Monday, 10 December 2012

Have Camper Van, must Travel, Queenstown to Dunedin, (House of Pain)


 “Let's go see Milford Sound”, I said to Graham as I fried eggs and bacon,
“OK” He agreed, “And then we will back-track down to the southern most tip of the island, Bluff, before heading our way up to Dunedin on the Otago Peninsula for the night.”

Full tummies, and happy that we had chosen the camper-van alternative to travel, we packed up and headed down Route 6 over the Mataura River, which runs through Gore, (known as the “Brown Trout Capital of the World.”) After a coffee and stretching our legs, we drove on to Lumsden, turning right onto Route 94, through Mossburn arriving at the town of Te Anau on the shores of Lake Te Anau over the Downs, to Cascade Creek, through the Homer Tunnel in the Southern Alps and bursting out the exit to the sight of Milford Sound.
Buses from Queenstown and Te Anau were disgorging tourists, some fortunate enough to be including a Red Boat Cruise around the Sound, and after that a scenic plane flight back to Queenstown.
We were perfectly happy to sit in the front of our home on wheels and share a bag of crisps, watching all the busy people brandishing their cameras, and take in what is described as the “Eighth Natural Wonder of the World,” one of the most incredible views we had ever seen in our lives. Water from the Mitre Peak tumbled and crashed down, disrupting the slumbering blue waters below.
“Wow!” We both exclaimed, crunching our salt and vinegar crisps. Unable to verbalise how we felt about the place.

We would have liked to stay the night there, but as we still had so much of the island to see, and limited time in which to do it, we returned the way we had travelled. Driving past Te Anau onto Manapouri, then a connecting road (53) to Clifden, where we viewed the historic suspension bridge, spanning the Waiaiu River which was built in 1899.
Soon we arrived in Tuatapere and connected onto Route 1 which leads through Invercargill and down to Bluff overlooking the Foveaux Strait onto the distant view of the port village of Halfmoon Bay on Stewart Island.

“Time for lunch!”, Graham announced as we pulled up at the southern most point of New Zealand.
I clambered into the back and started preparing tuna sandwiches, while Graham took a stroll.
Taking our sarnies to a nearby rock that looked as if it had two bottom sized dents conveniently carved in its surface, we sat and looked out at the sea.
A dwarf sea-gull ambled up to us and told us off for not sharing our tuna with him, “Cheeky! Go catch your own fish!” I shooed him away.
“Didn't work Babe,” Graham laughed, “he's summoned his mates...”
Obviously well meaning people who travel to that part of the island throw scraps for the persistent little birds, and as we were not sharing ours, they were fed up.
“Ewww, makes me think of Alfred Hitchcock's film “The Birds”, let's leave before we are devoured!”
Graham raised an eyebrow, “No, let's leave before your imagination overtakes both of us...”

Tracking around the outskirts of Invercargill, we travelled on the unsealed connecting road (46) to Fortrose, connecting to road (28) to Tokanui, Papatowai, on through the beautiful Catlins Forest Park to Kaka Point.
“Mmmm, wonder who named this place?” I mused.
“Maybe someone who needed to kaka?” Graham suggested. I gave him a friendly punch on his arm.

Balculutha was our next port of call, where we turned right onto Route1, through the towns of Clarksville, Milton and Waihola, over the Taeri River to the University city of Dunedin on the central-eastern coast of Otago. This is the second largest city in South Island after Christchurch.
It is also called “The House of Pain,” due to Carisbrook Stadium, where rugby, New Zealand's most popular sport is played.

As it was growing dark, we made our way through the city along the twisty road clinging to the Otago Peninsula overlooking Macandrew, Company and Broad Bays, to our over night camp Portobello Village Tourist Park in Herewek Street, Portobello.
The park was close to a spit that had the Dunedin Aquarium perched at the end, so we walked there to have a look around, but as it was late, the place was closed.
Not phased, we turned around and returned to our camper, ready to settle down for the night.
“Beer?”
I heard the clink of bottles and fizz of the cap as Graham opened our evening sun-downer.

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