Mount Cook to Queenstown, via Dunedin

Mount Cook is located on the western side of New Zealand’s South Island. We were told that if a tunnel was bored through the mountain, we would have been six miles from the ocean. Upon leaving, we drove through the heartland, back to the eastern shoreline, to the city of Dunedin. Along the way, we were treated, once again, to the beautiful Pacific Coast

One of the highlights was a walk on a beach to a spot where erosion had caused a group of large boulders to roll onto the beach. These stones are uniform in size, and look almost like large marbles in the water. Beautiful beach and incredible phenomena…

Our guide told us that there was an actual sequence of gold rushes around the world. They started with California in 1849…Next came Australia in the late 1850s…Then New Zealand in the 1860s. The city of Dunedin, on the eastern coast, was the center of the New Zealand gold rush. At one time, it was its largest city. It also had a strong Scottish heritage and is home to New Zealand’s only castle.

Outside of Dunedin on, for lack of a better word, a spit with ocean on both sides, is the only albatross rookery that is not on an island. These birds look very much like seagulls, except their wingspan is over six feet long.

They spend a full year at sea before returning to this spot. They only stay on land to breed, and despite mating for life, they are solitary and do not see their mates for the year away until returning in the summer. We were fortunate enough to see a few soar around the point:

We also had the privilege to learn about the gold rush. For example, the Chinese followed the gold to New Zealand and established small settlements. They were not well accepted. For example, locals did not let them file claims. But they reportedly outworked other miners anyway. Then, the locals wouldn’t sell them goods or food from stores. The Chinese countered by working claims and farming vegetables simultaneously.  Below are a couple of their dwellings during the rush.

This story has a positive end. The Chinese stayed after the gold played out, and continued to grow fruits and vegetables. Their neighborhoods date back 160+ years. Our driver said he played rugby against them in school. “They were fast, but not very big.”

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Leaving Dunedin, we selected the option of taking the train rather than the bus. The Taieri Gorge Railroad was built in the 1860s to supply mining towns. As was the case in Australia, the track was built with picks and shovels…No heavier equipment. The pic above is the railroad station in Dunedin.

The ride was about three hours and follows the Taieri River south and west toward Queenstown. The gorge gets steeper and the track seemed to be laid of a cliff edge. The scenery was beautiful, and it was really nice to get off the highways for a while.
We arrived in Queenstown, which got its name because someone remarked that their central roads were “fit for a queen.”  This beautiful town and our adventures there will be reviewed next.

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