Won­der­ful Walks

The stun­ning land­scape of the Otago Penin­sula holds many trea­sures in its fold in­clud­ing two pyra­mids.

Good - - Contents - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy Carolyn Ent­ing

Dis­cover Dunedin's pyra­mids

L ocated on the re­mote western side of Dunedin’s Otago Penin­sula this walk had us at the word ‘pyra­mids’. Un­like the man-made pyra­mids of Egypt, the two pyra­mids that greet you at the be­gin­ning of this won­der­ful walk were formed by na­ture dur­ing the first erup­tive stage of the vol­cano upon which Dunedin is built, and they're made of hard basalt rock.

The trail passes be­tween large pyra­mid (Pu-wheke-o-Kia) and lit­tle pyra­mid (Te Matai O Kia), then winds through a wet­land to Vic­tory Beach, home to sea lions, yel­low-eyed pen­guins and a ship­wreck.

The 10-minute climb to the sum­mit of the lit­tle pyra­mid re­wards with breath­tak­ing 360 de­gree views of the ocean and across the wet­lands and plains of the 231 hectare Okia Re­serve. There’s a cave at its base too, carved out by the sea long ago, which has his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance and is listed as an im­por­tant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal Māori his­tory it was once used as a shel­ter by a wounded war­rior.

Sev­eral Māori set­tle­ment sites have been iden­ti­fied within Okia Re­serve and arte­facts have been un­cov­ered here in­clud­ing stone adzes, moa bones and hu­man bones dat­ing back 500 years.

The trail is flat, then gen­tly un­du­lat­ing over sand dunes at the beach end. Vic­tory Beach, the long­est and most spec­tac­u­lar beach on the Otago Penin­sula, is named thus af­ter steamship Vic­tory (car­ry­ing mail and pas­sen­gers) was grounded by a drunken sailor in 1861. Luck­ily he struck sand and not the rocks fur­ther up the bay, so there were no ca­su­al­ties. The ship’s fly­wheel can still be seen when the tide is out.

When ap­proach­ing the beach, cau­tion is ad­vised as sea lions could be rest­ing on the sand dunes. It’s one of two places out­side of the Auck­land Is­lands where the New Zealand sea lion is known to give birth.

The beach is also home to yel­low-eyed pen­guins (one of the rarest pen­guins in the world). In 1991 Okia Re­serve was jointly pur­chased by the Yel­low-Eyed Pen­guin Trust and the Dunedin City Coun­cil, pri­mar­ily to pro­tect the en­dan­gered birds, though the area is home to count­less other sig­nif­i­cant bird and plant species too.

Lo­cated ap­prox­i­mately 27km drive from Dunedin and 7km from Por­to­bello, foot ac­cess be­gins at the carpark at the end of Dick Rd.

Yel­low/black mark­ers make the trail easy to fol­low. The to­tal walk takes about two hours with an op­tional loop of 30 min­utes to Mar­garet Hazel Slope – but al­low ex­tra time for ex­plor­ing.

Above: Vic­tory Beach, the long­est and most spec­tac­u­lar beach on the Otago Penin­sula, is home to the yel­low- eyed pen­guin.

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