I slept like a log; fortunately I have a pretty high tolerance for snoring, as it seemed like our roommate liked sawing logs more than a lumberjack. How did I know this if I was asleep, you may ask? Well… Carla didn’t quite have this ability I’m afraid. However, she more than made up for it with her ability to wake up early, be fully mobile, and her perfect aim with pillows. Seriously… she hit me from across the room with a pillow, through a bunk bed, right on the face. That, while slightly startling, was definitely skill.
After finally getting myself out of bed and mobile Carla and I ate down some breakfast, thanks to the free breakfast that the backpackers offered, checked out of our room, and rolled out. We packed up our gear into the car before moving on the Immigration office, but still made it there at about 9:05… right in time to stand in the line that had already formed. Seriously. Luckily it wasn’t too deep and I was at the counter without too much stress, where I started chatting with the woman in charge. We discussed how my visa was still attached to my old passport, and she laid it out pretty simply for me – I could definitely get it transferred (and even have a sticker in place in my passport), but it would take an hour or two and cost $90. Honestly… not that bad. But then came the depressing part…
The reason for me actually getting it transferred was so that I could get an IRD number. When I mentioned this to the woman, she hit me with the biggest gut-punch of the week, “What? No, you don’t need to set up the visa to do that. Just walk over to their office next door and they’ll set you up”. Yep… I didn’t actually need the transferred visa. Bleh.
So Carla and I walked over to the IRD’s office, walked in, and started filling out the forms. Surprising to me, since I’m used to the IRS offices in the states being walled fortresses with guns and tanks, but this was just… an office. With an elevator, a receptionist, and a few chairs for me to sit and fill out the forms. No guards, no guns, no metal detectors… just a woman who looked a bit bored. I’ll never get used to the “not living in fear of explosives” culture that prevails outside of the central western world.
Anyways, I quickly filled out the forms, showed her my passport and drivers license, and got the whole mess figured out. They wouldn’t have my ID number right away, but they would get it filed and sent to me within a week, most likely by the following Monday (Ed Note: They did. At exactly 11:00AM on Monday they called, told me the number, and we went on our ways. Simple and efficient). With that we headed back to the Immigration office where I handed over my passport to get the stamp, since I figured it’d be better to get it now then later, and then walked out with the rest of the day ahead of us.
First order of business was to see the world steepest street. See… I had always thought that the worlds steepest street was in San Francisco, but according to a well-placed signpost that isn’t actually the case, this street in Dunedin was. I was thinking to myself, “Well now… I’ve walked up the switchbacks of Lombard street… lets see what this “Baldwin street” place has to offer.” and boy… did it bring its A-game. Baldwin street is long, steep, and terminates in a street that’s only accessible from Baldwin… and Baldwin doesn’t have switchbacks. No… you just drive straight upwards, and hopefully your car has enough oomph to get it up there.
After tramping up and down Baldwin we headed to the Botanical Gardens of Dunedin, a place that Carla remembered from when she was much younger and visited the city. We stopped in at a New World supermarket (yeah, that’s the name. Creepy, right?) first to grab some snacks, then headed into the garden to explore. And it was beautiful… tall hills, huge trees, an amazing tropical greenhouse and even an Aviary full of exotic birds. See… something I didn’t know about New Zealand is that they only have a single native mammal – a Bat. All the natural life of the islands is avian, and the only large mammals around are those brought by Europeans for hunting. But the diversity of birds is amazing, and supposedly there are some that will actually hike with you on trips, staying beside a tramper for hours, and sometimes even hitching rides on backpacks. Not trying to get food or anything, just because their curious.
After we had explored the gardens to our hearts content we jumped back in the car, ate a quick bite of lunch, and headed back towards the city center. We picked up my passport in record time, and were back on the road to Christchurch before we knew it. The long drive ahead had been giving us a bit of a push to get going, but once we actually hit the road we started remembering all of the amazing places that we wanted to stop in at… so we pulled off to get some petrol (instead of gas, they call it Petrol here, FYI), and did a spontaneous beach trip while trying to find our way back to the main road.
The beach we found was actually quite nice, but was only fronting on a small channel used to dock fishing boats… a short way in the distance we could see a sandbar which protected the little cove from the actual ocean. A short way… a SWIMMABLE short way! So I threw on my swimtrunks, Carla stripped down to her underwear (she forgot to bring swimgear), and we waded in, ready for a marathon swim. Instead… the sandbar actually went longer than we thought, and we only had to swim across a 20meter channel instead of the 100meter straight we were expecting. It was nice, and we spent almost an hour wandering around the sand bar taking in the scenery and snapping pictures of cool driftwood.
After the swim back (where I bashed my knee into a rock… owwww) we rolled back onto the open road, finding our next stop at a place called the “Maoraki Boulders”… a place that Carla refused to explain, saying that it would be better for me to see them on my own. And… wow. Cool! The Maoraki boulders are a series of giant marbles strewn across the beach; literally gigantic spheres of rock just sitting on the sand. Logically they must be attached to something below, or else they’d be swept out to sea, but they look unbelievably cool as the water rushes up to kiss the edges of the spheres. We spent a while photographing them and relaxing in the sun – we even met up with a few other travelers and shared a few stories about traveling New Zealand and South America.
After the boulders the rest of the drive quickly flew by. We made a quick stop into the town of Oamaru, since it’s known as “the steampunk capitol of New Zealand”… but unfortunately most of the sights were closes by the time we arrived… and the few that weren’t closed were a bit of a disapointment. Steampunk HQ was the only full place we were able to get into, and I still have mixed feelings about it. For one, they had an amazing art piece out front – a locomotive engine that, when you put a $2 coin in, would rev up and belch flames out its smokestack. On the other side, the $10 admission museum was… lackluster. It had cool art pieces, but not nearly enough of them… and the “videos” were simply slowly-panning images of artwork that we had already seen. A cool place, but not worth the $10… I got more enjoyment out of the $3 ice cream that we bought on our way out.
What’s left… the rest of the drive was just eating up the miles until we got back to Christchurch… stopping to take a picture at the National Salmon Museum was the only real point of note. It was a good relaxing was home, without much incident or excitement, and before we knew it we were pulling into the drive, our adventure completed successfully.