We’d left the Dunedin rugby pitch in the early morning, following a cold, cold night during which we’d barely slept, and continued our route southwards, this time towards Invercargill. Along the single lane road we would drive through villages and small towns, striking in their rural, agricultural ethos, with strong references to local industry. Most place names were qualified with ‘famous for…’, adding such produce as peppers or apples, and sometimes an extra-large facsimile of a fruit or vegetable adorned a roundabout or a roadside hoarding.
The architecture charmed me in that pavements and sidewalks alongside parades of shops were shaded by overhanging canopies reminiscent of the wild west. Once we’d visited a ‘dairy’ which could be located in every town or village, we never looked back as there were t delicious arrays of cakes, bakes and scones, ruinous for the waistline but scrumptious for lunches. My most overriding feeling during that trip south was that I’d been transported back to my childhood into a gentle reconstruction of the 1950s.
One place we loved was Oamaru, where even the wildlife seemed delighted to welcome us. There were various contraptions in Oamaru’s streets, including a ‘steampunk’ machine that wheezed and blew steam. With all the RWC international visitors, campsites were busy but the sites were clean and comfortable, often with underfloor-heated showers and a variety of accommodation, including simple rooms and an option to share use of a well equipped kitchen. This made for sociable travel as well as convenience. We were often to meet like travellers along the road to the next rugby match or at a site.
We were able to find quiet spots to park up and have lunch-often by a secluded beach. Once we ventured out for a post lunch stroll on the sand, only to be confronted by a beligerent sea lion which reared up in a growling, menacing stance between ouselves and the waves. Husband, in a bid to draw him off, dashed into the water then became cut off by the animal, who’d pursued him. At last the sea lion seemed satisfied that he’d terrified us into submission and loped away.
We reached the Catlins Coast and had our first views of penguins- yellow-eyed penguins along the beach.The coastline had begun to be rugged, waves crashing and foaming on to rocks and at times, a fierce wind. Inland, paths through rainforests held magnificent displays of tree ferns and vegetation dripping with moss and lichen as well as tumbling waterfalls. All was pristine. But this was not a trip for sun worshippers. The weather was cold and often wet, although it never once dampened our spirits.
We reached the southernmost point of mainland New Zealand, Slope Point, where all was bent before the fierce wind. This is the furthest south I have been on this planet.
At Invercargill we stayed at the racetrack and were treated to a view of a trotting cart as we woke up and readied ourselves for the next match. Later, down in the town the pubs and bars were full of kilted Scotsmen, then a thrilling parade of pipers through the streets.What could top this? We were to move on to what became, for me, the most memorable part of the entire trip…
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