Dunedin and Taieri Gorge Railway

For Merry’s South Island Adventure Take 3, I started my adventure again in Dunedin.

I realized I had time after my flight to catch the Taieri Gorge Railway before I went to dinner with NZ Fulbrighter Simon and his family, so I booked the journey and headed to the Railway station – it is a gorgeous old building.

The journey through the Taieri Gorge was beautiful – It was a sunny, perfect day, and the ever changing landscape of the Otago region was highlighted in an amazing fashion along the gorge.

I got off the train at Wingatui, where I was met by Simon, and went to have a lovely dinner with he and his wife Sylvia, and their lovely girls. It was such an enjoyable evening.

The next day I went with Philipa and enjoyed hanging with her students and getting to experiment in her lab.

That evening, Philipa and Rachel and I had a lovely dinner at Emerson’s, then they gave me a tour of Dunedin by night – check out these views:

Friday, I spent the day with Rachel at school – it was so neat to spend the day with her (and I have no comment on the fire alarm) ūüôā – and her very awesome students.

After school, Rachel took me to pick up my rental car, which is the beginning of my next adventure, driving on the left and exploring the Catlins.

South Island Adventures – Round 2

So first an apology – I wrote this blog post a week ago – and apparently didn’t hit submit.

After my lovely Australian Vacation, I headed back home for a few days, essentially just to pack, and get ready for my trip to the South Island to attend The Energise Conference – a conference completely focused on teaching and learning. I got to attend this conference thanks to a lovely grant from Fulbright for professional development while abroad. An added bonus of this conference is that I finally got to meet “face to face” with the Awesome MIEE Rachel. Rachel and her husband Alastair and their little guy Ollie were the best hosts, and I had a lovely evening with them in Dunedin before Rachel and I headed on out great South Island Road Trip. (I even got to play cars with Ollie and we had tons of fun making slow motion car videos!).

That afternoon, after attending a “football” (soccer to my American cohorts) match at Rachel’s school, Rachel and Ollie and I took a trip¬†out to Aramoana, and took a walk along the pier – and got to see seals. It was a lovely walked, and I so enjoyed the commentary from Rachel as we drove along pointing out sights, landmarks and other things in Dunedin.

After Aramoana we found that little Ollie was asleep, so we headed back to the house before heading out for tea that evening, which also included an ice cream stop afterwards.

The next day, Rachel and I began our road trip to Queenstown – it was fantastic – complete with boulders, scenery, a filming location for The Lord of the Rings and a stop at a winery for lunch, as well as great conversation and company.

We started with our first detour after dropping off Ollie and heading to the Warehouse to pick up supplies, heading out to Moeraki Boulders. They are fascinating, and to learn more about how they were formed, I would encourage you to check out the linked page above – they truly are quite unique – one of them even looked like the death star! There is also a pretty fantastic video and some stunning photographs on the site. I loved looking at the long-term effects of erosion on them too – just cool.

at moeraki

We left Moeraki and continued the path to our next detour. This was some of the scenery on the way.

Our next stop was Poolburn Dam – which was the location of the Rohan Village in The Lord of The Rings – it was a quite dusty, unsealed road – and it really felt like we were journeying through middle earth, with the craggy rock formations and landscape. When we arrived at the reservoir we were greeting with lovely blues and greens – it was amazing and well off the beaten path – and was a journey I was thankful to get to take. (See if you can spot what I have named shark rock).


We continued on – stopping at an overlook, then headed to Mount Difficulty Winery’s lovely restaurant – with amazing views, a great tasting platter and some yummy wine. We also went to Peregrine Winery – and their very cool flight hangar inspired cellar door.

We also found the “giant fruit” – giant roadside statues are kind of a thing here!

We arrived in Queenstown, and Rachel dropped my at my hostel (which was LOVELY) so that I could get settled, then I was able to join the conference leadership for dinner and chatting that night (thanks again to Rachel) – before wandering back to the hostel to get ready for the conference the next day.

The conference was lovely – and I will do a later post about it for my teacher people, but this post is more touristy than educational.

After the conference on Thursday I found myself chilling back at the hostel, so I decided to take “chilling” to a whole new level and visit an ice bar. (which is exactly what you are thinking – a bar, where everything is sculpted out of ice, that is below freezing). They do provide massive coats and gloves so that you can hold onto your cup which is sculpted out of ice, but it is certainly not a place you would stay and hang out for hours – though there was a photobooth as well as an “ice hockey” table. The lights changed color regularly and it gave the bar a cool vibe.

Friday was another conference day, and Rachel graciously agreed to drive me out to my hotel in Glenorchy – which was a beautiful scenic drive.

Once settled in (which included changing my room from the hostel to the hotel side for convenience and access to coffee) (which I considered a public service on my part). I went for a little walk before dark to explore the tiny little village of Glenorchy – including passing by the school (closed for term break) and the lake. Check out the tiny church and the library. There was definite a chill in the air – it is clear that winter is on it’s way to the Southern Hemisphere.

Saturday morning I enjoyed sleeping in, then went for a walk around the lagoon as all helicopter flight tours were cancelled due to wind.

The walk was lovely, however, I was thankful for layers and a backpack that is ready for 4 seasons in a day, because in the 3 hours or so I was exploring I found that I needed at different points my down jacket, my raincoat, my sun hat and my gloves! (the rainbows were stunning too!)

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I came back to the hotel – and enjoyed a lovely NZ Lamb dinner and a concert in the bar before retiring to my room.


The night was cold, and the snow was falling all over the mountains, so on Sunday morning when I awoke it was to a different view than I had left the night before.

I caught my shuttle back to Queenstown – and wandered around before I could check in the hostel, then went on to the lake to catch a cruise with Million Dollar Cruises (and no – it wasn’t a million dollars) of Lake Wakatipu. Wayne and Betty (the owners) were lovely – and the views and commentary were just what I needed to enjoy Queenstown before heading home Monday morning. Look at the clarity of the water! (you could actually see the bottom of the lake!)

Monday it is back to Wellington for some school visits, laundry and repacking for my great South Island adventure and tour of schools on the 10th (with a fun science festival thrown in for good measure!). Stay tuned for more!

W.O.W. – A museum with something for all tastes (fashion, art and cars!) – and an exciting journey for me!

I know that many of you are eagerly anticipating information about my school visits, however, I am working within the bounds of some ethics and privacy considerations and other logistics – I will share more general reflections soon when I have visited more schools, I promise – but my time in Nelson was fantastic. Gaye Bloomfield (@gayeblooms) Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Coffee lover and teacher extraordinaire (can you see where we would totally get along?) went out of her way to make me feel welcome, and planned a spectacular week for me visiting schools of all levels and with all unique feels. I really feel like I have “experienced” all levels of Kiwi education now, and that sets me up quite nicely for the framework of my project.

I did get a few opportunities to play as well – starting with a lovely dinner and conversation on Monday night with Gaye. We had a delicious meal and talked for hours about all sorts of things – I think given a combination of enough coffee and wine, we could solve some serious world problems!

Check out the awesome dessert we had:


Tuesday afternoon I had some free time, and explored the National WOW Museum – a unique museum that combines the Gallery of fashion from the World of Wearable Art shows, along with this massive collection of rare and classic cars both from all over the world.

The outfits were amazing works of art, and in each and every case, someone did wear them for the show. Many are thematic, and some were quite, well, off kilter might be one way to describe it, but I was in awe of the precision and the artistry of the pieces. In some cases I have included the description next to the photo, while in others you can just use your imagination. I did have a few favorites.

At the end was a viewing room where you could watch a video of the highlights of the World of Wearable Art Show, a huge international design competition where these amazing pieces are unveiled.

After the fashion art, I wandered to the next gallery – full of classic cars, super fancy cars, engines and other mechanical type stuff. Y’all – I am way out of my wheel house here – mostly I’m like – look a shiny car – but there were some seriously cool vehicles here to see.

Look through the album for yourself – there were cars that make today’s mini cars look gargantuan, cars that were the size of tanks, and my personal favorite item of luxury – the car with recliners in the back seat (If you can afford that car, my guess is you have a chauffeur, and you are enjoying the recliner).

It was also interesting to see the cars that obviously were collected and imported (remember, they drive on the left here). ¬†It was a cool variety – and I know some of you (I’m looking at you Tom Green) will be quite in heaven looking at these cars.

While I was at the Museum I got a rather exciting email response to something I have been working on since before I left the US – because my project is focused on the use of digital technologies in a variety of situations, I have really strived to find schools of all types, all over New Zealand to visit and connect with. ¬†The carrot that was dangling out in front of me was the ability to visit a school with significant geographical isolation (which is hard, because these schools are very small – we are talking 20 or so students from grades 1 – 8 typically, and only one to two teachers, one of whom is a teaching principal). We had communicated a bit before I left the US, but I had been unable to schedule with school just starting here (Feb is their first month of school here), but I got a response, so in May I will be given the great opportunity to visit this school on Stewart Island¬†(and do some programming with those students). Stewart Island, also called Rakiura¬†is the island¬†south of the south Island of New Zealand, an island that is home to less than 400 permanent residents. The only way to travel commercially to Stewart Island is by a small ferry across the ¬†Foveaux Strait, or a fixed wing flight from Invercargill. At 47¬į South, it is likely the furthest south this girl will ever travel! If I am lucky – I might even get a chance to view the Aurora Australis¬†– talk about a bucket list item! I am going to make an adventure of this trip, knocking out my South Island school visits during the week, and my bucket list items on the weekend. I will start by flying to Dunedin and visiting schools (and MIEE Rachel @ibpossum), then a weekend road trip through the Caitlins¬†to Invercargill to head to Stewart Island, followed by a weekend in Te Anau and Milford Sound, then a trip to Christchurch to see some schools (and stay in a hostel that was once a jail), before checking out the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve and Lake Tekapo and the Mount John Observatory¬†before heading back to Windy Welly. (I have not forgotten about Queenstown, by the way – I am attending a conference there in April). All in all – can you tell I am excited for this? It looks like I am going to be on the road for much of April and May, with trips to schools in Auckland; ¬†a brief vacation during term break to Australia (Sydney and Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef); Energise Conference in Queenstown, then my South Island Adventure.

After exploring the museum, and doing some work in the cafe, I headed back to the hostel, then grabbed dinner at a lovely Mexican restaurant – where I had my first truly authentic Mexican food since I have been in NZ – Fajitas for the win!

Tomorrow I have school visits and a board meeting, which I am quite excited about attending, before I head back to Wellington and the North Island on Thursday. Nelson has been good to me!