Friday, January 14, 2011

Dunedin is C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E-L-Y Rich

When you start approaching the end of the trails, you have bopped around from place to place, and you know you only have one night in a place, there is no real incentive to “do it” right. Alternatively, you want to avoid traveler’s remorse later when you think back to say “I really should have done this, that, or the other while I was in XYZ.” Whether you travel solo or with others, there is still someone to contend with, even if it is yourself.

Tonight, we fly from here in Dunedin to Auckland on Air New Zealand. What can we do that is not going to be painful, exhausting, or take up the entire day? The Cadbury factory has tours. Perfect, we book a tour, go for a coffee, and then to the factory. Anyone who has been to Hersey, PA or Oakdale, CA where there are Hersey factories may think they can pass this one by. Not so! Although now owned by the British company, the factory was started by a local NZ, went through a number of incarnations and then was bought out by Cadbury.
There is a multiple room visitor’s center where you are allowed to roam before and after your tour. Here you will see the history of chocolate as well as that of the factory. Most displays are animated to attract the attention of children as w ell as adults. Pictures are allowed throughout here, but nothing is allowed once on the tour. Not only did we have to store our bags, but also our watches, jewelry, cameras, plus we had to don head coverings and for the men with facial hair there were special “snout” masks. Julia, our guide was lively and full of information; each of us was given a plastic bag with a candy bar. We were instructed to carry it on the tour. 

The disappointing part was that different parts of the factory tour, the machines had either just finished a batch of product or was closed down for maintenance. On the bright side, we had a demon spawn on the tour who managed to raise the ire of a seemingly unflappable tour guide. No parent came to intervene. These are the children every teacher dreads. At the end of the tour, we assured the guide she was a saint for handling the child as she did. She said in all her years touring, this was the worst kid she has ever had.

One example was the Easter chocolates. They had just finished production the day before. They make ten Easter bunnies for every person in NZ and sell out every season. That is forty-five million Easter products. Seasonal items are for the NZ market only and the chocolate has a fifty-two week shelf life. This was disappointing to children and adults combined. We wanted to see the full process. As we went along, Julia asked quizzing questions for which we were rewarded with different Cadbury products. Outside they had some of the old Ford trucks that were actually used by the company early on for milk and product delivery.
The train station in town is old, historic, and looks like a gingerbread building. The tiles and stained glass inside are worth a look. They run a number of scenic train trips day trips or longer. One of the trains was in the station; it didn’t look much different than what we had been on, but the scenery may have been magnificent. I love train trips like this.
The Museum of Art offers free admission and was recommended, so we ventured over. The collection is quite eclectic with modern mixed with a smattering of classical styles. With our flight not getting into Auckland until after 10pm, we stopped at the grocery store for an early dinner. Most grocery stores have the prepared and hot roasted chickens, which has been a staple of our diet. With a couple of salads, we had the makings of a picnic. One of the salads was a mix of kumara and apricot with penne pasta. The other was pumpkin sesame.

Those last hours between not having enough time to do anything and nothing really special to do, we sat around the hostel waiting for the airport shuttle. At least it gave me time to write, sort pictures, catching up on neglected things.
It seemed like we were never going to arrive at the airport. Driving around for what seemed like forever, I kept wondering how long they will hold a flight for those with paid for seats. I did not realize the other two in the shuttle were on our flight. They were Aussies, but did not seem at all concerned. Checking in was a breeze, because there was only one person ahead of us. Still having the emotional attachment to the extra suitcase, it came along. What I had read on the Air NZ website was that it would cost us NZ$10. It seemed for moments we were going to get away with it for free. The three carry-on sized bags were less than 44 kilos, the allotment. No, the agent asked for a NZ$20 bill without any sign of friendliness. What happened to this laid back country? I didn’t have the energy to fight with him over what their website said, so paid it, but asked about the international flight since the first part is with Air NZ. Well, isn’t this special for this part of the international ride home, it will be NZ$75. Well so much for sentiment; this bag is getting lost really soon. There really is no place to store it at home anyway, but I have traveled with it for over seventeen years and it has seen many countries. It is like putting an old animal companion out of its misery, with the exception that it has years of life still, so maybe someone can make use of it.

Flying from Dunedin to Auckland was only 1 ¼ hours, so they served snacks. We had a choice of air puffed veggie chips or dried fruit pieces. When they announced this, we thought we misheard what they said. Within minutes of arrival, the airport was like they had done evacuation procedures; there was not a soul around. Ron’s bag was the last to come out on the belt; the belt chugged along empty of cargo, stretching for what seemed like miles, before eventually his bag appeared, looking lonesome and afraid of abandonment. Had it not shown, there was no one around to whom to complain. A call to the hostel, they said to call this particular taxi company. A ride will cost us NZ$35. Calling from the mobile did not work, because they have a toll free number, which does not work with mobiles. We had to find a pay phone. They are few and well hidden.

The taxi, not being authorized, had to meet us away from the taxi stands. When we were on our way, the meter was running like it was competing in a marathon. The regular taxis quoted us at $60, but this meter was quickly approaching that. Why we were taking all of these back roads was beyond me; the only conclusion was to beef up the meter. By 11:15pm we finally arrived at the hostel. With a meter illuminatingly brilliant numerals showing $54.60, the “we have been had” feeling was rising to my temporal region. Just as it was reaching the peak, the driver turned around and said “That will be NZ$35.00 thank you.” Relief, regret, resignation about running to unfounded conclusions.

It is really interesting to me that everywhere you go, when you buy something, they will tell you the amount followed by thank you. “That will be $29.50, thank you.” Then you give them the money, if they need to give you change or not, they say thank you again. Quite civilized. Thank yous are used on buses too. Each time someone disembarks from a bus they say thank you to the driver. If they get off of the back door, they make sure to yell it so the driver can hear it. 
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