Basically, I have just had a wonderful holiday between the end of my summer job and the start of my Masters. Very much needed, very much appreciated, and it almost didn't happen due to money issues. Thank goodness and my father, it did happen! My friend Katie and I managed to cram a heck of a lot into five nights, and here are the first two: Central Otago. In the middle of the south of the South Island, this is the area that is generally the hottest place in New Zealand in summer and the coldest in winter. Luckily for us, it was cloudy most of the time we were there and didn't get the hellish heat they had a few days before, up to 40 degrees celsius (or about 105 fahrenheit).
My sister happens to own a section in Oturehua, a tiny little place in Central Otago with a pub, a store, and not much else, and on this section sits their caravan. We stayed in the caravan for two nights, and explored this part of NZ.
One of the cool things about Central is the history. This is where gold was discovered in the nineteenth century, and miners flocked from around the world to make their fortunes. So wherever you go, you can easily come across ruined huts like the one above, standing on the side of the road and looking very picturesque. We wanted to go to a place called Bendigo which is full of them, but didn't have the time, unfortunately.
This is sweet little St Bathans, which overlooks a striking Blue Lake with white cliffs that were created by miners sluicing it. The little town itself is full of old character buildings, and if it is a little gimmicky/touristy I can't say I minded.
On our second day in Central, we biked part of the Otago Central Rail Trail, from Auripo Station to Omakau. That was about 17km of a 150km bike track which is becoming more and more of a must-do for tourists and also Kiwis, and definitely my highlight of the area. My favourite part was around the Poolburn Viaduct, where you cross a scary, clattering, tall bridge, and then bike through a few old rail tunnels. As you can see in the photo above, it's striking, rocky scenery, and a lot of fun.
After getting to Omakau, we had lunch, and then Katie, who is basically an ironman, sped all the way back to Auripo, while I explored the pretty little cemetery nearby.
Later that afternoon, we drove up to see the Poolburn Reservoir. For some reason I've wanted to see this for a while - it's a Lord of the Rings location, if you remember the village of Rohan, which the Orcs attack in The Two Towers, and a mother sends her two kids away on a horse to escape to Edoras. The drive up there (below) along a gravel road was amazing - rock formations rising up everywhere; angry, atmospheric looking clouds.
Poolburn Reservoir was rather nice itself, although it was a murky day, with its cute little cottages nestled among the rocks (below), but we had a rather strange experience there. I have never felt more like a city girl. Or maybe like a cast member of Lord of the Flies.
We wandered out of the car and away down to the waterfront, where we vaguely noticed a dad playing with his two kids. However, when we got closer, we realised they were having a mudfight, and the dad actually started egging his kids on to throw mud at us! "They look too clean; go on, go throw mud at them." The kids ran over, little monsters, and with looks of evil glee on their faces shouted in sing-song voices "Let's get them!!" while their dad split his sides laughing in the background.
Of course, we ended up speechless, with great lumps of mud stuck to us. I think the dad told us to lighten up but I have to say I think we took it pretty lightly, just walking away instead of telling him what we thought of his parenting skills. We went for a desultory walk around some of the reservoir, muttering about inbred hicks, a term I never thought I would use on someone but which had become utterly appropriate. What a bizarre experience.
Luckily the beautiful drive back to the main road calmed us down, and we went into Ranfurly, a small town, paid to have showers at the local motor camp, and got ourselves dinner at the tavern. By now it has become one of those weird experiences it's sort of fun to talk about but I would love to see how those kids turn out one day.
The next morning it was time to leave Central Otago, and it was on a happy note that we left - Central is a legendary place for stone fruit and cherries, and on the way out, we stopped in Cromwell, and picked up bags of ripe, juicy apricots and nectarines, which truly must be the food of the gods. I only wish we had bought more, we must have consumed them in about three hours flat.
Onwards to Fiordland and Milford Sound - but that's for tomorrow's blog post.