This trip to NZ, we are only travelling around the South Island, and have 4 weeks to do so.
We flew out of Rockhampton at 1.30pm on Tuesday, but did not leave Brisbane until 6.25pm. The flight to Christchurch took 3 hours and 10 mins, being aided by a tailwind. Due to the different timezone we arrived at 12.30am. A taxi took us to James O'Donnell's home (a cousin on the Anderson [Parker] side of my family. We chatted for a while before hitting the sack. In the 'morning' I really didn't feel like getting out of bed, even though it was 8am NZ time.
But after going over some family history with James, he kindly took us to pick up our motorhome. This time we got a slightly bigger one, with a small combined shower and toilet. We had to pick up groceries and a prepaid SIM card, so it was well after lunch before we left Christchurch. Darryl had decided that we would go south first, so we drove to Ashburton, booked into a van park, and walked back a block or two to the cemetery. This one had a chapel with a computer index, but it soon became obvious that there were far too many of the surnames I was looking for. We decided to return in the morning, just to find the progenitor couple, Thomas and Augusta Woolley. We slept very well, and found the graves in the morning. We also found the grave of Gary Woolley. This is a tragic family story when in January 1975 Gary, and 3 of his sister's children were caught and drowned in a flash flood at Peel Forest. We drove up to, and past, Peel Forest, finding Rangitata Gorge, and eventually the memorial, at Blandswood, to Gary and the 3 children. Then we drove to Orari Gorge for lunch. Darryl started out for the Gorge walk but came back shortly after, as he didn't have any Staminade, and was concerned about cramps.
We then drove to Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, and on to the magnificent snow-covered peaks of Mt Cook. We had intended to stay, but Darryl was not yet tired so we drove back about 50km to the tourist info centre at the bottom of Lake Pukaki, and ate dinner watching the beautiful snow capped mountains becoming shrouded in clouds, while the setting sun streaked through.
An early start was required, so we set off, stopping after about an hour, at a picnic area beside a creek to have breakfast. At Pleasant Point we bought Rump Steak, and gluten-free sausages from a local butcher. Timaru was the next major location on the map, (we were partially following a geological tour from http://ozgeotours.110mb.com). At Timaru there are cliff exposures of basalt and loess at Caroline Bay. From there we travelled south on Highway 1, making a detour off just after Makikihi, where we were looking for walks in a reserve. The first road led to a 'Private Property' sign, so we had to turn around, the next road had a closed gate, and finally we came onto the sign which said Forest Entrance. We drove up the gravel road, but it soon became apparent that this was a logging track, and, once again we were forced to re-trace our route. After this, I was not game to suggest further forays, and we rolled on into Waimate. This town boasts fancy 'automatic' public toilets which play music, but one was blocked up, and the other had no paper. I retrieved some from our van, but it seems you are only allowed about 20 seconds to complete your activities, and I was aghast to find the door opening well before I was ready! Aaarrrgghhhh!!!!!!
We drove out of town through the small, but interesting Waimate Gorge, found some fascinating rock formations at Waihao Forks, before driving down Elephant Hill Road to see the red cliffs. We were still 10km from Glenavy, where we met up with Geoff and Gay Dunckley. This wonderful couple took us in, gave us hot coffee in their warm wood-heated house, while we discovered that they shared many interests with us – geology, bushwalking (or tramping, as it is called here), birds, plants...and, of course there was the interest that had prompted my first contact – family history. Their daughter-in-law is also a member of the Parker [Anderson-link] family which came to NZ in the 19th Century, and Gay had done the research, and submitted the family information to New Zealand's First Families. We exchanged files, and then spent an enjoyable evening with them, before camping in their back yard. In the morning we were farewelled, laden with fresh vegetables from their garden.
At Kakanui there had been an explosive eruption nearly 32 million years ago, leaving a mineral breccia outcrops for us to admire.
The Morekai Boulders is a standard tourist stop on the highway, but you must walk down to the beach. The boulders are both beautiful and amazing, and only seem to be at the one spot. They are made of mud, fine silt, and clay cemented by calcite, with crystalline calcite forming in cracks formed by weathering.
We could see four seals draped lazily over the rocks at Shag Point, with only an occasional stir to prove that they really were alive.
Horse Range hosts Trotters Gorge, a little reserve with a half-hour walk to eroded limestone caves.
We were off the main Highway, as usual, driving along the shoreline, when we came to an excellent lookout near Karitane.
At Dunedin we took Geoff and Gay's suggestion, and stayed at Leith Valley Holiday Park. This little park was the site of an old paper mill, and although only 2.5km from the centre of the city, was surrounded by bushland, had a creek running by, and is at the bottom of the city's first water supply reservoir.
On Sunday we drove into town, and did a self-guided historic walk around the old buildings. We thoroughly enjoyed our roast meal at the Wig and Pen Restaurant at the historic Law Courts Hotel.
The Dunedin Railway Station is another historic building, but also hosts an art display, where we saw some beautiful paintings of Mt Cook.
In the afternoon we boarded the train for the Taieri Gorge rail trip to Pukerangi, enjoying the scenic, mica-laden schist gorge with yellow wildflowers, the viaducts, and numerous tunnels.
In the evening we returned to Leith Valley Holiday Park and I walked to the reservoir with Darryl.
Baldwin Street is acknowledged as being the steepest street in the world, so we went to have a look before heading to the Cadbury factory tour. The factory was immaculate, and smelled devine, and handouts along the way didn't stop us getting a couple of big blocks of dark chocolate, and a small bag of jaffas at the end.
We returned to the Wig and Pen for lunch, and then drove out to the Otago Peninsula, doing a loop up to Portobello.
When we arrived at Nugget Point it was freezing, hard pelting rain, so we waited for a bit in the van, this proved to be a good strategy as shortly the sun came out and we walked along the cliff path and were able to view baby seals frolicking in a pool while the adult sunbathed nearby. Further on, at the lighthouse there were many more clambering on and off the rocks, while the huge kelp swirled nearby. The area had many birds, and vertically jagged upright rocks poking out of the sea. We drove back a kilometre to the viewing platform for the yellow-eyed penguins, and while disappointed by their non-appearance, a huge sea lion entertained us by coming up onto the beach and then wallowing in the shallow waters. Once again we managed to avoid a heavy shower. We thought Jack's Blowhole sounded interesting, but a 30 minute trudge through the sheep paddocks was a high price to pay for this disappointing feature.
We headed to Purakaunui Reserve (at a bay with steep limestone cliffs) to camp, and on the way the van slid off the wet gravel road into a ditch. Apart from the slight shock, the only damage was a thick coating of sticky mud (Loess), down the passenger side, due to Darryl being able to expertly manage to situation. It rained heavily during the night, and for part of the morning, so we stayed in bed, as it was also quite cold. On his first venture out of the van Darryl was hit with ice in the rain. Eventually Darryl headed out for a walk along the beach, when he had a close encounter with a sea lion, which chased him, while I languished in bed until I had to get up and organise breakfast.
Purakaunui Falls were our first stop, and as we walked along the track it looked as though the tree-ferns had froth in the centre, but this turned out to be ice! I 'knew' I was cold! The waterfall was very beautiful.
The next falls to visit were Matai Falls, and Horseshoe Falls, and this was another 'between showers' walk – we really were very lucky. Darryl had Lake Wilkie on his list, but I had a sleep in the van while he did this short walk. Apparently the best falls are McLeans Falls, and although beautiful, I would argue this, as Purakaunui would equal them. Cathedral Caves was closed due to lambing, but we were able to view the fossil forest at Curio Bay, and drive past Slope Point, the southernmost point of New Zealand.
Niagra Falls is a joke...they are the smallest falls in NZ! For the night we found a holiday park at Bluff, south of Invercargill.