Saturday, September 01, 2007

Scooting round the South Island...

We decided we both needed to get away for a bit and decided on a 7-day drive around the lower half of the South Island. The route we had planned took in most of the major places we've been dying to see since arriving - such as Wanaka, Milford Sound, Catlins, Moeraki Boulders.

We put Summer in her usual kennels, the Bunnylodge Dog Hotel (where she bounded in, happy as...). We took the Subaru and decided on using the basic but comfy "Top 10" campsites and became Members to get the generous discounts offered at each site.

The route we took was:

Cromwell-Alexander-Cromwell-Arrowtown-Te Anau-
Milford Sound-Riverton-Invercargill-Bluff-Dunedin-
Port Chalmers-Oamaru-Timaru-Ashburton-Darfield-Waddington

A trip of around 2,000 km's.

Here's a brief summary of our thoughts on the trip and the places we visited.

Geraldine/Fairle - we visit these small towns frequently (the cheese shop in Geraldine is fab!), so on this occasion we drove straight through, keen to get to Wanaka that night.

Tekapo - we stopped here for the usual coffee fix. We've been here a few times before and were a little alarmed at the amount of building go on. Such a change from when we first visited around 3 years ago. Very little infrastructure seems to have accompanied the increase in homes, although there does appear to have been an increase in, errrm, Japanese and Chinese restaurants! The lake wasn't as blue as it usually is - it really does depend on the weather/sky. You want to run up to tourists and say "It's usually stunningly beautiful and turquoise and I'm soooo sorry you can't see it today!"

After a coffee and a rummage through the Icebreaker store we headed off towards Wanaka via Twizel - "City of Trees" hmmm - and (quickly) through Oamarama (less said about that place the better).

After Oamarama we were in new territory, having only flown to Queenstown in the past. Otago was uber-scenic and one can only imagine the colours had it been spring or autumn. (Mental note made to ensure we get to the Wanaka Festival of Colour next year). We were lucky to have the usual clear blue mountain skies and the vistas were immense and changed at every bend in the empty road. Warren, by this point, is ecstatic to be driving round some corners as the Canterbury Plains consist of mainly long and arrow-straight roads.

We arrived in Wanaka late afternoon. Pleasantly surprised by this town which is far larger than we had anticipated. The setting is stunning alongside the lake and it was throbbing with life. Snow-bunnies everywhere, ruddy and aching from a day on Cardrona or Treble Cone. MTV had just held a big snowboard competition and the Mint Chicks were playing so we'd hit it on a very busy weekend. Having said that, it wasn't claustrophobic and the bustle was relaxed and friendly.

Along Lake Wanaka

A night at the Speight's Ale House (where I discovered a penchant for a pint of Porters) left us well-fed (the portions were enormous!), relaxed (read as "pissed") and watching rugby at the bar while asking those nearby "what's that?", "why did he do that?" and "what's a conversion worth?". If it hadn't been for the beer intake I believe we'd have learnt a lot.

Across Lake Wanaka

The Wanaka Top 10 wasn't the best we'd been in. It was a strange time-warp of an experience, back to the 1950's if the furniture was anything to go by. Having said that, it was clean, friendly and in a quiet location not too far (but a car drive) from Wanaka's centre.

We were spending two nights in Wanaka so decided to do something a little different on our full day in the area. We decided to go shooting followed by an often-nauseaous but hilarious visit to Puzzle World. I'll let Warren tell you all about it in another post!

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