Mount Cargill, Dunedin

 

Two posts in two days, I’m on a roll! The post will detail our hike up to the summit of Mount Cargill and the detour we did to the Organ Pipes. This has been a walk I’ve wanted to do ever since I moved to Dunedin. From our bedroom window we can see the towering summit of Cargill (granted you have to crane your neck to see it), and it is the biggest component of the Dunedin skyline.

I will start this post by talking about an extraordinary individual named Alfred Hamish Reed. Born in England in 1875, he moved to Dunedin at a young age and worked on gum fields with his family and for some time lived many hardships. When he was a child he injured his knee so severely that he was bed-bound for one year. In his very little spare time he took up the skill of shorthand, and eventually got a job with a typewriter company. In his early 20s he moved to Dunedin to open a branch of the company. From there he established his own publishing company which went on to be hugely successful. He wrote many books about New Zealand and published many religious texts. Due to this, he is regarded as one of the most influential literary figures of New Zealand in the twentieth century. Now, you may be wondering why I am telling you this. Alfred wasn’t just a writer, but he was also an avid walker. Even with all his knee trouble, he still rambled frequently into his ripe old age. At the age of 99, Alfred climbed Mount Cargill. There is meant to be a short track on the Mount dedicated to this remarkable man, but we could not find it.

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Our walk began in Bethune’s Gully which is a great spot near north Dunedin. It has the appearance of a place far from a city centre, and would have been a great place for a BBQ. As you embark on the track you are quickly consumed by the New Zealand Bush. Although there is incline the whole way there, it is a fairly easy going track for the first hour, and the creeks and greenery around you make for a scenic walk. As you start to rise higher all you can see is bush, and much of the track feels like an earthy tunnel. You can see the odd glimpse of the sky, but the summit cannot be seen for most of the walk.

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After an hour you reach the open air and find the steps up to the summit. These can be slippery, but make it much easier to climb than on the mud. Although Mount Cargill is only a mere 676 meters high, it did have the feel of walking on a mountain towards the end.

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Once you reach the top and see the views, I guarantee your jaw will come crashing down to the floor. It. is. incredible. I have seen so many different variations of this scene, and the theory holds true, the higher you go, the better the view. The Peninsula slithers through the land, the hills slalom in-and-out around it, the city sleeps ever-still, and the clouds and land assemble together in a triumphant transition. This is Dunedin’s best view, and one can understand why the aged Alfred Hamish Reed grappled with Cargill to see it.

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On our way back we decided to take the detour to the Organ Pipes. It was a 30 minute walk to the other side of the Mount, and the way down was fairly slippery due to the recent rain. The Organ Pipes are a geological formation, from lava that cooled, contracted, and formed cracks which propagated downwards as the mass cooled. While you can clearly see why it is called such from sight, the pictures I got were not as clear. Therefore, I decided to climb up them as high as I could go. This was to my girlfriends dismay as she thought it ‘was too dangerous.’ If you’re an able climber I would advise to do it. There was an abundance of foot-holes, and it was very fun. I had played a few games in the Tomb Raider series when I was younger, and I felt just like Lara descending an ancient temple. I climbed fairly high and managed to get a few better pictures of the Organ Pipes and descended back down.

The whole hike was around 5 hours in total, with the way up to the summit, the detour to the Organ Pipes, and the way back down.  To say the weather in Dunedin has been pretty miserable lately, this was a walk to brighten up the gloom. I hope that if I get to the age of 99 I can still hike as well as Alfred Hamish Reed, and if I can I’ll certainly return to do this walk.

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Long Beach, Dunedin (Part 1)

Lying just 30 minutes drive outside of Dunedin, Long Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the area, and it is easy to see why. The journey there, the beach, the cliffs, and the caves, all make this place simply stunning.

Warauwerawera, as Long Beach is known in Maori, is a small settlement just past Port Chalmers, with around 100 homes. Due to the fact that the beach lies in a bay and is not very affected by swells, it is a very popular swimming destination. But to look at this place you would want to swim here even if the waves were higher than your head. It is a paradise. It is also popular due to the rock faces which offer great climbing opportunities. There are many clubs that use the cliffs in the area. The most favoured is called Driver’s Rock, which lies halfway along the north end of the beach. The rock got its name after a fourteen year old girl named Agnes Driver died there in 1890. People believe that Agnes was walking along the cliffs with her sister and a gust of wind blew her hat onto a tree near the cliffs edge. She supposedly then lost her footing when reaching for her hat and fell from the edge.

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Now, you may have been wondering why this post is called ‘Part 1.’ This is because we were strapped for time when we first came here and did not get to see the place to its full potential. In this post I will talk further on the journey to Long Beach, and the cliffs and beach itself, but we did not have the chance to explore the vast caves. I was under the impression that they were rather small but large enough to camp in. However, after talking to a friend about them he had explained that they go very far back and one would need a torch to see it all. I will report further on these when I return to them, which will be in the not too distant future.

The journey to Long Beach was fantastic, and this was due to the landscape. A perk of living in New Zealand is that the scenery on the way to your destination is nearly always as beautiful as the place you end up. We couldn’t believe that we had not seen these views before. They were amazing. I don’t usually like car journeys, as I tend to get some mild travel sickness, but when travelling around here you seem to forget about your ailments and just drink in the country.

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Long Beach itself is a scenic paradise. The cliffs surrounding the settlement very much remind me of Austria and that is a wonderful thing. It didn’t seem very much like New Zealand to me at all, but the landscape does seem to be ever changing, and I guess I haven’t seen all that much of this place just yet. Going to places like this really make you think you are on holiday. As I mentioned earlier, the cliffs are a popular place for rock climbers, and we managed to catch a glimpse of them. We both would love to have a go at it properly with harnesses, so maybe when I come back to finish ‘Part 2’ you may see some pictures of me half way up the cliffs edge (hopefully not crying out of fear).

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The beach itself is one of the best we have been to. Looking out to the ocean from it is mesmerising. There is not a thing in sight. No boats, no surfers, no nothing. It is not likely to be the same in the height of summer, but it was great to have it all to yourself. I can confirm too that the beach is ‘Long’ and offers a picturesque walk of around 2.4km. With the cliffs, the ocean, and the openness of the beach, it makes for great scenery as you leisurely stroll.

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All in all I must say that this beach has a lot to offer. I was annoyed that we didn’t get to see everything the first time but we will definitely be going back to check out more. The cliffs, caves, rock-climbing, and beach are fantastic features of this small scenic settlement, and I cannot wait to update you with ‘Part 2.’

Brighton Beach, Dunedin

Okay, I’ll admit that this isn’t as much a beach review as it is advice on how to spend a jolly good Saturday morning. We just happened to choose Brighton Beach which turned out to be an excellent setting.

We started our day early by going to the bustling Dunedin Farmers Market. This is a place we’ve frequented regularly on our Saturday mornings, as it is a great chance to pick up some regional fruit, veg, and what we love most, cheese & bread. We decided on a loaf of Focaccia, and four different segments of cheeses. The market sells fantastic products, and there are usually a few guitar, violin, or piano players around, which adds to the vibrant atmosphere.

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Once we had made our purchases we wandered home to pick up supplies and set off to Brighton Beach, which lies about 20 kilometres south west of Dunedin. The beach is long, but doesn’t have as many of the cool features I have come across at other New Zealand beaches. That should not deter you though, as it makes for a great walk, run or picnic. It is a fairly popular destination, but in typical New Zealand fashion it was pretty deserted barring a few families, and so we set up our extravagant picnic in the perfect isolated spot. The views were wonderful, and the whole scene made for a relaxing lunch. All we needed was a bottle of Speight’s Golden Ale to bring it all together, but we settled for a nice cup of tea instead. We’ve become exceedingly British in the fact that we take a flask with tea in everywhere we go now. We probably keep it over water on most trips. On this occasion we took our cups with us while we went for a paddle. Not noticing the tide coming in rapidly we turned to find it was upon us and a large wave showered us. You’ll be pleased to hear our cups of tea made it out alive, much to our relief. Take our clothes but never take our tea.

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Our Saturday morning was well spent at a great beach and with great food. While I would encourage you to check out Brighton Beach, the more important message would be to get out and enjoy yourself outside. It’s been a long time since I’d had a picnic and if you are the same, get to the market, get your tupperware out and head to the beach. This is probably easier done than said for those in New Zealand, but everyone should do it. I may be preaching to the choir here with travel bloggers, but it’s called the great outdoors for a reason, right?

 

 

The Road to Milford Sound

While I have already written about the natural wonder that is Milford Sound, the journey to it was nearly as magical. With many places to stop, the Fiordland National Park is the perfect place to spend a day exploring the bush. There is a chunky list of things to do en route to the Sound, but alas, we only had time to do a few. The ones we chose at random were The Mirror Lake, another one I can’t remember, and Lake Marian.

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From Te Anau, it is a 120km drive up to Piopiotahi, and the views on the road are quite spectacular. The change in environment as you make your way are noteworthy. You come from open town, through forest and bush, through towering mountain ranges and to the still lakes of the Sound. This route can be fairly treacherous though, and there are a number of reasons why. The snow, ice and possibility of rock slides can cause issues, but I think the biggest issues come from the pesky Kia’s. These large mountain birds are known by many to be extremely peevish. The first one we saw we got out of our cars and had pictures next to. We will never make this mistake again. This crafty little bugger was acting as a decoy while its friends tried to pinch our belongings from the top of our car. I imagined it with the Italian Job or Mission Impossible music going on in the background while they made there great heist. “I only told you to peck the bloody doors off!”, he squawked.

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Our first stop was at the Mirror Lakes. While you can see a mirroring effect on the Sound itself, it wasn’t quite as motionless as this one. It is relatively small, but the gargantuan mountain overhead shown in the lake is a sight to behold. One does wish that the lake was larger to gather a greater image of the mountain, but it is still very cool.

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Next, we stopped at a trail described as a beautiful waterfall. The problem I have here is that I cannot remember what it was called. I have tried and tried to think, but to no avail. It is definitely one of the points between the Mirror Lakes and Lake Marion (but this doesn’t really help because there are quite a lot in the middle of them.) While I cannot remember where it was, I certainly remember that it was indeed beautiful. It offered a picturesque creek and a stunning waterfall. As the water came down it looked like silk on the back of the smooth dark rock. Mixed with the hearty greenery of the bush, it is worth checking out. (Even if this does mean you have to have a guess where it is)

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Our final stop on the journey was Lake Marion. On this occasion I have saved the best for last. What a treat to stumble upon, and we didn’t even walk the whole trail! You first cross a swinging bridge over a creek, and then it is a steady ascent up and then back down to the lake. We were strapped for time, so we only got the chance to walk for around 40 minutes. On the incline, you walk along the running stream and pass waterfall, after waterfall, after waterfall. Each more stunning than the last. There is something very soothing about the noise of falling water as you stroll through the bush. We had to shoot back to the car as we were going to the glow worm caves later that afternoon, but how I long to see the end of that track. It was wonderful.

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All in all the journey to Milford Sound was nearly as delightful as the place itself. While it is great to be ferried around on a boat and leisurely gaze upon the mountains in the Sound, it is another thing to strap on your boots and explore yourself. I think the trip highlighted for me that I am the type of person that enjoys the latter much more. We will be traveling back here soon to visit the other possibilities on the journey to the Sound, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. (I may even find the name of the forgotten waterfall)

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Victory Beach, Otago Peninsula

Not only is this the longest beach on the Otago Peninsula, it is also one of the best. At 3.5km, it offers the chance for a great afternoon ramble, a picnic, and even the opportunity to climb The Great (little) Pyramid.

Around 30 minutes drive from the Dunedin City Centre, Victory Beach is situated on the Pacific Ocean coast of the Peninsula. If you’ve read any of my blog posts before you will probably know that I write about the Otago Peninsula quite a lot. But it is for a good reason, and it never fails to leave me astonished. While on our journey to Victory Beach we were amazed to find that we had risen to the heavens. We were above the clouds and soaring like birds. I expected to see Mount Olympus or Zeus fly by me. It was incredible, and a great way to start the trip. The pictures below don’t entirely do the scene justice, but you will get the idea.

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Victory Beach was named after SS Victory, a sunken ship that was meant to set sail from Port Chalmers to Melbourne on 3 July 1861. This was due to the major incompetence and intoxication of Chief Mate George Hand. In the seven minutes that he was given full charge of the ship he had managed to run the ship aground. The cargo and passengers were forced to be taken off the ship, and there the ship lies to this day. In low tide you are meant to be able to see the flywheel, but we were not so fortunate. But you can see it in the above photo I have found.

While the history behind the beach was reason enough for me to want to visit, there are plenty of other reasons why this place is popular. The natural forming pyramids just outside of the beach make for fantastic views of the area. As you walk through the Okia reserve coming up to the beach you will come across two large pyramids. These are geometric basalt volcanic columns, and are quite spectacular. While you can climb both we decided to tackle the smaller one on this occasion. This is known to the locals as The Little Pyramid. Reaching the top will only take you five minutes and it lets you see a magnificent view of the peninsula region. I really cannot stress enough how beautiful it is. Before I moved to Dunedin I didn’t even know it was here, and it is now my favourite part of New Zealand. As you walk closer to the beach over the sand dunes, you will be able to see the back of the pyramids, and get a glimpse into how they were formed. I’m not much a geology enthusiast myself, but it seems pretty cool.

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From the car park, to the pyramids, and finally passed the sand dunes is Victory Beach. It is a very open and wide beach, and although we had arrived on a beautiful and warm Sunday lunch time, there were hardly any other people. This seems very typical of New Zealand beaches, and as a British person I just cannot understand it. If that beach was in England it would be full to bursting. It could have been half as hot and there would have been multitudes of people. Not that I’m complaining at all though, it is far better this way. The beach is a private paradise, with the dunes to the back, ocean to the front, and cliffs to the side. It offers a great chance to have a picnic, walk, or even a spot of rounders.

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On a final note I think it is important to say that this was my first beach experience in New Zealand where it was hot enough to take my shoes and socks off, and have a little paddle in the ocean. It’s been a while since my skin has felt the warm embrace of the summer sun. I had come from England from the winter, straight into the New Zealand winter. For any Game of Thrones fans out there I somewhat look like a White Walker at present. The point of this is that I have been to many beaches since I have been here, and they have all been highly enjoyable even in the winter cold. I cannot wait to revisit all of the beaches I have been to again in the upcoming summer. I consider myself a pretty lucky person to get the chance to visit these places, and if you ever come to this part of the world, you should definitely check out the Otago Peninsula. Rain or shine. Summer of winter.

 

Tunnel Beach, Dunedin

Situated just south of St Claire, Dunedin, this beach is a must for anyone in the area. Tucked neatly away among the cliffs, it offers a picturesque, secret paradise, unlike any New Zealand beach I’ve seen before.

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The beach secured notability in the 1870s after John Cargill, a local politician, had a tunnel commissioned under the cliffs in order for his family to have access to the secluded beach. A trail track was opened on the site in 1983, and has since become a popular destination among locals and tourists.

The trail down to the cliffs from the car park offers some spectacular sea views as seen in the image below. The underfoot conditions could be better on this route, as it was found to be fairly slippy. Once you have reached the cliffs there are some benches for a spot of lunch or some comfortable viewing, and from there you can either go left to the beach through the tunnel, or climb to the cliff edge further right.

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We chose the tunnel route, and descended into the neatly chiselled cavern. As we came through the end threshold, we surprisingly encountered a small(ish) sea lion.  Both of us were perplexed at how, and why, the little rascal chose this spot, as it would have had to climb some uncomfortable boulders, but we left the lion of the sea to it, and searched on.

Turning right, you are then brought face to face with the open ocean and the stunning beach. It’s main features include mossy boulders, smoothed rocks, waterfalls and mussels. If you are a handy climber, or just a child at heart like myself, this beach is ripe with rocks to ascend, which give much better picture opportunities. A word of caution, though, as they are slippery. Following the beach to the right will bring you to another waterfall, depending on the amount of rain that has fallen. Going to the left you will see a small underpass which you can crawl through, and brings you to a large open cave. You can also access this by following the beach round, alas, we did not know this, and got some rather muddy knees.

Going back to the cliffs you will come across some awe inspiring views of the sea, and of the beach you had just been exploring. Ascending the cliff can be dangerous, as we both simultaneously slipped on the clay-like mud. It seemed very slapstick and certainly gave the locals a hearty laugh at my girlfriends muddy bum. The only blip on wonderful experience would be the steep incline for the walk back up to the car. However, for anyone that walks frequently it would offer no issues.

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Out of all the Dunedin beaches I have explored so far, this has certainly been my favourite, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Just be careful not to slip off and become seal fodder.

Scenery: 4/5

Walking Conditions: 2/5

Walking Difficulty: 3/5

Finding Difficulty: 1/5

Overall Rating: 4/5