Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Drenching in Dunedin

We said our goodbyes  to the family & left Invercargill behind once again. Next stop, Dunedin, where we planned to catch up with my nephew Zak who is in his 2nd year at Otago University. Zak hails from Whangarei, which is right up the top of the North Island, so he is a long way from home. I haven’t seen Zak in a couple of years and I was looking forward to catching up with him and I’m sure he was keen to see some familiar family faces too. Being the good auntie that I am, I made him a couple of casseroles and took him two large bags of groceries which he was very appreciative of. I think his five flatmates may have been pleased too. After a brief tour of a typical student flat, we left to have dinner in town where we also managed to watch the first All Blacks test against England albeit without a commentary.

The NZMCA (Motorhome & Caravan Association) have a new Park in Dunedin, it opened just after Easter, we decided to park there for a couple of days while we caught up with Zak. At $3 per person per night it’s excellent value for NZMCA members. The Park is located in Woodhaugh and as it turned out is an ideal location. It’s just 4kms from the city centre & was only 1.8km from Zak’s flat near the university. The local NZMCA club members have a couple of working bees ahead of them to complete the site including some landscaping around the boundary and a concrete path to the water supply. The site is surrounded on three sides by houses but has a lovely stream and walkway on its rear boundary.

There were a couple of caravans parked up when we arrived but both left the next day and then for the next 5 days we had the site to ourselves. Yes that’s right. Five days. In fact we stayed the maximum 7 days allowed in the end because of the rain. We had rain & it was very cold for about 4 days solid but it was nowhere near as bad as the north of us was getting. We decided that there was no point in heading into the atrocious weather so we sat tight in Dunedin. A good decision as it turned out; Christchurch & Marlborough had severe flooding & gale force winds.
The rainy days proved ideal for us to catch up on computer work in the van during the morning and then in the afternoon we headed into the city to explore. We both thought the city centre and shops were great and enjoyed visiting some of the bigger arcades & department stores.

We spent one of the afternoons at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. The museum recently reopened after major renovations that cost over $38 million dollars. This is the oldest and most extensive social history museum in New Zealand and what a fascinating place it was. You could quite easily get lost in nostalgia and spend many hours reminiscing about the good ol’ days here.

The Smith Portrait Gallery- Dunedin’s early settlers & pioneers

This beautiful gleaming black 1947 Buick 8 Roadmaster had a paper thin ply caravan on the back (designed & built by  Ralph Thompson in 1948) The height of sophistication in its day I would think.

I loved the way the cabinets were organised & backlit, displaying some great & unusual items from the past. You know you’re getting old when you recognise a lot of the exhibits, there were too many “blasts from the past” for my liking; a twin-tub washing machine just like the one I owned when I first went flatting, an aluminium frypan & Sunbeam cake mixer that were wedding presents.  And the black mobile phone; we had one at work & used to call it “the brick”.

There was even a cabinet with information on the long continuing debate between Australia & NZ about who invented the Pavlova, with the first recipe shown and when it was published (1929). The conclusion was that both countries named a meringue cake Pavlova in the same year, 1926 (the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova was touring then) but NZ was the first to print the recipe with the name in 1929. Personally I think the squabble will continue, NZ definitely was the first!

I had to laugh when I saw the section on the introduction of microwave, there was my Alison Holst Microwave Cookbook! The very one I still use occasionally today, even if the silverfish have eaten a few pages! And the plastic muffin baking tray too, just like the one I had. Was it that long ago? It just seems like yesterday.

Typewriters, facsimiles, early computers & floppy disks!

And there was our first work computer, an IBM AT (Advanced Technology), the very first AT in Hawkes Bay that cost over $20,000 in the early ‘80s. And that did not include the screen which was an extra and then you only had a choice of green or amber writing. (Think what $20 grand could buy today). Oh and the storage capacity? It had an “impressive” 20mb. That’s right, 20 megabytes! To think that nowadays one of my photos alone is 24mb.

I’d highly recommend visiting the museum, but make sure you put aside a good few hours to explore, there’s much to see.

Beside the museum is the iconic and beautiful Dunedin Railway Station building. The sun was dropping (the one & only day it shone) but I managed to get a few shots just before the shadow moved onto the building.


As previously mentioned we also went to the Otago Museum (a natural history museum) to find Sultan & Sonia, the Lawrence Lions. They were up in the Animal Attic surrounded by hundreds of stuffed animals & birds from around the world. Something else in amongst the display had me carefully studying it, first in shock & disbelief and then a weird kind of fascination had me returning a couple of times to look at it further.

If you are a bit squeamish don’t read any further & definitely don’t look at the last photo………..

In a jar of formaldehyde was a Rat King. I wonder how many of you know what a Rat King is. They are actually not that common.

This from Wikipedia-

Rat kings are phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, ice, faeces or simply knotted. The animals reputedly grow together while joined at the tails. The numbers of rats that are joined together can vary, but rat kings formed naturally from a large number of rats are rarer. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported.

Historically, there are various superstitions surrounding rat kings, and they were often seen as a bad omen, particularly associated with plagues.

Click on the photo to increase the size.
I think my fascination with the Rat King had a lot to do with a collection of similar subjects that Mum had when we were kids, not a Rat King but we did have single rats & mice along with pigs, calves, lambs, cats, dogs, possums and other mammals & even un-hatched birds. Unborn animals that were stored in jars of formaldehyde on a shelf in the kitchen cupboard.

That may seem a bit strange but it was the norm for us on a farm & there was a ready supply of subjects that came about by various means and from various people. I even remember taking the collection to school for a science project once, all the city kids totally intrigued and amazed at seeing unborn animals. I even think I won a prize. Anyway, if you’ve got this far then you’ll be ready to see Otago Museum’s Rat King.

All together now...... "EEUW!!"


  1. How fascinating! Including the personal history you gave us.

    1. You just never know what you're going to learn on this blog Olwen! :)


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