“The Kiwi’s are always quick to brag about how they have the biggest, oldest, tallest, and best of things – but do you notice how these statements are always followed by – ‘in Australasia’, or ‘in the southern hemisphere?’, they never have any statistics about the world. ”
This was pointed out to us by a British expat who now lives in New Zealand with his kiwi girlfriend, as we were hitchhiking with him south from Hastings, on our way to Wellington. We had never noticed it before, but it is actually a very astute statement. We began noticing how everything was compared to ‘in the southern hemisphere.’
However, New Zealand does have one thing which is certainly comparable on the world stage. And that is: bad urban planning. The city of Dunedin, located on the west coast of the South Island was originally settled by Scottish immigrants, eager to bring a little bit of Scotland with them. The city was modelled after the Scottish capital of Edinburgh – to such a degree that the Edinburgh street plan was pretty much dropped from the sky onto the Otago landscape without too much thoughts regarding the regional topography. The result: the world’s steepest street.
Baldwin street rises from a shocking 30 meters above sea level to 100 meters above sea level, rising at a gradient of about 1 : 5. That’s steep! The sidewalk has actually been replaced with stairs to aid pedestrians, and houses are tilted at comical angles. Tourists take pleasure in driving the poor cars up and down the street, while the rest of the tourist horde takes the steps. At the gift shop at the bottom of the street you can even get a certificate to commemorate your efforts.
The street is also famous for the annual event called “The Gutbuster,” where athletes (and non athletes alike) race to the top of the street and back again. The event usually takes place in February.
When James and I visited Baldwin street, we opted to walk instead of run. We filmed our “hike” and you can view it here! Welcome to Baldwin street, Dunedin.