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Dunedin, Wanaka & Central Otago

As a wedding present, good friends of ours - BJ and Fiona bought us tickets to see the All Blacks take on the South Africans in Dunedin. So, in October 2012 we took the plane down to Christchurch and hired a car from there to drive down to Dunedin. We could, of course, have flown into Dunedin but we left booking the flights until too late in the day and given there was an All Blacks game on, the price was ridiculous. It worked out cheaper to fly into Christchurch and hire a car!

Anyway, we drove down to Dunedin - stopping off in Oamaru on the way to have a peek in at the Little Blue Penguin colony. There weren't any penguins out, but they were nesting and the colony has a "viewing bunker" where a shed has been build over some penguin nests and tubes have been placed from the shed down to the roof of the nest burrows. You can look down these tubes and see the penguins sitting on their nests. You can certainly tell there's a penguin colony around though - the smell of fish is fairly strong.

The next stop was Dunedin where we met up with Fiona and BJ who were also going to the game. We had enough time for a round of mini golf and a couple of pints in a city centre pub before heading to the game. It was a bit of a nailbiter, the All Blacks winning 21 - 11. The scoreline was helped by one of the South Africans, Dean Grayling, being sin-binned for illegally cleaning Richie McCaw out from a ruck. The game was held at the brand new Forsyth Barr Stadium - a covered stadium to help combat some of the worst vagaries of the Dunedin weather. It is a bit strange watching rugby in a stadium with a roof, but as of yet, no player has come at all close to hitting the underside of the roof with a kick of any kind. Still, something for youngsters to aim for.

After the game, Jenny drove us out towards the plains of Central Otago as we'd booked our accommodation for the night in the rural town of Ranfurly so that we could be closer to our destination of Wanaka. Ranfurly is a quiet but fairly pleasant place. Well, it was quiet when we were there, but a major cycling track - the Central Otago Rail Trail - goes through the town, so apparently it is packed in the summer months - especially at the weekends. The other strange thing about Ranfurly is that there's a large number of curling clubs in the community - a disproportionate number given the small number of people who actually live in the area. 

The next morning, we drove out to Wanaka a further 200km away. It is an incredibly scenic drive from Ranfurly. You head across the plains of Central Otago with the road hugging the Manuherikia River with expansive views on both sides, before you get to the town of Alexandra. From there, you turn right and follow a road squeezed between a cliff side and the wide stream of the Clutha River, dammed downstream at Clyde. Again, the views here are fantastic. Eventually, you head past Cromwell and reach Wanaka.

Wanaka is a beautiful town, sitting on the pristine lake of the same name. We've been to Wanaka several times before, and this time decided to do things a bit differently. We headed for the ski field of Treble Cone where we took the chairlift up to the top of the skifield and then had a walk around in the deep snow, making sure to avoid the ski runs and keep out of trouble. Up the top, there were plenty of viewpoints from where you could get some spectacular views of Lake Wanaka. Over the rest of the day and the next morning, we completed a number of short walks around Wanaka town and ended up at Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World - a tourist attraction with a pretty good maze and a number of rooms with brain teasers and optical illusions.

Sadly, it was then time to head back to Dunedin - this time making a short stop in Cromwell and then taking the Southern route back to Dunedin via Roxburgh. We also made a stop just off the beaten track near Lawrence at a place called Hart's Black Horse Brewery. This place was a hive of activity during the Gold Rush of the late 19th Century. The site is now in ruins, but is famed for its daffodils which bloom in vast carpets when the spring rolls around. It was a pretty spooky place in some ways, and also very odd in that the current owners seemed to have dotted fairy paraphernalia around the place liberally, lending an air of the absurd to the spooky.

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Top Left: The Moeraki Boulders. We've been here before on our previous excursions. You can read a bit more about them from part of our Two Weeks in A Leaky Van journey.

Top Right: A ruck from the All Blacks vs. Springboks game. I'm not sure exactly what's going on here, but the South African chap with the ball seems to be clinging on to it and shouting at someone on the sideline. I'm sure you're supposed to release the ball, old bean.

Right: An All Black player taking a kick at goal. Again, not sure who from the legs alone, but Aaron Cruden was playing at first five-eight so it could be him.

Bottom Left: Jen up on the snowy slopes at Treble Cone. Walking up one of the ski-slopes towards one of the upper viewing points.

Bottom Right: A photo taken from one of those upper viewing points, down across Lake Wanaka.
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I found it, I found it and it was THIS big!! Left: This photo is from 'ground level' and is taken from somewhere along the Diamond Lake track. This isn't Diamond Lake though, this is still Lake Wanaka looking from the opposite direction that the photo above was taken.

Bottom Left: By the time we got back to Cromwell, the clouds had started to roll in. This is the Kawarau River, not far from the major confluence with the Clutha River.

Bottom Right: And this is the strange ruins of Hart's Black Horse Brewery near to Lawrence. A bizarre place, but some nice walking tracks and a waterfall to look at. Well worth a visit if you're passing Lawrence.
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