Weekly News

Jaffas and daredevils: life on the world's steepest street

July 23,2016 04:19

Most people take 10 minutes to climb the world's steepest residential street. But Bindi Bezar, who works in a pop-up gift shop near the bottom, does it in seven. “I have angina and climbing 276 steps is cheaper than going to the gym,” said Bezar ...



Eleanor Ainge Roy

Saturday 23 July 2016 02.03 BST

Last modified on Saturday 23 July 2016 11.07 BST

Most people take 10 minutes to climb the world’s steepest residential street. But Bindi Bezar, who works in a pop-up gift shop near the bottom, does it in seven.
“I have angina and climbing 276 steps is cheaper than going to the gym,” said Bezar.
Baldwin Street, located on the north face of Signal Hill in Dunedin, New Zealand, is booming.
Related: Pokémon Go: man quits job to become full-time Pokémon hunter
Since being listed in the Guinness Book of Records for its exhausting 1:3 gradient, it has enjoyed local interest. But now Dunedin is a stopping point for international cruise ships, the street has become the top tourist destination in New Zealand’s oldest city.
In the busy season between October and February, hundreds of tourists visit the street each day, starting at 6am and often continuing until dark – which in the summer can be 11pm.
It has also become a hot spot for daredevil sports enthusiasts - who trike, bike and slide down the slope in anything with wheels.
In response, a host of entrepreneurial residents have opened gift shops and food outlets – with more permanent infrastructure such as public toilets potentially on the horizon.
Beverley McClay has lived on the street for nine years, and delights in the growing popularity of her home. From her porch, she often watches strangers open her gate, potter around her garden, and occasionally – and most unwelcomely – relieve themselves in her Corokia hedge.
“I think a lot of tourists don’t know this is a real street, that people actually live here,” she laughs.
“It’s very social, very busy. I often come out in my dressing grown to meet people, and the tourists like to watch me stacking wood, they ask me what I am doing.”
McClay, who lives alone, says the street’s fame has stopped her from becoming lonely as the years go by.
“It makes me feel like I am part of a community here, there’s always someone just outside my door.”
In the past year Baldwin Street has also become a sought-after destination in an unusual social media trend to snap pictures at odd angles, which create the optical illusion of the houses being severely lopsided.
The trend has significantly increased visitor numbers – especially during the winter season when tourists usually avoided the area because of frost, ice and occasional snow.
However, to McClay’s disappointment, people are now tending to drive to the top of the street instead of walking, and preferring to use selfie sticks rather than asking residents to take their picture.
On Friday, the street was crammed with an estimated 15,000 people for the annual Jaffa race, in which 75,000 chocolate balls were rolled down the hill.
“It’s my busiest day of the year,” said Bezar, who has become particularly fond of the visiting ship’s captains, whose drinks she always serves first.
“I know it’s just a street, but most of the residents here are so friendly, it’s also become a really good way to have a chat to a Kiwi. And – it’s free.”

New Zealand,Asia Pacific,World news,Travel

Share this article

DON'T MISS THIS STORIES