Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Gosh...I though this would be quick and easy to re-tell - but I'm not a diary keeper and I talk more eloquently than I write- but at least I can write in something other than TXT language.There is a reason for this- other than age of course- I'm not good at texting - as I have a need for vowels and still appreciate punctuation even if I'm negligent in its use.
Enough,enough...on with the journey...

From Alexandra we took Route 8 to Rae's Junction....just another road...definitely not.This is moonscape country,stacks of schist stone - flakey layers that defy description- but photograph well.This is the heart of the stonefruit growing area of Central Otago, much of which has been ruined in the name of progress and hydro power stations.Not that they aren't beautiful in themselves - all lakes and dams - I have fewer problems with their impact on the landscape than I do with wind farms - I can't get my head around those at all.Although as an alternative to nuclear power they are no-brainers!
At Rae's junction, we divert onto Route 90 to Gore (about 20K from Clinton -not named after Al or Bill).This detour was to take in a spot of "Dead Relly Hunting"..."relly" being an colloquial abbreviation of relation (as in ancestor).I had to return to my roots in Heriot (home of my Irish/Scottish/German family) and Tapanui (settling place of the McLeod branch).
Beautiful farming country but largely deserted towns - social and technology changes etc- have caused the demise of so many little towns - I wonder if they will ever return... A few interesting graveyard discoveries then off to Gore.
Here we take Route 94 to Te Anau via Lumsden.We are getting so used to this verdant countryside with designer farmstock - including the high fences of Deer Farms (click this link to discover an interesting insight to a NZ developed farming enterprise). I say designer farm stock, as the sheep look groomed and placed just for the tourist buses and the Japanese photographers. Dairy farms look pristine and make a nonsense of the idea of anything other than 'proper' farming techniques are employed in NZ.
As long as we ignore the mobile methane plants that cattle are - all is truely 'green' in this part of the world.
Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park - in my mind the 8th wonder of the world.Yes, there are probably more spectacular places in the world - but here there is so much crammed into a relatively small area and this an area with World Heritage listing.
We have travelled to many places in the World but this had WOW status- untouched, unpolluted, unpopulated (except in peak tourist season- try to travel here-at least once-in the shoulder seasons). Don't worry about the weather- sunshine is a bonus- it rains by the metre per year here- rain turns the whole area into the most stunning sights you will ever see - anywhere.

We spent two nights in Te Anau at Blue Ridge Boutique Bed & Breakfast
Owned and operated by Julia & Philip Robertson - wonderful hosts, local knowledge in spades, whose purpose built accommodation is close to the centre of Te Anau and part of Heritage & Character Inns of NZ.
This is very comfortable accommodation and an ideal starting point for both Doubtful and Milford Sounds.Stay 2-3 nights in this area and visit both sounds - they are very different.Doubtful sound is a day trip in itself involving a boat trip across Lake Manapouri,a bus trip over the Wilmott Pass and by boat out on to Doubtful Sound itself.If possible try to overnight on this sound as it is a recommended experience. But if you are stretched for time, the day trip will suffice and while you are in the region Milford Sound is a must.The Fiordland National park link above covers all the info.
The views at Doubtful were incredible as the waterfalls were in full swing- a couple of days of rain had guaranteed that, but with 500mm (yes - half a metre) of rain overnight in Milford Sound ( quite a bit of rain by local standards!) we couldn't believe our eyes.You could hardly see the granite of the mountains for the waterfalls.As we approached the Homer Tunnel it was raining too hard to get out of the a quick opening of the window managed a couple of 'snaps' and we hoped the river that ran alongside the road would not wash it out for our return journey.Through the tunnel and through the mist it was all before us . As we drove down into the little township, glimpses of Mitre Peak popped out to see us.Gradually it cleared, although not perfectly, but the affect was magical and once again almost tourist free- so the wonders seemed to be just for us.The rain had been so heavy that even the boats weren't going out- so the buses stayed home too....all in all, an ideal situation..Don't be put off by rain, instead rub your hands with glee and venture forward- after all the rain keeps the sandflies at bay- but do remember insect repellent in this part of the world- these are serious biting beasties!
As if we hadn't seen enough of splendour- we finished the day by driving to Queenstown via Kingston (route 6 from Mossburn) and the journey alongside Lake Wakatipu at sunset was to the West Coast via Wanaka and the Crown Range in the next Blog....our collective attention spans have zeroed out & it's nearly wine o'clock - early tonight as we are off to see Starlight Express!

Above is the journey on Day 4 - use the reduce button to view
Above is the journey on day 6 (day 5 was spent on Doubtful Sound reached via Manapouri)
You may have to use the reduce button again

Friday, 10 July 2009



We left Dunedin on a gorgeous mild Autumn morning heading south to Mosgiel and then taking route 87 to Middlemarch.
It was stunning (you'll read a lot of the 'big' superlatives in the following Blogs as we rediscovered NZ - the country with the WOW factor!) The
countryside had that green park quality- as if we were driving along the approach to a stately home in England - landscape by Capability Brown.The sheep and the trees had been strategically arranged and the road just meandered onward to another photo opportunity.It was 'our' road - well nearly, we only saw one other vehicle - a farm tractor looking for something to mow.

At Middlemarch we stopped for lunch at The Kissing Gate Cafe- homemade bread and soup you could stand your spoon up in.The other diners were all 'age-no object' bicycle tourists starting off on the famous Otago Rail Trail - 150km of manageable stages . By the time we arrived at our end destination that night in Alexandra, we had seen hundreds of bikes attached to cars etc.They were all heading to or from various points along the trail.
Yes, I am considering a spot of lycra myself- it all looked like one of the '100 things I must do before I die'.All safe stuff, as you follow the trail where there used to be railway lines- so no cars,buses,trucks or tractors - just happy cyclists.
North of Kokonga, the road turns left to route 85 and Gold Country.Armed with a map and our now trusty satnav we head off to the towns at the heart of NZ pioneer spirit and gold fever.Ranfurly,Naseby,
Kyeburn,Ophir and my favourite, St Bathans.Hot enough in the summer to fry eggs on the roof of the car and cold enough in the winter to play curling on the frozen lakes.This is bleak but beautiful country - captured magnificently in the paintings of Grahame Sydney. This is the Maniototo - Big Sky Country - stunningly beautiful and in such contrast to the lush farmland around the Dunedin inland area - yet half a days drive away.
Have I got your attention yet? Well let me tell you about the beauty of St Bathans- not a modern amenity in sight- all ghosts and gold diggings - little lakes and wind sculptures - pioneer cottages and overgrown gardens. Where true Kiwi Blokes drink Speights and not Heineken. Where the wives chase the chickens off the one main street and the kids wander at will with their dogs, and time stands still...But that is in the Autumn when the other Tourists have gone home and the local remain to winter over.Cold it must be and you shiver at the thought of the sufferings of those early pioneers who risked their all for a better life on the other side of the world.
My great-great grandparents settled in Lawrence at Gabriel's Gully in 1861 and raised 6 children in conditions resembling a third world shanty town..the race for gold was on and so it is continued today with modern technology at Macrae's Flat where they mine 3,000 kgs of gold per annum.... and that buys a lot of shoes and racing fuel!!!...but that is another website and information trivia.
Such was that part of the journey as we drifted - tired but happy into Alexandra- to stay in a Motel (I must mention the Fish & Chips from Oscars- wrapped in newspaper,little pots of malt vinegar, rock salt & cheap as - utterly scrumptious)
We would have preferred to stay at Rocky Range, a fabulous 5 star B&B but they were away....(I know it is fabulous as we have stayed there before and the location is pure superlative - see the website - the photos are only the beginning)
Nothing about this trip has been boring or ordinary....I must close for now...I'm beginning to gush in a Maxine-like manner!

St Bathans- the Beautiful

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Use reduce button to view journey Day 3