New Zealand / Australia Diary
Monday 16 April 2012

The approach to Tunnel Beach

With my second workshop not until mid-afternoon I had the morning free, so Alistair and I jumped into a rental car and headed off to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was the enigmatically named Tunnel Beach, a little way along the coast and described by the guide as an 'easy walk' - just the thing for a dance teacher not wanting to push himself too far on a working day. Although not particularly well signposted - if Alistair hadn't spotted the 'Tunnel Beach Road' street name we'd have sailed past it - we found our way to the car park, parked and began our descent.

A long, moderately steep path led us down through open fields towards the sea. The early clouds had evaporated into a clear blue sky and the southern ocean stretched away to the distant horizon, there was a real sense of being on the edge of nothingness. This provided a strange contrast to the comfortable familiarity of the farmland which could easily have been British, even down to the patches of gorse along the way. An odd juxtaposition which continued to strike me as I travelled through New Zealand, how the landscape could lull me into feeling almost back home before suddenly producing palm trees, an exotic bird call or a glorious stretch of sandy beach.

The path wove its way down towards the sealine but stopped short in a stretch of low cliffs that extended either side as far as could be seen, clearly this part of the land was being slowly but inexorably reclaimed by the ocean. After taking in the views we discovered, totally unsignposted or marked in any way, the eponymous tunnel that led down to a small, secluded cove with a real sandy beach. From the guide book we learned that the tunnel had been commissioned by a local politician who wanted a private beach for his daughters, away from the prying eyes of the townspeople and other unsuitable types. Sadly it ended in tragedy when one of the daughters was swept away and drowned, no surprise to my eyes as the waves & currents in the small bay looked powerful & treacherous.

But from a non-swimmer's perspective the beach was beautiful, enclosed in tall, sandstone cliffs and bathed in warm sunlight. The tunnel itself looked hand-hewn and must have been quite a project.

After making our way back up to the car park we found that it was still relatively early and there was time for another trip, so we headed off up the Otago Peninsula to see Larnach Castle. This wasn't a castle (no big surprise there) but a large, quirky building dating from the late 1800's, perched high on a hill with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside & coast. Around the house its gardens had been very creatively managed with a formal lawn and flowerbeds at the front and botanical collections, notably of native plants, off to the sides. With the day continuing with sunshine and blue skies it was the perfect location for a gentle walk followed by a rather nice outdoor lunch.

Returning to Dunedin I led my second workshop. This was initially intended to be the 'Level Two' session for those who wanted to progress on from the first one but with a couple of new people joining it ended up being 'more, but different' which seemed to suit everybody.

To celebrate our last night in Dunedin we drove down to the city centre and found a Japanese restaurant that could cope with our varied dietary requirements. Then it was back home and an early night in preparation for tomorrow's day of travelling.

View from Tunnel Beach

Climbing up the tunnel

The neighbouring bay

Larnach Castle (note the lions)

A view from Larnach Castle

Plants in the native garden

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