already on their ship. They didn’t consider the hills in their city plans though, so they had to adjust them to the geography of the region. I think they did pretty well.

I liked walking around Dunedin, because everything was close to each other, apart from Baldwin Street.

Starting from the Octagon, the Occupy movement in front of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Town Hall.

I enjoyed exhibitions at Dunedin Public Art Gallery at the Octagon and then Temple Gallery where used to be a synagogue.

Going up the hill, I passed the Brewery and got to St Joseph’s Cathedral

Otago Boys High School

Knox Church

The Otago Museum was pretty cool and I loved the exhibition about Edmund Hillary and with his personal belongings, like his cup, sunglasses and this camera.

I could learn about him a lot that day. I got a little bit depressed too when I realized he was 33 years old when he conquered the Everest and I was about to finish my 33rd year of life on this earth in a couple days and I was trying to find my achievements… with no success.

Opposite the Otago Museum, there was University of Otago. Clocktower building.

Castle Street, further down there were student houses and they were busy when I was coming back that way. Some had fun throwing shoes on the wires, others were sitting on sofas outside chatting and drinking beer.

But I was on my way to Baldwin Street, so I went through Botanic Gardens

Had a short stop over at New World supermarket to have something to eat, because I needed some energy if I wanted to climb the World’s Steepest Street and even from Botanic Gardens there was still quite a walk to get there.

Finally, Baldwin Street. Check out the Wikipedia link to read “Associated events” about Jaffas race and a stupid way of losing your life in a trash bin.

and from the top

The World’s Steepest Pub 😀

Back in the centre. Railway station

Otago Daily Times

And I deserved a cup of coffee after all those kilometers around the city. When I returned to the hostel, some people were getting ready for Big Day In, a free concert at the Stadium, but I was too tired to go and I couldn’t find any information about who was playing, only local artists.

In the evening I was trying to book InterCity bus tickets to Moeraki to see the boulders, but I had some difficulties. I gave myself one more day in Dunedin to organize the trip, but it didn’t work out, so on SUNDAY I stayed in chilling out and socializing. One of the travelers advised me to go to Oamaru and from there take a tour to Moeraki, because it was closer and cheaper. I had some spare days, so I decided to do that.

The Otago Peninsula

THURSDAY, 10th November

So, another big jump from city to city, but before I started exploring Dunedin, first I took a chance to visit the Otago Peninsula.

I had to take two buses from Invercargill to Dunedin with the change at Gore. The weather was sunny and hot again and it was hard to believe that just a couple days before the streets and hills by the road were white from either hail or snow. I had a great bus driver from Gore to Dunedin. His name was Graham and all the way he was talking about local history of the towns we were passing by. 44 km from Gore there is a town called Clinton. Graham explained that locals had named it Presidential Highway hoping that Gore would win the elections, but as we know, the results went not according to New Zealanders’ hopes, but they are stubborn and still call it that way.

I arrived in Dunedin before 1 pm. I had booked a hostel close to the bus depot, which was not far from the Octagon, the city centre. The hostel was even closer to it and it was a great location, because I didn’t have to climb any steep streets, which Dunedin is famous for. I enjoyed staying at Central Backpackers that much that I spent there four nights instead of two as I had planned (partly because of free WiFi; mind you, free WiFi; there were no computers, so you had to have your own one).

After checking-in, the receptionist said that there was a tour to the peninsula to see albatrosses, penguins and other wild life living there. The tour was leaving at 3 pm from the backpackers. It cost $95, a bit expensive, but the weather was nice, there was no guarantee it was going to keep that up and I didn’t know at that time how long I was going to stay there, so I decided to go. There were two Austrian and one English joining me. Our driver’s name was Russell and he knew all the birds we saw during the tour.

Harbour with whitestone sculpture

View on one side of the city, the glass building is the renovated Otago Stadium

I was actually surprised how big Dunedin is! Another side of the city. If you started swimming in the Ocean on the left, you’d end up on Arctic.

Pukeko with its chicks

Hawk flying in front of our car

Black swans

Paradise Shelducks

Royal Albatross Centre was on a cliff and this is just a lighthouse

We didn’t buy any tour, just watched the birds gliding. Albatross and a gull flying next to each other. You can tell the difference in their sizes!

Shags nesting on the cliffs

Blue penguin in a man-made nest

Pest, but cute

At the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve, Penguin Place

Penguin hospital

If you want to support the reserve, go and pay for your visit. But if you just want to see penguins, don’t bother and waste your money, because you can see them in the Catlins for free at the same distance. But you have to keep the distance, because they’re very timid birds.

We watched the penguins from trenches. In some houses (those triangle boxes on the left), there were penguins nesting. It all reminded me Hobbiton movie set.

Then we watched some penguins coming out of the water

Fur seals lying on the rocks or grass

More penguins

Royal Spoonbill

While we were going through the hill to the albatross centre, on the way back we went along the coast. We passed Aramoana and Russell mentioned a film I hadn’t seen one yet. It was Out of the Blue (2006) by Robert Sarkies telling a story about Aramoana massacre. When I got back to the backpackers in the evening and had an Angus Burgh, I finally watched the movie. So sad story and very moving film. It’s hard to believe that something like that happened in such a beautiful and peaceful place.

The Catlins

TUESDAY, 8th November

404. That many kilometers I drove on the left side of the road that day.

Sometimes I have this feeling that I must do something and going to the Catlins was one of those things.

At breakfast, I saw two German girls over a map getting ready to go to Dunedin. I asked them if they were going through the Catlins (yes) and if they could take me with them, sharing the cost of the trip, of course. They looked at themselves in panic and confusion and I started wondering if my offer was inappropriate. They went to their room to discuss and came back with negative answer. They said that those were their last days together and they wanted to be alone. Fine, another reason why I don’t have great sympathy to Germans. Were they on honeymoon or something?

I was determined. I started calling to different rentals and finally picked Rent-a-Dent. $59 for one day, first 150 km for free and then 20c for every another kilometer driven. I got Honda Civic, automatic, which made the driving so much easier. I think the biggest problem for me with driving on the left side is changing gears at manual cars, because keeping left doesn’t cause any problems for me. It was always me as a passenger who noticed something was wrong when a driver (the German girl in Rotorua and Chilean B. once) started driving on the right side, usually at the end of the day, when they were tired. My mind is switched and I wonder how it will be driving back on the right side. 🙂

So I got to the Catlins!

Waipapa Point

Very far on the left is Slope Point. I didn’t know at that time that it’s the furthest south part of New Zealand. I passed it on my way to Curio Bay.

I actually didn’t know why I should look for Curio Bay and what was so special about that place. I just remembered that name from one of the brochures. I forgot to add that the road through the Catlins is good, but every time you wanted to derail and see something, you ended up on gravel for a couple kilometers there and back again. So I was looking for Curio Bay, passed an information board about some petrified forest and carried on. The road was getting worse, when I passed a gate with information that it was a private road and there were bad road conditions. I don’t know why I didn’t turn back, but kept going. After a couple turns I saw a car going from the other direction. An older man stopped and asked me what I was looking for. When I told him that Curio Bay, he said I had passed it and if I turn around, he’d show me the way, which wasn’t really complicated, I just didn’t know what I was looking for. He mentioned about going to a church, but I wasn’t sure if I heard him well.

When we were back on the better road, he stopped, opened a gate to some possession and when I stopped behind his car, he said that if I wanted, he could show me some fossils they had in their church. Not the fossils caught my attention, but the church thing. Paul showed me a big piece of stone tree. When I went to take photos of the Bay, he prepared coffee, tea and some biscuits.

Curio Bay, the view from the church

The church

We started talking about church, my visit in New Zealand, spiritual life, the Bible and God’s love. What an awful generalisation of one of the most memorable afternoons of my journey! Paul apologized for wearing gumboots and said that he was to meet a woman. She came by soon and we had so special time together. Before I left them, they had prayed for me and gave contact details asking to come back some day. If you happen to wonder around Curio Bay and need some help or just a good tea, you can always find it at Christian Community Centre. I understood then why I had to go to the Catlins…

Then I went to see Petrified Forest up close.

It was still the south of the Catlins and I had a lot to drive to get to the Nugget Point on the north and it was already about 3 or 4 pm, so I rushed on stopping by at Purakanui Falls (McLean Falls were recommended too, but I’d have to walk longer)

I passed Cathedral Caves, which were closed, because they’re too dangerous.

Owaka, the largest town in the Catlins, for a coffee and a nice chat at Lumberjack Tavern

And finally the Nigget Point!

On the way back from the lighthouse, I had a short stop by at a bay nearby to see yellow-eyed penguins coming out of the Ocean. There weren’t many as they are very private birds, as I learned later and there aren’t many of them in general. New Zealand is the only place where you can see them. If you visit Curio Bay in the evening, you may see them in the wild as well.

I didn’t want to go to Balclutha and I wanted to drive a different road, but I took a wrong turn left behind Kaka Point and went the same route back to Invercargill. Even though it was the same road, it looked different in the dark. The moon was shining like a stage lamp making the Ocean magical and I had to be careful not to smash any possums, rabbits or cats on the way. I got to the city after 11 pm, pretty tired but proud of myself and did a final victorious round around the streets of the “Arctic Centre”.

On WEDNESDAY I got stuck in Invercargill. I wanted to go to Dunedin, but there was only one InterCity bus from Invercargill to Dunedin and it was 8:45 a.m. Because I had to give the car back and the office was open at 9 a.m., I had to stay to finish the payment etc. I was thinking of hitchhiking again, but it was cloudy. I didn’t want to get wet and I wasn’t sure how fast I could catch a car with my big bag. So I took a day off, stayed in the hostel, relaxed, deleted some photos, did the laundry, had a nap, watched films and all that boring stuff. In the afternoon, when the weather got better, I went for a walk and took a couple photos, which you saw in the previous post.


MONDAY, 7th November

I came back to Invercargill by plane. But I wasn’t in a hurry, so I used my internet voucher first and then took the plane at 1:30 pm (the plane flies three times a day from Stewart Island to Invercargill).

A shuttle from Oban to the airport was included in the price of the ticket. It wasn’t that far and was very enjoyable. It was only me again taking the way back to the South Island.

It was my first time when I travelled that small plane. I immediately thought of Maggie O’Connell from Northern Exposure (anyone remembers that tv show?)

When everyone got off the plane and took their luggage, the pilot asked me a weird question where I wanted to go. I replied that Invercargill! He laughed and asked again where I wanted to sit. I did a mental head slap and thought I made a fool of myself again. I blame him, though, because he was tall, young and handsome. There was only me, so I could sit wherever I liked! Almost. I couldn’t sit next to him, but right behind him.

The weather was beautiful again. The take off was a little bit bumpy, but still amazing and once we were below the clouds, the rest of the flight was like sliding on butter.


Horseshoe Bay

Mount Anglem (979 m), the highest mountain on Stewart Island

the South Island

I don’t know why, but closer to the coast, the water rapidly changed its colour

Invercargill, the main roundabout

the Museum and Queens Park

the landing

In Invercargill, I took a long walk from the airport to the hostel. I didn’t want to spend money on taxi. It took me about 45 min, but I was more tired than after walking all day in Stewart Island. It was very hot and I needed some time to take a shower and rest when I finally got to the backpackers and picked up my bag. The hostel was cool, nice and empty. I thought it would be only me in my dorm room, but there was one Japanese when I came back from a walk around the city.

First, I went to see Burt Munro’s motorbikes.

Then I looked for an open café and found Zookeepers Café. Its climate reminded me Midnight Espresso, so I felt comfortable there right from the beginning. The coffee wasn’t as good as in Wellington, but good enough to put me back straight.

The last place I visited that day was Queens Park. The Museum next to the entry to the Park was closed, but I could see tuataras through the glass wall. I don’t know if it was 114 year old Henry, because there were a couple of tuataras there.

The Park was pretty and relaxing.


More animals, there was deer, picocks, sheep and ostrich

and wallabies!

In front of the Museum

When I came back to the backpackers, guess who I saw in the kitchen? D., my Italian friend! I was lucky. He was finishing cooking dinner and was about to throw some pasta to the boiling water, so he threw some more for me. I had unexpected Italian dinner and we could catch up on what we had been doing after we split up and he went with the Chileans to Dunedin and me to Stewart Island. 🙂

I’m posting some photos I took two days later in Invercargill too, for the sake of integrity.

Dee Street

Theatre and Town Hall

The sculpture which is actually a sundial. Can you see it?

Water Tower

You thought it was a real bird and a cat, didn’t you? I did at first.