New Zealand 2011. Ever South…

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…

My brand new novel, the eco-thriller, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

NZ 2011. Heading South.

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!

My brand new novel, the eco-thriller, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook