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Tailei Gorge Railway and more


This morning was an easy start as our pre booked trip on one of the worlds great scenic railways didn't leave until 9.30am and the station was only 3 minutes walk from the hotel. We left slightly earlier than necessary as we went to the New World Supermarket next to the Hotel to buy lunch to eat on the trip.

Dunedin station is like a gingerbread station and is quite picturesque. The train was waiting for us and we boarded our 1920's wooden cabin. The trip was not full and so we were told we could occupy both sides of the carriage to be able to look out both sides.

The commentary given over the loudspeakers by Dave (who for a while I had Karen convinced that he was Michael Portillo's brother - he certainly bore a resemblance and had a similar manner to him) as we progressed was interesting, relevant and not intrusive.

The start of the journey was a normal train journey but when we branched off onto the gorge line, it all started to get really good. We climbed slowly as we followed the river up through the gorge. The view grew more and more special. We went over 200m viaducts and clung perilously close to the rock edge. The tunnels were very narrow and we were warned not to lean out or be outside between carriages as we went through them. We were told some good stories by Dave as we pootled along.

This was a trip that Karen was very keen to do. My opinion is usually that trains look better watching them go past rather than being on them. However this was different. There was no way that you would ever be able to see the views or the gorge unless you were on the train. There were no roads or paths. I really enjoyed it.

After this we walked back to the Hotel to pick the car up and drove 15 minutes to Baldwin Street. This is the worlds steepest residential street. It is plainly ridiculous. Not really suer why over 100 years ago they thought it was a good idea to build a road here, especially as there is plenty of other land. There are marvellous views from the top after we struggled to it (on foot as cars are only allowed for residents). It is a 1:2. Karen struggled walking down as it was so steep and I had to walk in front so she had something to crash into. The picture does not do justice to the incline.

We thought we would then try to explore the Otogo peninsula and at the same time find a coffee shop. Easier said than done. Signage is at a premium. They really don't encourage tourists. They also do not cater for them, anywhere. There were no cafes that we came across. We found NZ's only castle on the summit, but you could not go to the cafe without paying $30 admission. We had no inclination to go in and so turned round.

I then remembered reading about Sandfly Bay and so we made our way there. It was a fantastic large sandy bay. There was a single sign pointing the way. A small car park and hardly anyone there. The bay had penguins and seals. Anywhere else in the world, the place would be marketed and there would be some facilities. With the sun on the bay it was beautiful. I'm sure that this is some of the charm of undeveloped NZ but equally feel that they are not making the most of what they have nor do they seem to encourage or make it easy for visitors. We stayed at the viewpoint a short while, but wished we had more time to take the long walk down an unmade track to the beach itself to walk round the bay.

After this we drove back to the Hotel and walked to Starbucks to get Karen's caffeine fix.

For our meal tonight we found a really nice posh Pizza restaurant that Karen said she would happily go back to. Walking back through Dunedin the weather was a bit cooler but I was still in T shirt and shorts. We still couldn't work out if the place was growing on us. We decided the main area around the Quadrant was pleasant enough but we were glad to be moving on again in the morning.


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