South Island - Part 1

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March 4th 2011
Published: March 4th 2011
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Suzanne here...

Since leaving Christchurch, we've heard about the earthquake which left such devastation and took so many lives. We were stunned to see places we'd visted now reduced to rubble. We're so very sad for all the people caught up in it, and wishing them love.

We picked up our little hire car - a Daihatsu Sirion - from Jucy then headed back to the Riccarton Mall. It seemed to take forever to buy the final stuff we needed for our trip in Christchurch - chairs, table, cooking stuff, food etc. We managed to squeeze it all into the car somehow, By the time we hit the road it was gone 3pm. Our plan had been to drive to Oamaru, but by about 5pm we were still some way away. We really didn't fancy putting up a our new tent for the first time in the dark. In the end we decided to stop at a little site at St Andrews, just outside Timaru. It was nothing fancy but had hot showers and only cost $10 for both of us. It did seem like everyone else on the site actually lived there... still, we had lots of space around us. Put the new tent up easily too, although they hadn't given us enough tent pegs to secure the guy ropes. We figured we didn't really need them though...

It started to rain at about 9.30pm so we decided on an early night. Unfortunately we'd only got one duvet, and we were sleeping on that with a throw over us. It was bloody freezing! Then the wind started up... the next few hours were spent dozing, then waking up as each gust of wind threatened to carry the tent off with us inside. I felt a Wizard or Oz style flight was on the cards as the walls of the tent swung in inches away from my head and then started to lift off the ground. David ran out and pegged down the front guy ropes when the front of the tent nearly collapsed. After that we just had to hope for the best. All I can say is... it was an exciting night. Eventually the wind died down and we got some sleep.

Our first priority the next day was to get some tent pegs and another duvet. That was achieved Oamaru. We had a look around the town then headed on to a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite at Glencoe. There doesn't seem to be much free camping in NZ, but DOC sites are cheap, albeit without facilities. Glencoe was a really nice pretty little site, and we were a lot warmer with the extra duvet. The next day we went to see the famous Moeraki Boulders - huge spherical stones scattered over the Koekohe Beach. In the afteroon we did an hour and a half coastal walk around Sandymount and Lovers Leap (David refused to leap with me), looking down onto the spectacular collapsed sea caves.

The next day we drove to Dunedin. You can only spend so much time without a shower, and in any case, we fancied a night out in Dunedin. There were no DOC sites in walking distance of the town anyway, so we spent a bit more and stayed at the Leith Valley Holiday park. The facilities were really good actually, although with serviced parks you do trade in the space and views. Still, we weren't planning to spend much time at the tent. We went in to Dunedin early, looked around the shops and the decent art gallery. There was free internet access at the library which was good. It's a nice town with lots of students, hence a good bar scene. For dinner we went to Speights Ale House, tasty and massive portions. We then did a mini pub-crawl, something we've not done in a long time. Didn't find any heavy metal or even rock, but still had fun. We decided to stay two nights in Dunedin as we wanted to visit the Otago Peninsular. We were hoping to see seals and penguins. Spotted the seals easily enough but were denied the penguins. Still, it was a beautiful place.

Our next stop was Curio Bay. Not a DOC site but still pretty basic. It was huge and right on the coast with lovely private and grassy little pitches among the flax. It reminded us of Shell Island in Wales, and we wished our friends Marie and James and the rest of the gang we go camping there with each year could join us. It was worth a couple of nights, and we even managed to spot a couple of penguins this time, as well as some more seals. David adopted a seagull with a dodgy leg who he called Limpy and insisted on feeding with cake. We're also keeping out of mischief by trying to do 1/2 hour of Spanish each day, we brought the course book and MP3s with us, in preparation for Central America.

Southwards again, to the next main town, Invercargill. It was nice to have a look around, but there was no real reason to stay. We did pay Invercargill Brewery a visit though. They allowed free tastings, but as I've never worked in a bar I wasn't too handy with the tap and managed to drench the floor with the cider. Very embarrassing. I had to buy some then, it would have been rude not to. So, I got a 2 litre rigger of the cider and David was very happy to pick up a 2 litre rigger of their Pitch Black beer. Then, just for the hell of it, we got 2 litres of the Boysenberry beer too. All in the name of supporting independent breweries of course. So selfless. We then made our way to Riverton. Longwood Holiday Park was another serviced site with good facilities. There isn't a great deal to do in Riverton, but we had our riggers from Invecargill Brewery so were quite happy!

So far New Zealand has been quite pretty, and it's been nice tootling around. Next up is Fiordland though, and thats where the spectacular 'Lord of the Rings' scenery should really begin.

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