Day 214-216: Christchurch to Dunedin, New Zealand

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August 30th 2009
Published: September 1st 2009
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Christchurch to Dunedin

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 Video Playlist:

1: Billy bullies Ferdi 38 secs

Friday, August 28th

Last night we had turned off the alarm, so we woke late to another warm, sunny, but windy day in the flat part of the south island. We walked around in our long sleeve T-shirts all day. We thought the south island would be much colder. This is like spring in Pretoria!

Check-out time was only at 1pm so we went for a walk along the wetlands close to the beach. The Kiwis have covered their country with pretty and well maintained walkways. It's great!

Back at the van we packed and drove into the city. Our first stop was for a few more supplies and our second was Cathedral Square. We found parking and walked to the nearest tram stop. These historic trams operate around the center of the city and the conductor tells you about the historic buildings and other things along the route. The tram pass is valid for two days and you can hop on and off at the various stops. The ride lasted about 20mins and we got to see some nice old buildings.

Back in the van we set our sights on Peel Forest, a campsite about 140km from Christchurch. The drive was a constant battle against the wind. The only reprieve was when we'd pass one of the many hedges that cover the island. These are huge and thick and quite pretty and we couldn't help saying "Oh great and powerful Steve!" whenever we saw one (for those who don't get it, do yourself a favour and watch the movie "Over the Hedge"). Once past the hedge the wind would try to push the van off the road once more and the battle would resume.

We made it to Peel Forest only to find the campsite "Closed until September". We weighed our options and chose a camp in Geraldine because it was almost dark and that was our closest option. Half an hour later we pulled into camp and, once settled in, went about our nightly routine of dinner and showers. No movie for us tonight, only blogging.

Today's highlights:
1. Tram ride.

Impressions of NZ:
The flatness of this part of the island is a little boring, but it does have some nice views of the far-off Alps.

Saturday, August 29th

Another gorgeous day dawned on us, this time minus the wind (Yippee!). We guess the windless-ness is due to the fact that this part of the island is more hilly. We made pancakes for breakfast then hit the road. We were off to Kelcey's Bush Farmyard Holiday Park near Waimate. Our reason for going was to see their rare Golden Possum.

We arrived just before noon and were met by Joy, the friendly owner, who took us on a short tour. First on the list were a couple of turtles. Then we met Jenny, a young Wallaby. They raised her from very young and she's cute as a button. After Jenny we met the Golden Possum (we forgot her name). She was sooo cute, with her little paws and her bugged-out eyes! Apparently they are so rare that in Australia (where possums are protected) they are taken to the zoo whenever one is found in the wild. She got a little anxious because by nature they are nocturnal, so we left her alone. Joy left us to visit the rest of the animals on our own and first on the list was a donkey named Amber. Second we met Gobbo, a fat lazy pig. Then we met Jed, a raindeer. It was our first time touching one of these curious animals.

After Jed we met Billy, a boisterous goat who climbed into our hearts in no time. From the moment we met him it was obvious that he wanted to play (meaning butt heads of course). He's quite intelligent. He gauges how strong you are and plays according to your strength (meaning he cut Talita some slack and was rather rough with Ferdi). We had a ton of fun pushing each other around. He'd wag his tail just like a dog when he got excited and rear up on his hind legs like he was gonna head-butt us right off our feet.

Across from Billy's camp we saw a couple of Llamas, then met a young calf that sucked on Ferdi's thumb like there was no tomorrow. Then we met a few turkeys, one male and three females. There was also a duck that apparently thought he's a turkey too. He would bite and chase the male turkey whenever that guy tried to show off for the females. The females recognized the duck for what he is and would defend their man by pecking the bossy duck in the face. This went on and on for as long as we were there. A couple times we looked around and Billy would be looking at us, giving us the "come hither" look.

We moved on and met Sally the pony, but then gave in and went back to play with Billy some more. After a few minutes we were hot and sweating, so with a few pushes and shoves we said goodbye to Billy. What an awesome creature!

We so wished we could spend the night here, but unfortunately we had some miles to go before the end of our day. We said goodbye to the farm with a silent promise to return one day and spend some time here. The area is gorgeous and the farm offers free nocturnal walks to see the wallabies in their natural environment.

We drove on to the Waitaki River where we had lunch on the river bank. Here we realized that we'd left some of our frozen stuff in the freezer at the camp in Geraldine. It was a 200km round trip to go get it so we just phoned and told them to put the stuff to good use cause we were not gonna drive back there.

We continued south to our intended camp in Oamaru. It was still early when we arrived so we drove down to the Little Blue Penguin Colony. They offer two tours; one is self guided and the other happens at 6pm when you can watch the penguins come in from the ocean. 6pm was far away so we paid for a self guided tour which was a total waste of time, but at least the money goes for a good cause. We drove on to the Yellow Eyed Penguin Colony a few kilometers away. This was much more satisfying even though we only saw one penguin (our first of this species) and three seals.

We didn't feel like staying in Oamaru and we still had some day light left, so kept heading south, making our way to Moeraki. It turned out to be a gem, and we arrived just before the gorgeous sunset over the bay. We found a spot to camp, settled in, and met some people from Chile and an older Australian couple while cooking in the kitchen. We sat chatting to the Aussies for quite a while, and surprisingly rugby never featured as a topic of discussion. That's a first!

Today's highlights:
1. Visiting the Farmyard and seeing the Golden Possum.
2. Playing with Billy.
3. Seeing our first Yellow Eyed Penguin.
4. Arriving in Moeraki.

Impressions of NZ:
We really like Moeraki. It's small and friendly and beautiful.

Sunday, August 30th

We had a nice chill (and chilly) morning with pancakes for breakfast. Later we went for a walk down to he wharf. There's a world famous restaurant there called Fleurs Place. It doesn't look like much from the outside, just an old building with tin sides and a tin roof. As we walked past we saw a cool old schoolbus that was converted into a motorhome. Talita stopped to take a picture and just then the owner came walking up. His name is Midge McCleary, he's a traveling musician, and this bus is his home. We got talking and Midge invited us in for a look-see. Inside is a coal stove, a couch, a kitchen, bedroom and shower (Midge is still working on the toilet). He'd bought the bus and converted it himself. It's great! We definitely want to do the same one day.

Midge writes and performs his own music and says he's been making his living this way for the past six years. Before we knew it his guitar was out and between the chatting he taught Ferdi some jazz and blues riffs. It's amazing how comfortable one gets when in the presence of a kindred spirit. We were totally inspired by his life and his music and the freedom he has. If only everybody had the guts to follow their dreams, imagine what a world we'd have!

Midge told us about a South African guy called Bruce Smith. They met while Bruce was hitch-hiking and Midge gave him a ride. Bruce teaches people how to build these amazing log houses in six days using nothing but a chainsaw and the logs. Midge said that some of these houses were just amazing and that Bruce was somewhere in the north of the South Island. We decided to try and find Bruce, see if he could teach us a few tricks. The idea of building our own log cabin really appeals to us!

Midge was going to perform at Fleurs during lunch and we decided to go watch. We ended up having lunch while we enjoyed Midge's eclectic, funky, bluesy, jazzy sound. Ferdi had seafood chowder and Talita had the best Butternut and Cumin soup ever. To swallow it all down we had a dark honey ale. We wanted to support Midge so we bought two of his CDs. We still had a ways to go so we said a fond farewell to Mr. Midge McCleary. We truly hope to run into him again one day. You just can't help liking the guy.

With happy hearts we set off for the Moeraki boulders. These are curious round boulders that lie on the beach a few kilometers north of town. They are concretions and their creation process is similar to that of a pearl. We wore our new boots for the first time and Ferdi got his wet inside when he climbed one of the boulders in the ocean. A biggish wave broke against the boulder he was standing on and splashed into the top of his boots. Bummer…

When we were tired of looking at the boulders we set of for Long Beach, a small community to the north-east of Dunedin. Midge had recommended it and we decided to give proper free camping a go. It was a long and twisty road past green hills dotted with sheep, stacked-rock fences and, in two cases, what looked like wild pigskins draped over a wire fence.

We arrived in Long Beach and went for a walk on the "long beach". This area is very popular amongst rock-climbers and we could see the chalky evidence of their routes up the cliffs. At the north end of the beach we came across a couple of small caves and one big one. Here Talita saw our first wild possum.

Back at the van we found a sheltered parking spot and enjoyed a couple of beers. Camping out in the rough we felt very naughty, a little like gypsy invaders in the quiet Long Beach community. We expected to be chased off at any moment (maybe by a posse of torch holding, pitchfork wielding locals).

We cooked a tasty curry dinner in the van, then settled in for a spot of reading (using our headlamps) before the sound of the surf and the wind through the trees carried us off to dreamland.

Today's highlights:
1. Meeting Midge.
2. Learning
One day we'll have to upgradeOne day we'll have to upgradeOne day we'll have to upgrade

Very nice house at Moeraki
to play a bit off Jazz and Blues.
3. Great lunch, ale and music.

Thought for the day:
It's funny how things are connected and how great things can come from disappointing or bad experiences. Take for example our visit to the Little Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru. We were disappointed by the visit, but in the gift shop we saw pictures of the Moeraki Boulders which put Moeraki on our radar. So, if we didn't visit the colony we would never have known about or visited Moeraki. We would never have met the Aussie couple who told us about Fleurs, and we would never have met Midge, who inspired us, taught us some new guitar styles, told us about Bruce the log builder and encouraged us to camp at Long Beach. Life sure is funny sometimes.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Midge McCleary live at FleursMidge McCleary live at Fleurs
Midge McCleary live at Fleurs

What a talented and nice man!
A broken boulderA broken boulder
A broken boulder

It was like that when we got there!

3rd September 2009

og great and powerful steve
"Oh great and powerful steve"...classic. My friends, you are inspiring me daily to take an adventure. Sure, i have had a few in my time, and the readjusting to urban life after 4 months away is tough, BUT, there is alsways the calling to do it again. Now that i have a girlfirend, i want to do these things with her. Thank for being role models...eight! Happy travels. Oh Ferdi, you look ten years younger chap. Its amazing what fresh air can do for you!!!
29th September 2010

hey guys have just read your blog, takes time to get to these things sometimes. I hope you are both smiling where ever you may be and making the best of life. love your energy. Take care friends midge

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