Sunday, February 2, 2014

Austrian visitors run out of road to travel on . . .

Sunday, February 2, 2014
oldbearnews editor

So,  we pretty much have seen most of the good scenery there is to see, in the bottom half of the South Island at  least. There is still Invercargill and Southland along with the fabled wild Catlins to see and do and then it's on 'the home stretch' - Dunedin - often called 'Dunders" and back to Christchurch.
Well the trip from Te Anau down to Invercargill takes you across different country - yet again - this time no sign of rainforest - rather it is a wind swept country.  Typical NZ - up north in Auckland the Catholics settled, In Wellington the Bureaucrats (also the Methodists)  and in Christchurch - well the Anglicans - being an English City and all and down south - the Presbyterians.  Well the Presbyterians were on to a good thing - mostly ex Scotland - they know a good place to settle down. Funny how it is in some ways similar to Scotland - cold, wet and windswept.  The folks down there still roll their rs! The other not often talked about thing is that the hills north of Invercargill were used to bootleg the moonshine and so there are a number of secretly hidden former whiskey making places.  Hmmmm better not tell the tourists about that. We might get tempted. ^^

A familiar sight - me following what the female bear called her big butt of a car. (her call not mine).  In any case I struggle to be up front and be - urm - nice - so it is easier to follow her tail. No comments required about chasing the gal!! I am already married.  ^^

First stop - the Clifden bridge - a relic from old times and lovingly maintained. One thing often underestimated in New Zealand is the way a river level can go from nice and placid to a raging torrent - in less then one hour!! So this little running water looks fine now - but can be a yellow sea of mud - and so a river crossing in early settler days was always a risky business - so I am sure that the settlers were glad once the bridge was build.
The other surprising thing is that the little green space on the right is a semi official campsite - planted (and possibly maintained) by the local Scouts. I am sure they like camping there and have many fun water activities!!

There is even a official plaque - that spells it all out!!
yes yes - in know - by European standards this is peanuts - but by NZ standards - anything before 1890 is ancient - and raw new! Consider this - an area the size of lets say Western Germany and (prior to European settlers) a grand total of about 10 000 natives living here . . . . . . .  

The backseat driver having fun recording most things - including the reflections on the mirror - hmmmm  guess I have to do a serious car wash when we get home!! 

We went from Sunshine to clouds in a blink of an eye. This particular picture is taken from the rear window - I think!  It would explain the second sun!!

Despite repeated calls that we can stop anywhere anytime - the often used technique is to roll down the window - if that - and snap from a moving car!!!

Who needs a mirror lake when you can have reflections like that???  Lunch was in the great metropolitan area of Riverton. Not much to see there and do - but the local craft shops and the couple of cafes were quit good - really! And still typical NZ - un-affected by the tourism rat race! Staff are genuine Kiwis and happy to engage in a friendly sort of way before they think about selling you things.

HEY - guess what I found on the bottom of NZ - or as we like to think - the beginning of the world.
Wonder what this will turn into??  Whatever it is - it is genuine 100% pure NZ wool . . .  

It had to happen sooner then later - we finally run out of road to travel on.  Bluff - the southern most local village/town in New Zealand. Its claim to fame is that it is the gateway to Stewart Island and a former main harbour for southern NZ and yes it is the last 3 meters of State Highway Nr 1.  From here on in - you either go back up north or start swimming.  Ok there are boats and planes that can take you to nearby Stewart Island - but really from here on in - you only get closer to the south pole - along with its associated climate.  No wonder it is always cold and windy down there.  It is also a favourite stop over for many tourists who like to stand there and ponder the road and the previous journey and where it may take you for the rest of your journey. Speaking of Stewart island - there is ONLY one road of significance on the Island - the rest is more like pathways for various hikes and so forth - and a certain young intrepid Austrian once got lost. . . . .   really - on Stewart island????? hmmmmmm

A panorama shot!!

From there we decided to take them up the 'Bluff Hill' and gave them the option to work on the fitness or scimp on that and use the 70 odd horses to pull you up there.  It is no mean feat to get up there - it is rather steep in some places and - not wanting to be left behind the locals walk/run/cycle up there - regularly.  Mad I say totally mad!!  Still both cars made it up there in first gear - and I was wondering at one stage if we need to get out and push along ^^

The views from up there however are stunning - especially if you have a good sunny day - a rarity down here.  Looking back towards Invercargill (across the bay) with Bluff in the foreground.  Hmmmm where I work I know a lady who was a former 'Miss Bluff' winner.  She has some interesting tales to tell about early life in Bluff.  There is also the Paua- shell house from Fred and Myrtle - sadly that has been bought by a museum and is now in storage!

So - see Ladie - the cars ain't going across there AND we have no time AND we can't go there now - so sorry laddie - you will have to come back another time and - urm - get lost over on the island - amongst the bush and wildlife!!

From there it was back to the great metropolitan city of Invercargill.  It is still small town NZ - unspoiled by the modern things - or at least so you would think.  It has however a first rate student program - free - and a first rate cycling velodrome - and - ok enough of the raspberries!!  People usually skip over Invercargill and if it was not for the Bluff sign post and maybe the Catlins the bottom half from Te Anau to Dunedin would be 'off' the tourist routes!!  Suits me fine, there is lots to see and do.  For instance  did you know the good folks in Invercargill are host to the Tuatara breeding program?? Yes one of the last remaining direct links to Dinosaurs - lives right here!! Admittedly they were a big bigger back then - but hey - they still live!!!  So much for the theory about a meteorite and all animal life becoming extinct!!

I always knew Mamabear had a thing for old fossils - one reason she married me ^^  - because not only am I old and handsome and cute - but I am also a good kisser!! - See there is proof in the pudding.  hihihi - had you there for a moment! Actually this is the adult size of the original Tuatara - the current crop is more about 1-2 foot long. Something about evolution and lack of predators and food chain . . . .

Invercargill is also home - hmmm ok - WAS home for Bert Munro - land speed record holder on an Indian Motorbike - and - he still holds that record for his class!! Such is his fame, eventually they made a movie about his life.  Well worth seeing!! Most of NZ has seen it - it is after all about a kiwi - but you know - we seem to have these people that just see opportunities and achieve a lot - think Ed Hilary (conquered Mt Everest), Rutherford (split the Atom), A J Hacket (bungy jump creator), Bill Hamilton (developed the Jet boat), Richard Pearse (first ever powered flight - yes you read that right!!!), Bruce McLaren (of Formula 1 race fame and created the 'Brand' McLaren), Kate Shepphard (leading suffragist and instrumental in giving NZ women the the Vote - a world first).  There are others of course . . . . . . 

We decided to call it an early day - everyone is getting tiered from the trip and we lovingly shared a cold which made you even more tiered - so we enjoyed sitting in the late afternoon sun and caught up on various matters.
My turn to cook dinner and we had bought some dessert - (which the little bro' just LOVED), and some wine - one bottle from a local grower and one bottle from Romania - our ancestral home.  yummm
Just musing over dinner the next days travel plan AND still enjoying the warm evening sun at 9.30pm!!

Cheers - it has been a long day driving and seeing lots and lots of nice places - so we enjoyed a glass or two . . .
Hmm the Romanian wine  was not bad either . . .

Tomorrow - to Dunedin via a quick blast through the Catlins - and oh dear we have to pick and choose what we want to see/do - as we can't do everything.  Mamabear and myself once spent 4 nights in the Catlins - and still missed things!!

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