Monday, 4 December 2017

Southlands to Dunedin, Otago Peninsula

For our last night at Owaka, we book a table again at Lumberjacks Restaurant. It doesn't fail us and I succumb to Blue Cod with duck fat roasted potatoes, and Rich to slow-cooked beef cheeks that have simmered for over 5 hours to create its delicious flavour. If only Bridgetown offered this sort of dining at such reasonable prices. We can do better.

We farewell the tuis who've been drinking copiously from the jug of (mildly) sugary water that we leave on a pole for them. There may well be a paucity of fresh water because it's been so dry.

We spot an odd sight along the road. Some Kiwi farmer has asked Santa to sit and fish his hill - clear case of mistaken location!

Our first stop as we head towards Dunedin is Sod Cottage, a short distance beyond Balclutha. It is a mud-rendered cottage, just one room, and used in the 19th century by early settlers. Finances prohibit further renovations and the mud is peeling off the side wall. It is operated by the Catlins Historical Society, open 24/7 and is a lovely little cottage on a very busy road.

The GPS guides us through Dunedin to the Otago Peninsula and we negotiate carefully the narrow, coast-hugging road to our next Airbnb accommodation (Cedar Loft, Broad Bay).

We are not disappointed with this loft - it is a compact unit with everything carefully thought out. I don't intend to ruin my holiday cooking, so the lack of a proper kitchen isn't an issue.

We have three days here in Dunedin and spend time at Larnach Castle, view the flypass of Royal Albatrosses and snoop about the secondhand book shops for more essential reading.

Dunedin Railway Station

Views of Larnach Castle, built between 1869 and 1890.
Now owned by the Barker family and still needs further renovations, but most of the rooms have been beautifully restored along with appropriate furniture.

Two views of the bathroom. The bath is solid marble.
Note the lead-covered drain below the two sinks.

 The butter room, where various butter/cheese making machines are kept.

The Royal Albatross have recently returned to lay eggs and we can see four from the lookout. This is the only land-based colony in NZ. As we watch, a juvenile flies past but is too fast to capture properly. When we leave, we are buzzed by (maybe) the same albatross as he/she views a good landing spot. These birds generally spend at least 5 years at sea before coming back to mate. It's no wonder they have a crash landing when they first hit landfall.

My boots capture seagull poo - it reminds me of the penguin colonies on Antarctica and I wash the boots as soon as I can. I can't see Customs officials being happy with smelly boots!

It's been an interestingly varied holiday, but the highlight for me was the Routeburn Track, which surpassed all my expectations. Now to plan the next holiday walking in the German Bavarian Forest National Park.

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Catlins, Southlands, 29 Nov to 3 December

The Catlins is an old area of South Island that is now predominantly fishing, farming and food in the shape of Blue Cod!

This fish is a specialty of the region and we make the most of it.
Our house sits on the top of a hill with commanding views. But the house is a relic of the 50s, complete with pink bathroom fittings, lurid carpet and no WIFI! But we cope and the library has free WIFI which we use every day.
We take a trip to Nugget Point to see seals and penguins, but my camera dies on me and I'm stressed by the lack of a charger. It's so windy we are almost blown backwards by the lighthouse. The views are amazing, we spy many seals lolling around on the beach and a few chasing each other through the tumbling waves.

Even the trees are stressed by the windy conditions and cling by their fingernails to the rocky cliffs.
An historic tunnel beckons but we are without torches (how inconvenient not to have our backpacks glued to our backs!) so we peer into the darkness - there is light at the end of the tunnel!

It is very sad that in NZ, as in Australia, the regional lines have been closed, except here freight still uses some lines. This would have been a scenic rail journey not to be missed.
I get the distinct impression that I'm in Hobbit Central with the trees, the hills and the cows and sheep, although there are locals who think there are now too many cows in the area and the sheep are being pushed out. I must find another sheep souvenir to join my black sheep that Mopsy has tried to destroy.

Our next day trip is to Purakaunui Falls. These would be spectacular but because it hasn't rained for ten days, they are a sorry imitation of their normal glory.

The roads are all in excellent condition, not ruined by heavy haulage, but occasionally we hit gravel and the dry weather has made them very slippery - I nearly hit the ditch much to my surprise!

We drop into Lumberjacks Restaurant to make a dinner booking and stay chatting to a couple who have cycled from Auckland to Stewart Island (where we met them in the Backpackers), then up to Dunedin and home to Canada. They tell us to go to an extraordinary attraction called the Lost Gypsy at Papatowai. So we do. And boy oh boy is it odd. Blair Somerville, a would-be engineer, has cobbled together an amazing array of rustic automata in the world. Richard is in his element and even I am intrigued as I wander through the various displays. Blair's imagination knows no bounds.

Before we head into the restaurant, we spy the open door to a, as yet unopened, book shop. We call out to Tori, the owner, and ask if she would take pity on some bookless tourists! We walk in and browse the 1000s of books she has displayed, and spend 15 minutes chatting about which books are missing from my collection. We buy two heavy tomes (Katherine Mansfield's anthology and Marcus Clarke's For the Term of his Natural Life) that we may regret once we shoulder our backpacks again.

Dinner at Lumberjacks is superb - no photos sadly but we have booked for tomorrow night, our last night in the Catlins, so I'll take some photos then. I had to ask the waitress to correct the dessert menu - Eton mess doesn't have an a in Eton!! Can't help myself, sorry.
As we sit watching Sky News, thunder claps disturb the air and the tv cuts out. We look outside and sure enough, dark clouds rumble across the hill top and dump a small amount of rain, which will only serve to lay the dust on the gravel roads and wash some of the dirt off our car.