Day 6. Saturday 11 November.
Having trouble uploading photographs, so will post text and follow up as we can with images. Grrr!
Although the campsite is quite crowded (and late arrivals creep in, and out, fairly regularly) it remained pleasantly quiet. That’s probably partly because there are no fires allowed, and it’s too cold to be outside for long. There’s a vast assortment of rigs, from tiny one- person tents to large 6 berth campervans. So far, no caravans, although we have sighted retail outlets for them. The other notable absence is Grey Nomads – apparently here called Grey Ghosts.
On a perfect sunny morning (again) it was time to head towards Dunedin, via Twizel and Omarama. At Omarama we passed a glider airfield, and T had an idea. After a coffee at a mobile barrista in town, who provided great coffee, good stories and a fair amount of cheek, T decided that’s what she would like to do. D opted to provide ground control. As a side note, the barrista told us that Grey Ghosts generally don’t have a good reputation in NZ, as they reputedly take free camping to a new art form, and avoid paying fees for facilities and usually have no home base…sounded a bit like ‘trailertrash’. He was familiar with a different culture in OZ, where folk take to the road for months/years, but the freecamp mentality is not such a put-down there. Maybe it’s got something to do with the vastness of OZ and the driving distances.
The flying outfit, Southern Soaring, was able to squeeze a half hour flight in. T’s pilot Dan (looked about 17, but claims ten years flying experience) was from Yorkshire, here on a working holiday – four years ago. A very comprehensive briefing, including how to operate the parachute (and for those who were in Noosa last year, this time T didn’t pull the cord handle to check whether it worked).
It took a while for the tow plane to get high enough to let go but after the ‘release bang’, T felt the silence in the big blue…except for the air rushing in through a small window opening and then the birdlike ping ping ping sound which meant we were either ascending or descending with the thermals. After some minutes of circling and rising/falling (like a rollercoaster, which T never chooses to ride), Dan said we’d just go straight. The airsick bag was visible in a side pocket. T passed on the offer to have a go at the control stick (Dan said that he often was sick when guests took control! – and T was aware that Dan had just finished a quick lunch in order to take this flight). There were mountains and lakes and fields and fortunately thermals (since that’s what kept us up). T wondered if birds have the unpleasant feeling of head & stomach connection. The soaring/gliding silver bird that had caught T’s eye at Mt Cook this morning had prompted the glider idea but T was looking forward to getting feet on the ground again and was relieved when Dan announced that it was time to land. T decided that if she were a bird, she would have to be a kiwi or an emu or the little brown ‘hopping bird’ which has been at our various campsites ( except she can’t hop, either!)
After the flight a somewhat queasy T thought that a road trip might be alright. Dan had recommended stopping at Benmore Lake, which we did, to have a very short walk along a breakwater. This was the first time we’d observed watercraft activity on lakes – although T had noted them as she passed over in her glider.
We stopped at some Maori rock paintings along the way east – very simple, mostly black and red, and largely lines. It was sad to see that they had been extensively damaged by carved initials etc. and had also been cut away and taken to various museums. They are now protected by steel cage barriers, and some have been removed and placed in museums, we presume (it wasn’t stated) because the sandstone cliffs are wont to collapse. We hope they weren’t removed haphazardly.
The afternoon’s chosen driving route deliberately took us through Duntroon – it was quicker than the other place, and infinitely more pleasant! In NZ we have now also been through Albury, Holbrook, Weston…..just to mention a few.
On to Highway 1, heading for Dunedin, but not tonight. Stopped at a dump site at Pukeuri to find no tap connector for the fresh water tap (we carry several in our rigs at home!) so tried to fill the water tank by D holding the end of the hose up the tap. This is at best a partially successful technique.
So on to Herbert, where we are perched in a DOC (Dept of Conservation) forest campsite (Glencoe) about 2 km out of town, sharing a lovely grassy area with just one other campervan containing a Canadian girl and a German girl who have just finished working the snow season in Wanaka, have bought the mandatory daggy van and are now doing the tourist thing.
Our connection to the internet has so far been intermittent, as free wifi hasn’t been readily available (free camping doesn’t include free wifi – nor, so far, has paid camping!). We’re on a Telstra international day plan, which gives 100 mb per day, but that doesn’t provide much flexibility. Today, for example, D got onto Google to sort out some refugee email issues, and that used up pretty much all the capacity. Perhaps we should just revert to postcards and letters?
Day 7. Sunday 12 November.
A very cold night! Retraced our route from yesterday looking for a restaurant called Riverstone, highly recommended by Lonely Planet, for a brunch treat.
D has scrambled eggs with truffle oil and streaky bacon, pleasant enough, while T had blue cheese caramalised onion pork sausages (three!) which were outstanding. Both meals were re-enjoyed regularly throughout the day.
Back to Oamaru to visit the small Farmers’ Market and wander through the old Victorian harbor precinct. This area had been restored only thirty years ago, having been ignored since its heyday at the turn of the century, when the city over-reached itself and the hoped for continuing prosperity vanished. Fortunately there was insufficient funds to demolish these lovely buildings, so they’re now having a revival as a hip market place.
Heading for Dunedin, stopped for today’s highlight at Moeraki Boulders. Lonely Planet advised it was a 45 minute walk along the beach from the village, but that information was out of date, as there is now a café and a 5 minute beach walk to the boulders. Of course the threatening skies opened, accompanied by a driving wind but the pics tell it all. The boulders are ‘concretions’ in sedimentary material formed 60 million years ago and subsequently raised above the ground.
South again, sticking to the scenic routes rather than the main highway, Route SH1. At Dunedin branched off on the northern arm of the Otago Peninsula to a little village called Aramoana, located at the northern head of Otago Harbour. Wikicamps told us of a free campsite at the village’s Reserve, but we couldn’t accurately find that, so parked in a sealed parking area overlooking the beach and salt marsh flats – hoping we wouldn’t be asked to move right along. Directly opposite, on the southern head of the peninsula is the albatross breeding sanctuary (a visit there tomorrow) but we’ve already had a preview with the help of the little binos purchased at Arakoa (because we’d forgotten to bring our proper ones from home).
Late afternoon walk along the beach and over the saltmarsh flats, with an icy wind blowing but fortunately no rain. Imagine there’ll be no other crazies out this way tonight.