22 May 2007
Invercargill, New Zealand
The Odyssey continues, albeit at a very tame pace. I last left you in the thriving metropolis of Twizel and I then traveled to Oamuru, on the southeastern coast of the south island. A beautiful drive past large lakes, beautiful valleys, farms and sweeping vistas. This is one beautiful place.
Oamuru is a nautical town that has ceased to be nautical in the sense that it is no longer a active seaport. But, the townfathers try and project the town as nautical for the almighty tourist dollar. The saving grace to the town today are the two species of penguins that live in the town.
The yellow-eyed penguin is a very shy and elusive bird that has its own sanctuary on a beach fronted by the ocean and backed by a cliff. There are observation points on the cliffs so I joined other birders in the search for a glimpse of these aviary wonders. I did see one from a distance but not close enough to distinguish the yellow-eyes. The real birders had powerful binoculars and equipment and they wear funny hats while doing their thing. Did you ever notice the funny hats that birders wear?
The other bird of note is the blue penguin. They sit by the thousands on piers in the main
Harbor and after sunset they leave the pier for their nests, somewhere on the coast nearby. It is quite a sight to see all of these birds leave in small groups and fly off into the night ski. It is a tourist attraction and the same birders are there with their hats and all!
I found a B & B with I connection! Very unusual as the proprietor is working on a Masters degree online and uses WebCT as the course management system. We had a good time talking shop and that explains why there is Internet service in a B & B. Real nice people, lovely home and a wonderful breakfast in the lounge overlooking the harbor.
The town has some wonderful Victorian buildings and the town is trying to develop tourism, but it is for the birds!. I did have a sensational meal at the local hotel-venison an Guinness in a pot pie. That was the best thing Ive eaten in NZ so far.
From there it was another beautiful drive to Dunedin, billed as Edinburgh of the South.
A bigger town and I stayed in the Southern Cross hotel, which I didnt know was connected to a casino. I dont gamble, but they did have a nice dining room at very reasonable prices. I joined a club to get a gamblers discount on drinks and dinner. Actually, I had a Lamb rack, which was quite good. First one of those after a lot of lamb shanks. Cant say anything good about the town so I wont say anything else!
The next day, I set out on a coastal drive to Invercargill on the southern coast of NZ. Another decaying town, but it is wel known as the home of Burt Munro. If you saw Anthony Hopkins in the Fastest Indian or something like that, you would know he was from Invercargill. The town has opened up a small memorabilia section in the local museum dedicated to Munro who I think is still racing at Bonneville Flats in Utah.
At the Museum, there is a tourist office and I went to inquire as to restaurants in town and ended up planning out the rest of my trip in NZ. The young man was quite helpful and they have a computer system for making reservations that is quite efficient and I have the next seven days planned. More on those plans as they unfold.
The young man suggested a little side trip to the town of Bluff, just south of Invercargill. Another dead town that is the major shipping port in the south of NZ. There is an overlook over the harbor that I drove up to view the 360 degree view. It was so windy up there I couldnt stand up. The weather forecasters were calling for 120 kilometer winds and I could believe it. That was an experience I have never had before save a hurricane wind.
This morning, I was to continue my coastal drive to the town of Te anau and then on to Milford Sound. There I am going to board a boat for an overnight cruise in the fjords of Milford Sound.
This is one beautiful country and the drive is one of those Head shaking experiences cause every twist and turn in the road unfolds still another beautiful vista. Australia is nice and dry, but NZ is GREEN and beautiful. The hills, mountains, valleys, ocean are something to see. Throw in a million sheep and it reminds me (Muriel :of Brora!) of northern Scotland. Just beautiful. In the meantime, I need to board the Milford Mariner for the sail. Journey well until my next posting!
posted Wednesday May 2007