Tuesday 29 November 2022

Home Sweet Home

The very last day of our amazing Road Trip.

I woke on this morning feeling utterly exhausted and a little bit crabby.  I was ready to head home – but our flight was not until late afternoon.

We headed into central city and found a carpark so I could visit Victoria Park. 

I especially wanted to see the two statues here as they relate back to colonial days – currently not a very popular period of our history and I fear that at some stage activists will deface/destroy them.

The first one was a beautiful bronze of Queen Victoria.

The other statue is carved of Carrera marble and is of Captain James Cook.

We thought the New Brighton Pier café might be a nice place to have morning coffee, but when we arrived it was dull and the wind was cold and we decided against the idea.

Instead, we headed out to Lyttelton.  This is the port town associated with Christchurch, and is accessed via a tunnel through the Port Hills.

By driving through the town, heading towards Sumner, a lookout point can be accessed above the Port.  The port is divided into sections – coal, car imports, logging, containers etc. – and we watched one ship being unloaded of soy meal for stock food.

This photo shows the coal area (being imported).

The harbour entrance can be seen here, along with the edge of the logging and container areas.  On the far right are the imported cars, slowly being loaded onto car transporters and taken off to be sold.

We also drove up to the Time Ball Station but that was a disaster.  Our vehicle was much too big to turn around easily in the tiny space available, and after trespassing into someone’s driveway (so we could turn around) we left again!

Back in town, we stopped for a late morning coffee and then headed for the Airport to return our rental car.  It all checked out well, which is always a relief, and we settled down to wait a couple of hours for our plane to be ready – Air New Zealand had changed our flights, so we had longer to wait.

Eventually, at 4.30, we boarded our small plane with a sigh of relief.  We were both tired and just wanted to go home.

Our flight home was not an easy one and I commend the pilot for missing the worst of the thunderstorms that were in our path.  There was a lot of turbulence, making the woman in front of us groan a lot, and the air hostess announced that they had expected this and there were sick-bags at the back of the seat in front of us if needed!

Nearly two hours later we flew into Hamilton, and it was so good to see familiar sights laid out below us.

This was not a holiday we had been on, but a marathon road trip covering just over 2000km in seven days.

We must have been a bit crazy, but, oh, what great memories!

Thanks for coming along with us through this blog 😊



Monday 28 November 2022

From Oamaru To Christchurch


Day seven was the last full day of our road trip.  With the crowds gone, we spent some time in the morning looking around the Victorian Precinct – the shops were shut, so no buying anything! – and checking out some more of the lovely old stone buildings.

This building today houses the Waitaki District Council offices.

We also drove down to Friendly Bay and looked around the steampunk playground and wandered a little way out on the historic Holmes Wharf.

The waves made a lovely beachy sound as they washed in on the beach here.

Not far from Oamaru is the Riverstone Castle.  This private palace offers tours on certain days, but unfortunately not on the day we visited.

However, we were able to wander around the productive kitchen garden associated with it.  There was a chef wandering around at the same time, picking fresh produce to use in the café that day.

I would have liked to have stopped at Timaru and looked at their gardens, but the traffic was horrendous and it was just too difficult to exit and then return to the main road.

As we were leaving the town however, we spied this sculpture of Phar Lap. 

Widely regarded as the best thoroughbred racehorse this country has ever known, he died a tragic death in 1932 after being poisoned with arsenic.  A movie was made in 1983 about him.

We halted in Ashburton to eat our picnic lunch, and parked opposite the Town Clock.  What a thrill to hear it chime midday!

The main street here is very pretty, with large shady trees planted along the side of the road.

My companion wished to stop at the Book Barn at Chertsey, which we did.  It was an old corrugated iron shed housing a lot of old books on shelves and heaps of books in banana boxes piled up to the roof (which leaked).  A great place to hunt for a bargain if you are that way inclined.

Just down the road is Rakaia and one of my favourite bridges.  Crossing the Rakaia River, this bridge is 1.8km long which makes it New Zealand’s longest road bridge.  I love the way perspective operates on this bridge, but it is rare to not meet traffic on it.

At Christchurch, our final destination for our Trip, we did a little shopping before checking into our last motel.

A lot of the old streets in this city are lined with trees.  There is still the odd building to be seen that was damaged in the 2011 earthquake, but Christchurch is rapidly returning to its pre-earthquake gardenesque beauty.

That evening we joined up with friends and all went out to dinner together.  It was a fitting way to end our last day.

Margaret 😊


Sunday 27 November 2022

A Taste Of History


Today, the sixth day of our Trip, we managed to give ourselves a taste of history.

The day began with a change of plans from our itinerary (one of the advantages of do-it-yourself tours), to take advantage of the forecast fine weather (it was still raining when we left Dunedin but rapidly cleared as we headed north).

We stopped first at the little village of Moeraki, driving up to the Whaling Memorial for a splendid view out to sea and across the bay.

Realising the tide was coming in, we drove around the bay a little and visited the Moeraki Boulders before they disappeared beneath the water. 

These spherical boulders, some weighing several tons, are gradually washed out of the bank by tidal action. They can sit on the beach for many years before finally breaking apart and eventually washing away.  We were only just in time to see them.

A short bit of back-tracking and we returned to Moeraki village and drove out to see the Katiki Lighthouse.  There was a long walk here down to see fur seals and nesting red-billed seagulls – my companion made the trip down the hill but I remained at the top, not wanting to make the trek all the way back UP the hill!

By now it was approaching lunchtime.  We had heard good reports about the Fishwife Café at Moeraki and decided to go there and try out their fish and chips.

It was perfect!  My blue cod was so fresh it still tasted of the sea, the batter was thin and crispy, and the chips were crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside.  The best fish and chips I have had in a long, long time.

There are no tables and chairs here, just long benches to lean against – perfect for eating with your fingers while watching the activity going on in the harbour and hearing the waves lap against the wall below us.

Our appetites sated, it was time for a serious bit of driving with no more stops until we reached Oamaru – or so we thought!  How could we resist the idea of visiting an historical farm?

We must have spent a good hour wandering around here (there is a small entry fee).  This farm was instrumental in setting up the first shipments of frozen meat to be exported overseas, and we really enjoyed our visit.

This room was set up to show what living conditions were like for the farm labourers.

We also saw through fully equipped cobbled stables, a granary, and a killing shed (rather a gruesome place with all its realistic models!). 

Outside there was an abundance of farm equipment to look at.  Many of them I remember hanging around in the old barn when I was a child – my father never used them but obviously the previous generation had done so.

After that fascinating trip into agricultural history, we eventually made it to Oamaru.  I love the old white stone buildings in this town – grand buildings were built when the town was established, believing the place would become a central hub (it didn’t).

Unknown to us, there had been a Victorian fete in progress that day – it was closing by the time we arrived but we did see several folk still kitted out in full Victorian dress.

We were booked into the historic Brydone Hotel for our night’s stay (Mark Twain once stayed here!). 

The hotel, built in 1881 of the local white limestone, had enchanting historical décor but not so good parking arrangements!  We were lucky to find a spot in the Loading Zone at the front door so we could check in, and then take the car around the back of the hotel to a private parking area.

Our rooms appeared to have been recently refurbished and, if I leaned a little out the window, I even had a sea view!

Being a Sunday evening, the hotel restaurant was closed (post-covid staff shortages again), so we went across the road to dine at Fat Sally’s before taking a stroll up the street looking at some of the lovely old buildings.

It was a pleasant evening and I slept well that night.

Margaret 😊


Saturday 26 November 2022

A Day Of Driving & Sightseeing


Day five of our Road Trip involved around five-plus hours of driving and several stops, the first being a little place called Fortrose so we could stretch our legs. 

We arrived here around 7.30 so probably woke up some of the Freedom Campers set up here for the night (although we did try and be quiet).

From this point, until we reached Owaka, we were travelling through the area known as The Catlins.  

This is a lovely scenic area (often windswept) and worthy of one or more days of dedicated sightseeing, but we opted not to visit many of them as we’d seen them before.

The sunshine did not stay with us.  As we headed into the Catlins rain forest we became enveloped in misty cloud, which later turned into the wettest day we experienced while away.

Lake Wilkie is a bog lake that was formed after the last Ice Age.  It is known for its reflections on a good day, and is surrounded by mature podocarp forest and wetlands.

We walked as far as the lookout but did not descend to the Lake as the track was too wet.

A little further along the road is the Tautuku Beach Nature Walk, which leads out onto the beach (we could hear the ocean when we parked).

This track was a little muddy in places but generally well formed, and the bush we walked through was very typical of New Zealand forest.

Tautuku Beach itself was very windswept and totally devoid of other human life.  We later stopped at Florence Hill lookout to see back over the whole bay.

The village of Owaka was our next stopping point and we were enticed into the local country store by their intriguing outdoor display of goods.

I ended up purchasing a tiny colourful glass rooster and a small multi-coloured seal.  The shop had lots on offer but I was very aware that anything I purchased had to fly home with me.

By now we were experiencing a constant drizzle of light rain.  Nevertheless, we made a side-trip out to Surat Bay in the hope of seeing some sealions.

We did see three in the distance – small black blobs that disappeared into the sea as a group of people approached them along the beach.

When we reached Balclutha the sun began peeping through the clouds, and we stopped at a small rest area to photograph their attractive 1930s reinforced-concrete bridge.  It spans the Clutha River, the second longest river in the country.

Up the country to Dunedin next, and into steady rain for most of the way.

At Dunedin, we drove directly out onto the Otago Peninsula to visit the Royal Albatross Centre.  We took the coast road out there and I imagine it would be a beautiful drive on a fine day.

We did not take the tour to see the albatross, but instead chose to visit the free lookout area next to the carpark.

We saw several albatross in flight – they were easy to differentiate from the myriad seagulls as their wing-span can reach 2-3 metres.

The seagulls themselves were busy nesting, including several nests alongside the path.  We caught a quick glimpse of one chick as its parent came in to feed it – so fast, and then gone again.

I won’t bore you with photos of misty silhouettes of birds flying overhead, and will instead show you our view of the Taiaroa Head lighthouse which sits here in the middle of the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross.

We drove the Highcliff Road back into Dunedin, probably not the best of ideas in the gathering gloom of a wet evening.  The road was narrow and windy in many places, and the thick misty cloud often made me feel like there was nothing except a long drop-off beside us, simply because there was total white-out and nothing could be seen.

But we made it back to Dunedin safely and checked into our motel.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was a Saturday night and, notwithstanding the rain, there was a student party in full swing behind us (not part of the motel).

However, they were all quiet by midnight so we had no complaints.

Margaret 😊


Friday 25 November 2022

A Quieter Day


We had a more restful day planned for this fourth day of our road trip, using our time to explore Invercargill and Bluff and generally have a rest.

I love the old buildings around Invercargill (I have been here a few times before) but the Water Tower would have to be a favourite. 

Originally built in 1889 to provide water to help fight fires, it was refurbished in 1989 and now acts as a partial back-up to the city’s water system.  The 300,000 bricks cleverly disguise a 300,000 Litre steel tank, thus silencing critics of the era who did not want an ugly tower sitting in the middle of their fledgling town.

We spent quite a bit of time in Bluff as my companion had not been there before.  

Bluff is the closest port to Invercargill and well-known for the oysters that arrive here after being harvested wild in Foveaux Strait.

Stirling Point has a Pilot Station and we stood and watched from here as a ship left from the Tiwai Point aluminium plant across the harbour.

We had to make the obligatory trip to the famous signpost at the bottom of the South Island and were fortunate enough to find someone to photograph us both beneath it.

What was sad was that vandals had been at work here and deliberately broken almost every glass panel that formed the safety barrier fence around the signpost.  They must have worked hard because the glass was very thick and specially toughened, but not many panels were left intact.

We made two trips up Bluff Hill to the lookout point.  Our first trip hadn’t offered any views except cloud so we spent some time wandering around the port area and looking at some of the old buildings.

Our second trip was more successful as the clouds had begun lifting so we could at least see Something!  An extensive 360 degree view can be had from here on a fine day.

After lunch back at our motel, I had a short rest while my more active younger companion went for a walk. 

Then it was off to wander through some of the Queens Park gardens.  On our travels we had been seeing many rhododendrons and azaleas in glorious colour, and wanted to see if there were any in the gardens.

We did find a few but they were a little disappointing as it had obviously been decided to give a prolonged display of flowers rather than a short breathtaking one (there were shrubs that were in flower, others in bud, and some that had finished flowering).

We continued wandering around some of the other walkways in the garden for a while, enjoying the weak sunshine and the peace, and thinking our own thoughts.

It was quite restful and restorative.

Early in the evening we visited Oreti Beach, where all the locals seemed to go after finishing work.  The beach was dotted all along its entire length with vehicles and people walking and running (too cold for swimming) and some were fishing. 

This long beach has firm sand, so non-4WD vehicles also drive down here.  Normal road rules are meant to apply on the beach, which I find a bit ridiculous because there are people wandering around (and often dogs as well) which is not what you find on a normal road.

We never took the car onto the beach but parked instead at a nearby carpark and walked down.  We almost got run over by one car whose driver decided if he didn’t put his foot down and speed through the loose sand at the on-ramp he would never get off the beach.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had been able to keep his car going in a straight line instead of sliding off in all directions.

With that excitement completing our day, we returned to our motel and a sandwich for dinner.

The previous night the motel had been fully booked but this night there was only us and one other couple.  The no-vacancy sign was still out though.  The lady manager wanted to have a day off – they, like so many others in this post-covid era, are short staffed and it is difficult to get time off work for the ones who remain.

We went to sleep early, ready for the next day’s adventures to begin.

Margaret 😊


Thursday 24 November 2022

Off To Invercargill


We drove from Te Anau south to Invercargill this day, the third day of our Road Trip.  The weather was not always the nicest, meaning some of these photos are a little dark.

Our first stop was at Manapouri to see the Save Manapouri environmental campaign memorial.  This rock marks where the water level of the lake would have reached if hydro-electric plans had gone ahead and not been halted by a national outcry of protestors.

Around the corner is little Pearl Harbour, a lovely calm bay where boats can seek shelter.  Trips to Doubtful Sounds also begin here.

The Manapouri hydro-electric plans were not entirely shelved.  Instead, they were adapted so that the flow of water would be controlled and both Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau would be kept within their natural levels.

We stopped at the overlook for a weir that is used to control the flows of the Waiau and Mararoa Rivers to enable this to happen.

My companion wanted to stop and see the Clifden Suspension Bridge, built in 1940 across the Waiau River.  It was used for road traffic until being replaced by another bridge in 1978.

I was not game enough to walk out onto the bridge.  Instead, I stood at the end and read the Roll of Honour for the men of the district who lost their lives in World War I.  Beneath the plaque was a bucket of peonies and the words We Shall Remember Them, presumably placed there for Armistice Day.

Our next stop was more light-hearted.  Tuatapere is the Sausage Capital of New Zealand, so, of course, we had to stop and have a famous sausage for morning tea.

It was nice, but still just a sausage!

A little further on and we reached the southern coastline.  McCracken’s Rest is said to offer spectacular views up and down the coastline, but it was too wet and misty for us to see much more than the signpost.

Regardless of the weather, I was determined to stop at Gemstone Beach and collect some coloured pebbles to display in a special glass vase.

These are the ones I collected (still wet and shiny after having their sand washed off):

By now we were getting hungry, so stopped for lunch at the popular Orepuki Café.  I enjoyed my Seafood Chowder with two different homemade garlic breads.

The seaside town of Riverton was our last major destination for the day.  Settled by Europeans in the 1830s, it is one of the oldest towns in the country.

There is plenty here for the tourist to see and we managed to see most of them!  One memorial I found especially poignant – it was in remembrance of all those who had lost their lives to the sea around here.

Riverton Rocks is the name given to one section of the coast, where waves crash at full tide onto scattered off-shore rocks.

It was near low tide when we arrived, but we could still appreciate the ruggedness of this area, with strong winds blowing in our faces and the tang of sea air filling our nostrils.  My skin started to feel like it was being caked with salt!

Thankfully the weather was now clearing, and we could even see Stewart Island on the distant horizon.

It was early evening before we reached our motel at Invercargill.  Two long days in a row, so we were tired but happy.

It was takeaway Chinese food for dinner, nice and easy 😊