We spent the end of 2018 in the company of Olivia Colman. She played Queen Anne in the film, The Favourite, which we saw at the Deluxe Cinemas at The Tannery. Olivia is always enjoyable to watch but the story behind this film was quite sad.
More sadly, the strange typeface used for the end credits rendered them fairly illegible. I had to confirm later, via IMDB, that it was indeed Elton John performing his song Skyline Pigeon from very nearly half a century ago.
The light drizzle as we left made the decision for us: we went home rather than to an open air event. We stayed up to see the New Year in but I think we were all in bed by five past midnight. We’re definitely not the party animals we once were, half a century ago!
If you performed the calculation represented by the countdown in the Heading, I hope you felt suitably rewarded.
2019 began with Liesel and me picking up our rental car from the airport. It’s a Mazda 3, with a 1998cc engine, slightly more spacious than our Mazda 2 at home in England. It’s silver.
Our first drive, after picking up the luggage from Pauline’s house, was to Caroline Bay, Timaru, where we met Pauline and Andrew. They’ve joined us for a few days on our road trip. Where we go on South Island will largely be determined by the weather forecast.
We listened to the singer performing at the carnival, covering Adele, Duffy, and Dusty amongst others.
We didn’t go on any of the fairground rides but we did eat from one of the food wagons while admiring the slightly unusual cloud formations.
On the walk back to our car, we passed a war memorial, a sundial, gym equipment with instructions and The Face of Peace.
The memorial for John McKenzie overlooking the town of Palmerston reminded us of Glastonbury Tor as we were driving towards it.
We couldn’t drive through Dunedin without visiting Baldwin Street again: the steepest street in the world. I walked halfway up leaving Liesel near the bottom to take the pictures. I wouldn’t want to be a postman here, with a bike, with a trolley or with just the shirt on my back!
Our Airbnb tonight was at St Kilda, a nice little house just a couple of minutes form the beach. We all went for a quick walk there after supper, and watched the Sun set.
All the way on the road, we’d been comparing the countryside views with what we’d seen in Japan from trains. New Zealand is very green, whereas in Japan, you could travel several miles and not see any greenery between the buildings. The views were quite stunning too, sometimes resembling Scotland, sometimes Alaska, and often a children’s drawing of what hills should look like, nice and round.
The beach at St Kilda is top class. The sand is so soft and walking on it in bare feet sends good vibes the length of your body.
In fact, it felt so nice Liesel and I paid another visit before setting off for the following day’s drive. The sand was warmer now, but still just as soft and despite my best efforts, probably not the best ever exfoliation of the heels.
The dunes at the top of the beach were just like those near Hemsby in Norfolk, only much longer, steeper and higher. And harder to climb up because the sand was so soft!
We were planning to meet Pauline and Andrew again later in the day, but we made a quick detour to Kaka Point and the Nuggets. Quick. We drove a long way off our main route, including a precarious, winding, narrow road towards the lighthouse at Nugget Point.
We walked along a continuation of this track right up to the lighthouse itself. Good old Google Maps thought we were still in the car, advising us to do a U-turn whenever possible.
We looked down upon some sealions that were easier to hear and to smell than to see. At the right time of day, we should be able to see penguins, but as they’re much smaller than sealions, we knew that would be much more of a challenge.
The Nuggets are a group of rocks just offshore which I overheard some locals describe as a wonderful climbing challenge.
Purakaunui Falls is (are?) a ten minute walk from the car park. By the time we arrived, P&A had been so they set off for the next destination. Liesel and I enjoyed the short walk and in the end, we had a good sight of the falls without other people obstructing the view with their brightly coloured clothes!
The next Airbnb is at Mataura, near Gore. Although we’d wanted to spend some time in The Catlins, we found ourselves beyond, in Southland. It’s in the middle of a large plain, almost totally surrounded by hills, so we wondered whether it’s a large volcanic crater. So, the middle of the plains and we manage to find a b&b up a steep hill. The car is parked on a drive as steep as Klaus and Leslie’s in Anchorage. After supper, Pauline and I walked down the road to the nearest pub, The Falls Hotel. It was grim. We had a drink, but the only two other customers soon left us alone with the tattooed and not very friendly barmaid. Then of course, we had to walk back up the long, long, steep hill to our accommodation! The entertainment on the way back was provided by a couple of young boys with fishing rods, who had captured a baby bird. Pauline advised them to leave it under the bush for its mother to find.
It might be a lepidopterist’s idea of fun but when Liesel was in bed watching a video and I was in bed reading my Kindle, we were dive-bombed by millions of moths. They kept heading for the illuminated screens, bouncing off and hitting us on our arms and faces. Thousands of them. When I turned my screen off, Liesel then wondered where they were all coming from. Hundreds of the things. Trouble is, on the ceiling above my bed, there are several of those glow-in-the-dark stars, which attracted the moths who then bounced off the ceiling, onto my pillow. Dozens of the things. Eventually, we fell asleep and in the morning, we found no corpses in our room but several dead moths in the bath. I’m closing my window tonight.
These nocturnal adventures meant a late rise. But after breakfast, Pauline, Liesel and I went to Dolamore Park, just the other side of Gore, for a very pleasant walk in the bush. Walk? It was definitively a hike!
We’d decided on the Whisky Creek Track but due to inadequacies in the signage department, we missed the start of our walk and walked an extra, unplanned, hilly loop.
When we crossed over the creek, we saw a chicken by the water. That’s very unusual. A chicken but no ducks. From which we can only deduce, the chicken had eaten all the ducks.
It was a good path, not made up, but just cleared enough so you could see where you were going and not keep brushing against the vegetation. The path was steep in places, and I was so pleased that I could just keep going: that breathlessness issue I had last week does seem to have been just an off-day. I did run out of puff a couple of times, but only after a long period of sustained climbing, and it was easy to get my breath back.
There are no bears nor moose to worry about here, but it was reassuring to see this sign: no threat from cyclists nor daleks, either.
The only problem I had while walking was one toenail digging into the toe next door. So I took advantage of a breather to cut off the offending nail. I also cut my fingernails at last, they’ve been too long for too long.
I did one thing today that I don’t think I’ve ever done before, ever. It comes under the heading ‘disgusting bodily functions’ so feel free to ignore the rest of this paragraph. I blew my nose gently, using an inferior tissue. Some of the snot missed, it formed a bubble which floated away and settled on a fern leaf where it popped just as I was getting my camera out. Very proud of my mucous bubble, temporary though it was.
We walked down to see the waterfall: this path was probably well constructed steps at one time, but some of the stones have now shifted. The man carrying both his children was very brave, we thought. The lady waiting at the top with her baby was probably doing the right thing. Her baby gave me a most beautiful smile.
We also accepted the challenge of walking up to Poppelwell’s Lookout. Up and up. This path was even more winding and at places, we had to navigate mud, mud, glorious mud. We stepped over many tree roots too. And then, just as we were nearing the summit, we encounted the most scary looking yellow triffids you could possibly imagine: you don’t want to fall onto one of these maneaters.
Mr (or Ms) Poppelwell must have been delighted to reach this location, just as we were, to see a couple of park benches on which to have a rest.
The view south over the plains was wonderful and as ever, a photograph does it no justice. If only I could paint, but even then, how can one convey the scale, the distance and the majesty of the land before us?
After a snack, we set off back down. And it did feel good to be walking down again, even if some parts were quite precarious.
Pauline slipped on some loose stones and the noise scared some kind of an exotic bird into taking flight. Well, a pigeon*.
*I have been berated by a wife and a sister. It was no ordinary pigeon. It was a wood pigeon, a kereru.
On the way back to the car park, Pauline told us to feel this tree.
Compared with all the others, it does indeed feel cold. What kind of witchcraft is this? How does a tree make itself feel cold to human touch?
Another quick snack back in the car, then a quick coffee in Gore. We arrived just in time: it closed at 5pm. In fact, the last couple of days, we’ve missed out on a lot of coffee because the places have closed really early, 4pm taking things to the limit. And to make things easy, we bought pizzas to take back with us, only to find that Andrew was baking a quiche and a potato dish for us. We tried not to feel too bad.
And in case you didn’t get it…
9+((8+7)*((6!/5)-4-3-2-1)) = 2019. Happy New Year!