I will start this post by saying that a little thing happened to me. The day I arrived in Dunedin I was not overtly thrilled of the place and new little of it also. I knew it had a university (Otago University – ranked highly among the world’s educational institutions and slightly better than any of my own universities) and it was the second time I had been so Southern in my life…next stop Antarctica. The other time was when I went to Ushuaia, Argentina at the foot of the Americas. It is rare to see south in the same way that you can see north in Canada, Europe or Russia.
So I looked around on the first day and didn’t see all I should to get a truly informed opinion of Dunedin. The place seemed a little sleepy (on Monday night I arrived) and it didn’t buzz me just yet. I realised the day I started writing these words that Dunedin was actually a little bit amazing. Yes. This tiny little hamlet of under 200,000 people that sat by the cold Southern Ocean did a little thing called interested me muchly (official terminology).
I will walk you through my day to give a feeling of what is on offer. I woke up and made my way to the city’s migration museum called Toitu. It was a surprisingly special place that stamped the past journeys of so many humans, while also acknowledging the Maori culture that migrated here first (estimates vary but think 500-1000AD as an arrival date). New Zealand is a good place to always mention or think of the native indigenous people prior to the arrival of Europeans. I actually went to primary school in New Zealand, though born in Australia, and I learnt the national anthem in Maori when I was young, along with a number of terms or words in the mother language that was spoken here prior to European arrival.
The museum had a genuine interaction with the past and not simply a boring presentation of that history. Many different screens showed images or stories of historic events that helped shape this small city. Unlike Australia (where the English slated more of a convict prison history in the beginning for many cities), they actually saw this area as a good spot to settle, populate and build industry.
After walking through these tales, I decided to wander up to the Otago Museum and see what was special about the region. Much like their recognition of Maori culture in my last museum, there was a host of good pieces that showed where this city’s region began. Otago is the name of the province where Dunedin is situated. The museum tells a more diverse story about what has occurred in this region and why it is an important story to tell. For a small city, the level of description that was given in each piece surprised me. I can certainly say that in cities of the same size in Australia, there would be little to compare in cultural presentation.
I then ventured away from the free museums and decided to go to a rich family’s old home overlooking the city. This home showcased the history of the place and this was something that had attracted so many to Dunedin many years ago.
The home was what I would like to say old luxury. The presence of Servant’s quarters and everything was made to make the masters feel exorbitantly floating on air. It was palatial to say the least and it showed me how far we had come, how many new opportunities our societies gave the poor and I myself was lucky for this fact. I am not from a rich family, yet I am currently completing a master degree and that couldn’t have been fathomable in past times when this house was built.
The place was full of so much artistry in the commonplace items. Immaculate pieces of China or statues and clocks were scattered amongst the décor of the house.
All was original and many old contraptions were displayed at what was known as Olveston.
The walls were made of woven patterns that illuminated your eyes unlike most white walls of old homes could never give justice to. Each fireplace also had a beautifully tiled finish and nothing in design or practicality was left without thinking. It made me contemplate how much easier life could have been with success and money completed in achievement. You could focus entirely on your passions and not need to cook or clean…especially a house of this size as well.
Indeed your ability to make money would miss the entire aspect of actually building your reputation or self in the same way as today. Your parent’s reputation was what mattered most and you could of course take it to be more wonderful, but you could also just sit back and relax to some degree. It made me think of how society was changing so quickly in some countries. Opportunity is a very new concept in humanity and one that since my accident I felt some people in power were not conceptualising to any degree (again I fell 3.5 floors off a building for those reading my work for the first time).
Money overshadowed humanity in many cases. I speak of this but without living there…essentially I know little with such comments.
The next day I woke up bright and early in my hostel. One of the guys was getting ready as he was in Dunedin for a conference and it woke me up. It was a good time anyway and I wanted to go see a beautiful spot on the coastline.
I made my way to catch a public bus to see Tunnel Beach. The bus arrived to a road nearby in a short time and the driver told me it was a short walk that way. I descended and walked along the empty road to the carpark near my beach destination. Once I got there, I looked down the path and wondered where this went exactly and what I would see.
As I went down the path along the shoreline that same shoreline came into view. It was stunning and reminded me of the spectacular rocky images of the southern Victorian coastline I had seen previously. It appeared like a little New Zealand secret and why I had travelled such a short time from Sydney yet able to see such an amazing site.
I walked along the cliff and dazzled at the coastline. The waves appeared fierce and I do not think it would be a desired place to swim.
I walked closer to the hill and saw where you were able to walk down to the beach. It was through a tiny tunnel (hence the place’s name) with a stone staircase that led to the beach itself. The view across the large rocks on the beach was pretty and a good vantage point out to the sea and the nothingness beyond.
I got back up and went to the bus stop to get in town for lunchtime. Once I arrived I decided to go to Dunedin’s Botanic Gardens and had a little look at what they had to offer. Similar as many such places but nice to see that nature was planned for enjoyment so close to the city centre.
Then I found myself here where the story ends. Otago University, the oldest university in New Zealand and it certainly had the campus to match. I drank cheap beer and enjoyed my surroundings.
I liked Dunedin. It was not what I had expected from day one but in this short trip I remembered that you never know what you may encounter. Life isn’t made of certainties.