30th January 2013 21:00
Dunedin has a chocolate factory! Once I discovered that I dropped everything and rushed there immediately! Well not quite... but it went on my to do list that's for sure.
The chances of getting to Dunedin didn't actually look too great initially. I guess I was fairly lucky with the coach trips I'd previously had along the way, there'd been no breakdowns - which for Southeast Asia I think was a small miracle. But that was all about to change on the way to Dunedin...
I boarded the coach as per usual with all the other passengers. It was smaller than usual, and definitely older, but nothing obviously wrong with it. We got underway, and had maybe an hour or two of happy motoring before the driver pulled over to the side of the road for no apparent reason. The engine stopped, and no amount of trying would get it started again. To complicate matters, we were in an area where there was no phone signal.
The driver took it upon himself to pluck a lucky kiwi "volunteer" from the group of passengers, settling on what appeared to be a 15 year old kid. He flagged down a small truck going in our direction and sent the kid off with him to the next town to get help or petrol (one of the prime suspects - but without a working petrol gauge, it wasn't guaranteed!). Apparently the driver couldn't go as he had to stay with the coach for insurance reasons?! I reckon it was laziness, but whatever.
After maybe forty minutes, the kid returned with another guy and a jerry can full of fuel. This was dumped into the tank, and we all rejoiced as on the second or third attempt the engine coughed back into life again! We continued on.....for about 2km, before spluttering to a halt again further down the road! Cue mass groans from the passengers. The driver hopped out, and knocked on the door of a nearby house to use their phone. Ten minutes later a mechanic in a tow truck arrived with two more jerry cans full of fuel. These were also poured into the tank, and once again cheers and clapping (although rather more tentative this time around) when the engine started up once again. We made it to the next town, filled up the tank at the petrol station and luckily had no more problems from then on! It's funny how much better an engine runs with fuel.
While I was in town there was a big rugby match going on between the Chiefs (the reigning champions) and the Highlanders (home ground in Dunedin). I'll openly admit I just had to google that information as I haven't the slightest interest in rugby whatsoever! It's just lucky I'd booked ahead after my Christchurch experience though, as a few people in my hostel were in town for the game and I heard a few people getting turned away while I was stating there due to it being fully booked. Oh, the Highlanders lost - in case you were interested. Coincidentally I also happened to be walking back to my hostel on the night of the game when out of a posh hotel/casino in front of me a load of rugby-looking types trailed out and into a waiting coach. Presumably the team (no idea which one) on their way to the game! Exciting stuff! Well, not for me...
As usual, I did my little walking tour around the city to take in all the sights and smells. It's quite a nice place and can also claim the country's most photographed building - the Dunedin Railway Station. This did used to be the busiest station in New Zealand, handling over one hundred trains per day. You can certainly see why it is the building most photographed (although I have no idea how they actually determine this?!).
I visited the Cadbury's factory after this. Now I like chocolate... I'm not obsessed with it or anything, it's not like it's a pizza factory (which would be my idea of heaven), but it's still a place that I can definitely enjoy... a lot. Especially when you're provided with multiple free bars of chocolate as you're escorted around the factory by one of the guides. Especially when you get to dip your whole head in a pool of molten chocolate and drink as much as you possibly can (OK I made that last one up). Unfortunately cameras were not allowed - as the flash scares the oompa loompas. It was cool to see just how the things are made though.
Throughout the whole factory runs three different coloured pipes suspended from the ceiling. It's within these pipes the molten chocolate flows to each different area to be used as necessary. One pipe is for milk chocolate, one for dark and one for white. The outside of the pipe is double skinned, allowing hot water to flow around the outside of the inner pipe holding the chocolate. This ensures it remains hot and keeps flowing through the pipework. Apparently every now and then something could go wrong with this system (maybe once a year), which cools the water and the chocolate hardens in the pipes. This causes 24hours downtime while the pipework is removed and cleared before everything can get back up and running.
We arrived in the huge area where they make and fill the Roses boxes. You really wouldn't believe the size of the machine they have just to put some chocolates in a box... it's takes up most of the space on that floor. She also said that they can't guarantee the number of "heavy" chocolates in each box (fudge, caramels etc) rather than the cremes that everybody leaves till last, but I reckon she's lying and it's all one big hold-back-one-fudge-from-every-box-to-make-us-an-extra-million-per-year strategy!
We did get to try the molten chocolate that they use to fill Smarties (or Pebbles as they were called there for some reason), but only a small cardboard test pot full. She then led us into the cooling tower you can see in the outside photos, where a giant chocolate fountain is held. 100 gallons of liquid chocolate are dropped from a great height into a huge vat below - quite an impressive sight! That is all it is though - apparently it was installed purely for the tourist's benefit, it serves no purpose (other than splashing the surrounding area with tiny drops of chocolate)! This forms quite a skin on all the stairs and handrails by the end of the day, which the staff then need to clear down and drop back into circulation to keep the 100 gallon weight the same, or the fountain will no longer drop. The only photos were allowed outside the building of the old vehicles they used to use when it was still a relatively small operation.
Dunedin is also home to some of the steepest roads you've ever seen. In fact, one of them is so steep it's made the Guinness Book of Records, at a gradient of 1 in 2.86 - which means absolutely nothing to me either! So have some pics after I "climbed" it!
There were more crazies here running up and down the road training. Why would you torture yourself like that?! This one girl literally looked like she was about to collapse in exhaustion.
Usually at this point in the blog I would be jumping aboard a coach to get to my next destination, but this time for where I wanted to go – a hire car was needed. I'll make you wait in huge suspense till the next post to find out just which car I decided on.... Ferrari? Porsche? Lamborghini? All will be revealed... in The Catlins.