Flying into Dunners is like going home. The boys love the turbulence when we land (those gales remind me of where I grew up, although being straight off Antarctica they feel about 50C colder), we have great fun staying with family, and it’s by the ocean (also much bloody colder, but the same ocean really). It’s New Zealand’s oldest city yet a fifth of its population are Speights-swilling students, and while it’s beautiful, historic and cosmopolitan it feels like it teeters on the edge of an untameable wilderness. The hills and harbour are the remains of an ancient volcano, and within the city boundaries on the Otago Peninsula you’ll find the world’s only mainland royal albatross colony and several penguin and seal colonies.
I love how down to earth and friendly the people are and I love how the airport’s in the middle of cow paddock.
On the flight from Brisbane the boys happily took turns on the iPad, J watched the Steve Jobs movie and I deleted 20+ videos that the boys made when they hijacked my phone the week before. A couple were cute/funny, but the vast majority were random yammering-to-hear-the-sound-of-their-own-voices crap. For example singing the ABC song over and over, then complaining “I hate my little brother singing!” and “I don’t know what I’m doing here!”, random screams, creepy baby talk that makes my skin crawl, shots of the floor and closeups of faces and nostrils reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project.
Got blown along the highway to J’s sister’s place and took our time getting caught up as it’d been well over a year since we last visited. Have always got along great with Melanie and Kerry and their four extremely awesome kids, despite J sabotaging our very first meeting.
I’d spent all day practising their names; Tony, Susie, Lucy and Macy. Then I get there and think I’m meeting a whole new set of kids because J had totally made up those names, the bastard. It broke the ice though! The kids also enjoyed helping me exact my revenge a few days later; we spiked his beer with tomato puree, soy sauce, cayenne pepper and salt. He’d had two sips before he frowned, checked the label and said he thought his beer might be off.
Anyway “Susie” rocked up a few hours later; she’s all growed up and works as a lifeguard at the St. Clair Hot Salt Water Pool. Got the inside scoop on the drama which had unfolded the day before… a pool invasion!!
That’s a New Zealand sea lion. (… lioness? Those who know said it was a female.) Local sea lions don’t seem scared of humans, especially New Zealanders, and are renowned for blocking roads, invading homes and gardens, sunbaking on boats, crapping on things, and generally acting as though they own the place, which is fair enough. This young lady apparently waddled down the lane from a nearby beach and had a sleep in the sun, which just happened to be in the doorway of the pool complex. The sun moved and when she got up to get out of the shade the automatic doors opened. So she thought, “sweet as, bro” and went in. She continued through the second set of automatic doors, through the reception area, the café, and all the way into the pool area. She had another nap next to the toddler pool, and when staff tried to herd her away she ignored them and jumped in. She seemed to approve that it was heated and stayed in there quite happily. A DOC guy came –the media too – and tried to coax her out using a couple of hockey sticks, a section of fence and a rescue stretcher but she was all “I WILL NO BE MOVED.”
She eventually left the paddle pool, but dodged around the (now three) staffers trying to block her and dived into the lap pool. There were still people in there (sea lions and Dunediners: the indifference seems mutual) but they got out laughing. Cheeky little blighter! Ms Inigo Montoya hogged the pool for about 3 hours all up. Didn’t pay the entry fee, or even buy a cheese roll from the café, but she did bring a tonne of free publicity when the story went global. Staff finally decided to clear the crowds away from the pool to try to “bore” her out. It actually worked… she waddled back out the way she came, looking for admirers, and when they shut and locked the door behind her she didn’t appreciate getting bounced and battered it with her flippers trying to get back in. As they say with affection in the South, she was a bit of a hard case.