What do you recommend?


Well, that’s a recommendation that is hard to argue with…


The Racing Pigeons Want A Piece Of Jimmie

The Racing Pigeons Want A Piece Of Jimmie

New Zealanders eat pies. That’s just as much of a fact as pigeons can fly, libraries contain books and American Football is not a real sport (try rugby, you twats).

Because of this, you can get pies almost everywhere. There are white spots on the map of New Zealand that yet have to be introduced to a sewage system, streaming water, or basic principles such as suffrage and calculus, but a local pie can be bought and consumed anywhere.

Now, to clear up some confusion: a pie and a pie are two different things. When Europeans think of a pie, they generally think of a sweet pie that has a soft-ish, buttery dough as basis and all kinds of sweetened things (chocolate, lemon, eggwhite, sugared fruits, cream, etc etc) at the centre.

English New Zealand pies, however, are nothing like that. These pies are small (fit in the palm of your hand), have a sturdier, less buttery dough all around, and are filled with a meat-based substance. Always a meat based substance. If it doesn’t have a meat based substance it’s not a pie. A pie without a meat based substance might have a label that says “pie”, but that’s only because having the same argument with those vegan-vegetarian vegemites over and over again is so tiresome. It’s not a pie.

A New Zealand sixpack

There are some big pie manufacturing such as Irvines or Mrs Mac. You typically buy these pies in a sixpack at the supermarket. Whilst these pies aren’t too bad, they are mass produced and thus – logically – show that they lack a bit of that extra special care and attention they can only get when baked in a local, small scale bakery.

And those small scale bakeries, there are plenty around. From time to time, these smaller scale pie bakers engage each other in one of the plentiful pie contests to settle once and for all whose pies are bigger, better, tastier, crunchier, fresher, and so on, and so on. There are almost as many pie contests as there are pies, so there is a very fair chance that that cute little bakery you randomly selected has won a couple of awards of some form.

My personal favourite pie is the mutton (mutton are old sheep, if they had been human we’d call them spinsters) pie from Baketime in the Kaikorai Valley in Dunedin.

However, the other day the Racing Pigeons had the opportunity to sink their beaks into an award winning pie from Jimmy in Ettrick. I have no idea what award Jimmy has won, nor do I care. What I do care about is the fact that Jimmy makes a mighty fine pie. And he’s a cat lover too ^^


Jimmies in central Ettrick

Jimmy’s in Ettrick’s CBD

Master Pie Baker Jimmy

Master pie baker Jimmy himself…and his furry friend.

munching on Jimmy

Mind your beak: contents can be hot!

The Racing Pigeons Scare A Crow

The Racing Pigeons Scare A Crow

New Zealand, and especially the southern half of the South Island, has this extraordinary fertile soil. Why that is, is partially explained in this earthcache.

An unknown person once said that you just had to tickle the ground here and things would grow.

Fact is, that this comes with the pleasant benefit of almost every town having outlets where you can buy produce, fresh off the lands.

Such as in Ettrick at the Ettrick Gardens.


The Ettrick Gardens in Ettrick, Otago

The Ettrick Gardens in Ettrick, Otago

The Racing Pigeons scare the big crow

The Racing Pigeons scare the big crow

The Racing Pigeons scare the little crow

The Racing Pigeons scare the little crow

The Racing Pigeons Write An Anthem

The Racing Pigeons Write An Anthem

John Joseph Woods lived from 1849-1934. Born in Tasmania, he moved to New Zealand to end up as head teacher of the St Patrick’s school in Lawrence.

Fascinating. If you have no idea who this man is then just smile and nod and keep reading.

When the Tuapeka County council was formed (1877), John was appointed county clerk. He worked very long hours and kept accounts of such a high standard that he was accepted as a Fellow of Registered Accountants of New Zealand.

What a man. Smile, nod and keep reading.

In 1932, after 55 years of service as County clerk, his health made him retire at the age of 83.

Astounding. But, who was he?

Well, when the New Zealand national anthem was written, a reward of 10 Guinea was offered to the person who would write the musical score for it. This man, John Woods, was the man who one winter evening in 1876 sat down behind his piano, wrote the music, and went to bed.

For that, he is still fondly remembered by probably some New Zealanders, and till this day he is commemorated in Lawrence with a mighty statue.

statue of John Woods

Statue of John Woods (no pun intended, hopefully)

The Racing Pigeons Get Detention

The Racing Pigeons Get Detention

John Stenhouse lived from 1842-1929. Born in Edinburgh, he moved to New Zealand to end up as teacher in Lawrence.

Fascinating. If you have no idea who this man is then just smile and nod and keep reading.

Although a humble man, he deployed some rigorous educational tactics in the classroom, driven by the values of duty and morality.

What a man. Smile, nod and keep reading.

Stenhouse was quick to recognise that Lawrence became a declining mining town which was accompanied by a lack of employment opportunities for his students. Relentless he drove his students through their examinations and into employment outside the mines, being generous with his time and assistance for students who needed help.

In 1882 some people (not his students) started to complain that his teaching techniques were too harsh. John himself would have none of it, and continued with his methods.

Under John’s guidance, the Lawrence school achieved exceptional eminence through persistence and devotion. When in 1891 he was recognised for his achievements, well over a thousand of his former students travelled from all corners of the world to attend.

Till this day he is commemorated in Lawrence with a mighty statue.

statue of John Stenhouse

Statue of John Stenhouse

The Racing Pigeons Visit Lawrence

The Racing Pigeons Visit Lawrence

Originally named The Junction, Lawrence was renamed in honour of a leader in the Indian mutiny.

In May 1861, Gabriel Reed discovered gold in the gully which now bears his name. This caused Lawrence to undergo an explosive growth, becoming the goldmining centre of the District. By July 1861, the population of the area was 11.472. The gold boom ended in the late 1930’s. Today, Lawrence is a peaceful farming centre for the surrounding District. It is also a fascinating tourist destination, allowing visitors to explore (amongst other things) the unusual botanics and gold digging history, plus it is the first village in New Zealand offering town-wide free wireless Internet access.

On 21 February 1998, Lawrence celebrated Gold Dust Day – a celebration of 150 years of development and settlement.



Entrance to Gabriels Gully – the first place in Otago where gold was discovered


The Racing Pigeons enjoying a coffee in historic Lawrence

Lawrence_main street ends

Lawrence main street


Lawrence main street


An example of the historic buildings in Lawrence.


Other than a lick of paint these buildings haven’t changed all that much since the yellow fever haydays

Main intersection on main street

Main intersection on main street


One of the earliest cottages in Lawrence…or something like that.

SH8 between Milton and Lawrence

SH8 between Milton and Lawrence

The Racing Pigeons Get A Bargain

The Racing Pigeons Get A Bargain

New Zealanders only shop at two places: The Warehouse and Pak’n Save. There are more shops in New Zealand – and plenty of them – but the only people shopping there are posh pricks and tourists.


Pak’n Save (or, as it’s known amongst locals: Crap’n Slave) is where you get groceries in the broadest sense of the word. Canned foods, bread and milk, meat and fish, candles and firewood, pots and pans, birdfeed, poultry feed, and so on and so on. It’s not the only supermarket in New Zealand, and there are even some items which you can find for less elsewhere, but in general Pak’n Save is the place to go. The only things you do not buy here are fruit and vegetables. You get these at your local farmers market.

So: fruit and veggies at the farmers market, all other groceries at Pak’n Save, and for everything else there is The Warehouse.

The Warehouse
The Warehouse was once a shop where you could find quality items of all natures, proudly produced in New Zealand. Over time, however, quality gave way to lowest price (just as everywhere else in the world), and now The Warehouse stores are gigantic stores filled with everything that is Made in China. Clothing, sporting goods, building materials, electrical appliances, you name it… If it’s Made in China you can get it at The Warehouse.

The Racing Pigeons Take The Train

The Racing Pigeons Take The Train

The Dunedin train station. “The”, yes, for there is only one. The significance of this train station is quite…well…significant.

After Dunedin was founded, there was a big requirement for the efficient supply of settlers, goods, services and building materials. To ease this requirement, a harbour was built further along the coastline of the Otago Harbour inlet. This harbour was named Port Chalmers, and this port came to serve as a staging area for goods and materials to and from Dunedin. A warehouse if you wish, from which goods and materials were distributed either by ship or by rail. Ships would birth at Port Chalmers where they were unloaded, their cargo put onto a train which would bring them into Dunedin.

Times have changed since then, but while the purpose of this railway station has changed, it’s significance has not.

Other than a fantastic historic building which (amongst other things) houses the New Zealand Gallery of Sports Heroes, it also showcases some historic train engines (steam, electric and diesel). It is the starting (and disembarkation) point of a “unique in the world” oceanside train journey. And, every Saturdaymorning, it is the place for the awesome Otago Farmers Market, where farmers and growers from the region offer their unrivalled produce.

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

The Racing Pigeons Wonder Who That Lass Wass

The Racing Pigeons Wonder Who That Lass Wass

Somewhere (Burlington Street) in the centre of Dunedin you can find this plaque. That in itself is nothing too shocking; plaques can be found all over this place. But this one is definitely my favourite.

Firstly, because it is so tucked away that most people will walk past it without even noticing it. I swear: there will be loads of people who have passed through this street frequently without ever seeing it.

And secondly, because of the message. Bethesa claims that “War. War never changes.“, and they are right. But love pretty much stays the same as well.


Burlington Street

Burlington Street (well, partially anyway)

Burlington Street plaque

Plaque reads:

Burlington Street
There is a lady sweet and kind
was never face so pleased my mind
I did but see her passing by
yet will I love her till I die
She passed this way, charming
the morning, long years ago
Copied from inscriptions made by an unknown person on a building in this street and is hereby perpetuated through a whimsical gesture of John Roger Davis who funded this plaque after collaborating with the Dunedin Amenities Society.

The Racing Pigeons have to stand on their toes to read the plaque

The Racing Pigeons have to stand on their toes to read the plaque

The Racing Pigeons Go To Church

The Racing Pigeons Go To Church

Since the whole point of building the city of Dunedin was to build a place of worship to the Church of Scotland, it comes as no surprise that it didn’t take the settlers too long before starting to build a church.

But an ordinary church would not suffice, for this was not to be just another settlement. Nay, it was to be a “light shining in a dark place”, a “sample of the Kingdom of Christ”, glory glory hallelujah and so forth and so forth.

Whence, building a church they did, and a lighting sample it would be. That church would become known as the First Church of Otago, not the first church but the First Church of the Church of Scotland in this corner of the world. Therefore, not the church that was first, but the first church of the First Church. Confused? Don’t worry, just remember that this building was and is called “First Church”. And with religion playing a different role in society compared with 150 years ago, it doesn’t really matter all that much anymore anyway.

The building is still in use for religious purposes, but can also be admired from a historical point of view, an archaeological point of view, an architectural point of view, an anthropological point of view, a horizontal point of view, and so on. Or just enjoy the serenity it offers.

First Church inside

First Church inside

First Church outside

Commemorative stone inside First Church

Inscription reads: “This stone was brought from the ancient Abbey of St Columba, isle of Iona, Scotland, and presented to this church. 28-10-51”

The Racing Pigeons Are Working The Streets

The Racing Pigeons Are Working The Streets

Dunedin Street Art is a group of people who fund raise (beg) for street art. Whenever they have begged, stolen or borrowed enough money for a project, they commission up and coming artists to create a work on the side of a building, an electricity box, a bus shelter, or any other place that would be a good place for some street art.

I cannot recommend this enough for any city council. Not only are artists provided with a chance to get experience and exposure, it also reduces tagging (which is the ugly, annoying, little-kiddies-thinking-they-are-cool version of graffiti) plus it brightens up the city.

In Dunedin, you can find street art all over town, in the most unexpected places. Today, the racing pigeons just happened to fly into an unknown piece by an unknown artist, tucked away on the sidewall of an otherwise unknown building in an otherwise unknown street.

Working the streets

The Racing Pigeons might be a bit hard to spot, but they’re sitting on the fence.

The Racing Pigeons Jump Off A Bridge

The Racing Pigeons Jump Off A Bridge

“If it shall be Gods will that we shall succeed in establishing this colony, I persuade myself with His blessing attending us we may be instrumental in planting down in these favourited islands a well ordered God fearing community that may stand in these remote regions, a sample of the Kingdom of Christ which like a light burning in a dark place shall bear no indistinct testimony to the truth.”

These words were written in 1844 by Thomas Burns to William Cargill. Applying some more recent language semantics, what Mr Burns wanted was to find a quiet place in a far flung region of the British empire, where he would be far far away from those pesky English and their church, so that he could establish a mighty city devoted to the Church of Scotland.

Well, think about the Scots what you wish. but once they have an idea in their heads…

And thus, four years later, two ships overflowing with Scots arrived in this part of the world. After some surveying, a settlement was plonked down which was named Dunedin: the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, the Scottish capital which these Scottish settlers knew they would never see again.

To assume that the first thing they build was a distillery is understandable, but incorrect. Instead, they built an university. This university still stands and one could argue that this makes Dunedin the knowledge centre of New Zealand.

The Dunedin settlement could not have been built in a better place, with a ring of hills providing natural shelter and a defensible position, easy access to the mainlands and an easily defensible sheltered harbour. The settlement was so successful that during the Otago Gold Rush, it grew to become New Zealand’s most prosperous city (not anymore), centre of commerce (not anymore), and wealthiest city (definitely not anymore).

A good view of the city is achieved by standing in the middle of Highgate; one of the highest points in the city, this bridge once was an access gate to town.

Ready to jump off the Highgate bridge

Ready to jump off the Highgate bridge

The street in the middle of the picture is called Stuart Street. Do not be fooled by the picture; it is quite a steep street. Following the street will take you to the centre of town. From this bridge, that is a distance of 1.8 km during which an elevation difference of approximately 250 meters is experienced.

When Europeans think about a city, they have a certain image in their mind. Dunedin is the closest to that image that you will find in possibly the whole of Australasia. The whole town is filled with intriguing buildings that almost seem desperate to bestow their story upon you. Walking through the town, and if you are willing to listen and see, then the whole history of settlement and development of this part of the world unfolds right in front of your eyes as one big interactive adventure.

Oh, and one more thing: apply a very, very liberal definition when New Zealanders use the term “city”. All it really takes for a settlement in New Zealand to classify as a city is that it needs to have a dairy, a pub, three churches and five different banks. Citizens optional.

“Yet here we have no permanent home. We are seekers after the city which is to come.” (Thomas Burns, ~1848)