Having collected our beautiful campervan and stocked it with everything we thought we needed, and armed with the helpful map booklet, the list of camp sites [with discount cards] we headed south out of poor, earthquake stricken Christchurch.
First of interest in our guide book were the Moeraki Boulders. These are astonishing. Pefectly spherical boulders lay strewn about along the beach of the Otago Peninsula. They are of varying sizes, some split open but most intact. They make for an engaging sight, looking like an Anthony Gormley sculpture along the sand. As with most of the attractions we were to see in New Zealand it was quiet, with only a couple of other sightseers to share the beach.
We were heading for Dunedin, where we’d be watching an England v Argentina rugby match. Driving was a simple matter- a single lane road that wound south following the railway line, so closely that we were to cross the track dozens of times. Aside from ourselves there were fellow travellers in vans of various sizes and some trucks, but not much else.
When we arrived at the Dunedin Holiday Park, St Kilda we were directed to the annexed, adjoining rugby pitch, sharing with hundreds of fans, the Argentine contingent dressed in their blue and white outfits and wigs, one group a perfectly executed group of Smurfs in pale blue.
Not to be outdone, the English fans assembled their own, often outrageous outfits.
Every match was preceded by carnival-type activities outside the ground-a real party atmosphere, and began with the blowing of a conch shell by a Maori dressed in traditional costume.
This first match was, however marred by the behaviour of some of the Argentine fans, who refused to applaud or acknowledge the arrival of the English team onto the pitch, then afterwards we waited in line for a bus to return to our site and having got to the front of the queue were elbowed off by some. It was upsetting at the time. I suppose a level of resentment and bitterness endures from The Falklands War, and there was no opportunity to tell them how I’d been opposed to it, how I don’t believe England should ‘own’ lands on the other side of the world. We are British=we are culpable. We took a taxi back to the site.
The days were warmish and sunny but the nights were cold-and we were in an area with no electric hook-up. Next day we were keen to see some more of the area and our guide book suggested that the Taieri Gorge Railway was a popular option. Dunedin station is beautiful and elegant and the ochre-yellow train was waiting at the platform.
This was a spectacular train ride up the Taieri Gorge, four hours into hill country with a few stops at railway holts for photos or to stretch legs.
Our second night at Dunedin was one of the coldest we’ve ever had in a van. Without electric hook-up we dared not use up all our gas for heating, and so we piled everything we had on top of the duvet, including towels, coats and all our clothing. Even so, as dawn broke we gave up and packed up to set off for our next stop!
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I love that station.