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Archive for the ‘dunedin history’ Category

Moving right along from a place haunted to all hell, we go for a change of scenery and stop in to visit to local resident Maia, our friend Jinty’s old Botany professor. Her home is a converted school and grounds which host the most gorgeous collection of green things growing that I might have ever seen. This isn’t her #1 garden either, that’s a walk in the woods away.

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Hopping on the old Coast Road from Quinn’s hood in Port Chalmers, an epic roadie rolled out ahead. With a carload of 5 amped on Port Royale coffee and anticipation of a craft market promising art/sundries/produce/baking/beats; we were excited enough. It didn’t take long though to realise there was MORE to this stretch of coast itself than rusted railway tracks, and feral chickens scratching at the roadside….

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When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941 it sent a shockwave throughout the Pacific, and as it became clear they intended to take over as much of the region as possible, New Zealand scrambled to build dozens of coastal defense batteries to repel a possible invasion. Harrington Point was a perfect location for one – it’s right at the narrowest point of the Otago Harbour entrance, looking over a channel just a couple of hundred metres across.

From the road at the top of the hill, there’s no sign of any fortifications, which is why so many people have no idea this site exists. But as you follow the track down through the abundant gorse bushes, it doesn’t take long to find the first of the old gun turrets :

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This is a full mission with all the elements of a good Sunday Drive locked and loaded. A beautiful Dunedin afternoon? Check. A mysterious yet scenic location? Aw yeah. Full carload of mission crew? A double plus. Amanda and I are joined by two gorgeous co-stars – the first Jane from the Sci Comm department (you may remember her from such previous bloggings as Murdering Beach). Lovely soul that she is, Jane has gone all-out with provisions for the trip – not only wine and chocolate, but a thermos of coffee as well. Champion!

Me? I brought a dog – internet, meet Seven :

Yip, she’s a cutie. Seven actually belongs to my cousin Paul, but he’s at work and I haven’t got the heart to leave her at home in her pen. It proves to be a popular move – Jane and Amanda are instantly smitten and Seven, who can never get enough attention or lick enough faces, is ecstatic. But little did we know the cute animal encounters were only just beginning…

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After pulling slowly away from the station, the train weaves it’s way out of Dunedin, past Carisbrook Stadium and along the Main South Trunk line as far as Wingatui Junction. From there we switch tracks and start heading inland, rattling across the plains on the beginning of the Otago Central Railway.

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I’m fidgeting with excitement as I stand on the platform of the Dunedin Railway Station – I can’t remember the last time I was on a train, but it must have been years. It’s such a pity there aren’t more services – it’s such an elegant way to travel and you get to see bits of the country you otherwise wouldn’t. That is very much the case today – the train I’m impatiently waiting for is headed into one of Otago’s most dramatic landscapes – the Taieri Gorge.

Being a landscape fanatic, I have always heard the Gorge is amazing, but the road goes nowhere near it and it’s not the easiest terrain to walk over I would imagine. Far better to take the world-famous Taieri Gorge Railway and do it in style. My mate Dene’s parents are in town and they’ve got a free ticket, so it would be rude not to go…another reason I’m so hyperactive is it’s the first sunny weekend for about three months – cabin fever has well and truly set in and I’m itching to get out and take some photos…

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You might have noticed a slight trend in these posts by now – they tend to involve beautiful spots around Otago that have interesting, but often dark, histories – and Murdering Beach is the ultimate example. It’s simultaneously a world-class surf break, a beautiful camping spot and the scene of some of the bloodiest events in Otago and New Zealand’s early history. It’s a hell of a spot.

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