On January 10th, we packed up and got going from the wonderful Food Farm in Amberley for a ride back into Christchurch to catch our ride down to Dunedin on the Intercity Bus line and meet up with Gillian and her
boyfriend fiancé Marty, who would be hosting us for the night at their lovely home. The ride down was a cool descent nearly the whole way, and a straight shot down Highway 1 into the city. We’ve commented on our Strava profile that it was easiest 57 kilometres we’ve ever cycled. The wind was (finally) at our backs the whole way and there wasn’t much in the way of car traffic until we reached the northern edge of Christchurch.
One of the absolutely best things about this trip so far has been about connecting with people, old and new to us. Our trips in both Japan and New Zealand have been dotted with the occasional hisashiburi/long-time-no-see moment with people and it’s been incredible. My highlights in Japan involve seeing Timmy, Dave, Ai, Dai, Take, Hanako, Johnny above most of the sightseeing we did, and the same can be said for our time so far in New Zealand. Meeting up with Al and Natalia is a true highlight for us and so too is meeting up with Gillian and Marty.
Gillian and Marty live just east of the downtown area in Woolston in a nice earthquake-ready house. I’ve known Gill since 2003 when we costarred in the mainstage production of Sky Gilbert’s Lola Starr Builds Her Dream Home at the University of Guelph (with yours truly as Lola herself!) and it’s been 13 years since we saw each other.
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Gillian is an awesome actress and now teaches drama and dance here in New Zealand. When we finally caught up after all these years, I learned that she’s actually been teaching new teachers how to be awesome new teachers.
I was really excited for Bronwyn to meet Gill after hearing all about her and our time at school together because I anticipated that they would get on really well. No surprise there.
We spent a night eating, drinking wine and sampling through Marty’s impressive whiskey collection. I should have taken notes – my impressions of each dram are a bit foggy at this point. A night in the hot tub and a whole lot of nostalgia topped off the night before heading to bed.
We said our goodbyes the next day and Bronwyn and I headed into Christchurch again to catch the bus to Dunedin.
Dunedin takes its name from the Gaelic name for Scotland’s Edinburgh (dun meaning fort, which is a literal translation of burgh). And boy, does it ever look the part. Bronwyn was completely overcome with a spell of nostalgia that swept her back to her time in Scotland when we arrived in the city. The cobbled streets, the old buildings and churches, that University-town feel and the names of the streets were all transposed here in Antipodean splendor. It didn’t hurt to have a giant Robbie Burns statue in the middle of town.
We grabbed a late Indian dinner on George Street, which was a horrible idea given that we then needed to climb around 140 metres on our loaded cycles on an insanely steep road to our AirBnb for the night. We would learn of much much steeper roads in the city the next day after a good rest.
If you’re thinking about visiting Dunedin, do it. It’s really a fantastic place.
If you’re thinking of cycling all around the city with an extra 30 or so kilograms of luggage in your panniers, don’t. Just don’t. It’s gotta be the hilliest city in New Zealand.
In fact, Dunedin, New Zealand is home to Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street. It was our primary waypoint for touring the city the next day, and despite our best efforts (and lots of practice on steep New Zealand hills), we couldn’t begin to conquer the beast on our bikes.
Before jumping on our next coach to Invercargill, we checked out The Octagon that doubles as the city centre and grabbed some lunch to take with us. Met a nice Canadian guy named Paolo who saw us and expressed his longing for the bike he left back in Victoria, BC. The ride to Invercargill would have me stuck next to a sometimes-agitated-sometimes-affectionate toddler of indeterminate age, but I made the best of it with podcasts and peekaboo silly faces.
Next: our brief adventure in Invercargill, a tent disaster and the headwinds that would do their best to keep us out Riverton. Also, La La Land!
Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com