Bit of a quiet day today. After breakfast and before getting underway we spent half an hour availing ourselves of the free Wi-Fi service kindly provided by the good citizens of Lawrence. They’re no fools …….by providing free Internet access to all comers they’ve guaranteed that every coach and data-starved tourist will pause for a few minutes in the town to check their e-mails and perhaps buy a bite of breakfast or lunch whilst they’re about it. Their cunning plan seemed to be working well whilst we were there.
Our route north took us through Alexandra which, according to our Rough Guide, sprang up during the 1862 gold rush and flourished for about four years before turning itself into a quiet, prosperous service town for the fruit growers of Central Otago – and believe me, there are a lot of them, with every imaginable variety of fruit being grown on the hundreds of estates that fill the valley floors. Whether by luck or good judgement we managed to miss all of the ‘tourist attractions’ to which the town lays claim, but we did enjoy our (now routine) mid-morning coffee and muffin whilst sitting in the sun and watching the world go by. It’s a nice place.
Today has been Waitangi Day which commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 between the UK and the ‘United Tribes of New Zealand’. In theory the treaty was supposed to protect the right of the Maori peoples, though there seems to be more than a hint of suspicion that it was just as much about keeping the French out of New Zealand – something for which we should all be grateful!
Our stopover tonight is at Cromwell, which sits on the banks of Lake Dunstan and has the distinction of being about as far from the sea as you can get in New Zealand. A bit like Banbury I suppose…….
The wind was blowing a hooley when we woke this morning, which was particularly noticeable because the van was perched on a cliff top overlooking the bay and rocked noticeably each time the stronger gusts hit the shoreline. Well, that’s our story anyway.
First stop was to visit some weird spherical stones sitting in the sea at Moeraki – it reminded us of a science fiction film in which old folk were rejuvenated simply by sitting in the water alongside the objects – we sat in that bloody freezing sea for at least an hour, but nothing happened!
As we drove down the coast the countryside started to become a little more familiar – still beautiful, but a little tamer and there were definitely fewer ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as we made our way towards Dunedin. Aside from a brief stop to re-stock the larder we didn’t stop in the City, but made our way out onto the stunning Otago Peninsula in pursuit of wildlife. Truth to tell we’ve not done too well so far this holiday with our nature studies – Denise didn’t manage to spot a single roo in Oz and neither of us now believes that koalas actually exist in the wild anymore. Since arriving in NZ we’ve seen plenty of cows, sheep, deer and rabbits; we’ve even seen reindeer grazing – but have we seen a Hobbit yet?
Although the penguins had apparently taken the day off to go fishing, we did at least manage to see some seals and what I can confidently claim thanks to the new binoculars (great choice Jonathan) to have been a Royal Albatross swooping elegantly across the ocean.
Our overnight stop this evening is at Gabriel’s Gully, a couple of km out of Lawrence on the road up to Alexandra. This is another freebie site, but this one has a bit of a history having been one of the key centres for the Otago Gold Rush in the 1860s when 10,000 gold-hungry prospectors literally tore this beautiful little valley apart on their quest for instant wealth. Not many signs left now, but there’s an interesting trail you can follow which tells the story for those who are interested.
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a look at our family history