28. Otago Harbour and a Basalt Mystery

From Dunedin, we went along one side of the Otago Harbour one day, and the other side the next. We didn’t go to Larnach Castle or to the Albatross Colony as we’ve both been to those places before, multiple times! The photos otherwise speak for themselves…

A view of Port Chalmers. From where we stood here a short bush walk led around art sculptures by Chris Booth – my camera was not happy today and disappointingly none of these photos turned out.
Port Chalmers township.
Clay tiles created by local school children.
Port Chalmers township – the railway below transports goods from the harbour to and from Dunedin and beyond.
We walked around The Lady Thorn Rhododendron Dell, set into a disused basalt quarry. Loved it! You could see faded names of ships in precarious spots high on the cliffs, painted by sailors out stretching their sea legs!
The seaside township of Aramoana is nestled near this beach.
In turn, this Aramoana beach lies next to The Mole, a 1 kilometre long seawall that was built to stop sand from entering into the harbour – the harbour channel being surprisingly narrow. A few de-commissioned ships were added into the mix, and sunk next to The Mole, to stop the sea wall from being eroded away.
We got near the end, but didn’t want to disturb this sea lion from it’s repose (meaning, it wasn’t showing any sign of moving just for us!)
It looked a long distance from the end back towards the beach. Impressive work to get this built!
The salt flats, also near Aramoana. You can do a walk along this protected reserve to end up back at the beach near Aramoana.
The next morning, we drove on the south branch of the Otago Harbour, which equates to the northern side of the Otago Peninsula.
As we drove, I became pretty sure we were seeing basalt columns being built to widen the road, and I couldn’t believe it! We stopped so I could check it out. I was amazed that such a fabulous formation was being smashed to pieces. But impressed too, at the work, and realising it was yet another example of a person-made environment reflecting what exists in the surrounding natural world.
It was obviously a dream material to build with as it stacks so easily. At a one-lane area where we were required to stop Kevin wound his window down and asked the ‘lollipop’ operator if he knew where the rock was being quarried from, but he didn’t. He did tell us that they were constructing a new cycle way with the rock to make the ‘car/bike-sharing-the-same-space’ thing a whole lot safer than it currently was.
We started checking out any quarries we passed to see if they were the source of the basalt columns – not this one!
Nearly at Taiaroa Head. This area was inhabited by Maori from about 1000 years ago, starting with the Waitaha people. A Pa (fortified township) was developed and built in the 1600’s.
On the walkway at Taiaroa Head there were a lot of other people like us, mesmerised by the sea flopping against the cliffs. Many of us were trying to spot fur seals and birds (gulls, shags and albatrosses), and one couple had a telescope set up. We got talking with them – on foot they have nearly completed the entire length of NZ, walking for the few same weeks each year over a period of 14 years, through one of the NZ adventure companies. They are not far off finishing – how cool!
You could see the lighthouse from where we were standing. The Royal Albatross Colony, that you can visit (we decided not to as we’ve been before) is close to that lighthouse. In the Royal Albatross Visitor’s Centre we read about Lance Richdale who spent many decades as a school teacher and amateur ornithologist protecting and promoting the albatrosses and penguins of Taiaroa Head, work which continues today via a range of people and organisations.
From the visitor’s centre carpark, this is looking back the way we came, towards Dunedin. This is Pukekura Headland and Takiharuru/Pilot’s Beach and is a protected area for the little blue penguins, so people can only walk down the track at a cost and with DoC supervision.
Driving back to Dunedin, we stopped to look across the harbour towards Aramoana and The Mole, which we walked along yesterday.
We stopped at several small beaches for ‘play time’ on our way home. Each one was different!
Eggs and other bits and pieces are being sold in this honesty box. We bought half a dozen eggs – we are buying most of our eggs from roadside stops these days – it’s really nice to be able to do that.
This was one of the biggest private jetties we saw.
This heron looked all around for many minutes…
We saw sea anemones closed up, waiting for the tide to come and wash them over so they could open up again.
Cray fishing pots stored beneath a cliff.
The wee boat sheds were all different and very picturesque.
We could see a cruise ship across the harbour, in Port Chalmers. It looked huge compared to the port and township and we wondered how many people it held. We could pick out Mt Cargill in the background – the one with the transmission tower. I’ve read that Mt Cargill has basalt columns in situ on it’s flanks, but they are not the stuff being quarried – at least the map I’ve been looking at doesn’t show a road there. Still a mystery to solve!
Back in Portobello a man was busking with a biwa – a traditional Japanese instrument. He was very polite and jumped up and bowed to us when we put some money in his box.

We stayed on the nearby grass and listened for quite a while, eating an icecream each. We delighted in the music, unexpected as it was.

We walked along to the Portobello museum which was closed, but there were outside relics to look at. This old lighthouse had information panels inside which we could easily read through the windows – really interesting, but haunting too as they told of mishaps with children.
These people were working late – I was still fascinated by the workers building with basalt columns!
Our last stop before going home was to the Glenfalloch Woodland Gardens with it’s paths winding through a mixture of native and non native plants. It was beautifully kept. I read later there is also a really good restaurant here – pity we’ve made a pact to cook our own food for this trip!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s