Well, it’s happened again. I have fallen behind. Doh! But my excuse is that we are distracted and excited about heading back to the States to see some friends and family. I also forgot to download a bunch of pics from my camera and now it is in New Zealand and I am not.
It was a really nice day, so we decided to drive westward to Lake Benmore where there were a couple of hikes. I wanted to get a sense for what that area was like as it was starting to get into much more alpine terrain and was only an hour and half out of Oamaru. We parked at the Benmore Peninsula Loop track trailhead and headed out. It is a shortish hike and is also right where the Alps2Ocean passes by, but the reviews said it had great views. The Alps2Ocean section looks like an amazing stretch of that trail and I will definitely have to come back and ride it! The first part of the hike is just OK because you are staring at the big dam.
After that, and with a bit of climbing, the views get amazing. You can see Mt. Aoraki off in the distance towering over the rest of the Southern Alps. Overall it is a nice trail, but I would hike it up and back rather than as a loop since you spend a lot of time staring at the not-so-exciting dam on the second part of the loop. We decided to drive back home the scenic way and stopped off to look at the whale fossil near Elephant Rocks.
The whale fossil was from a 26 million year old whale related to a Baleen whale. It was kind of cool. The plexiglass protector they had on it was very weathered, so it was tough to photograph. The little canyon it was in was super cool with all the weathered limestone. Evidently they used it for a scene in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Narnia movie. It looked otherworldly.
It was our last night in Oamaru, so we decided to go out to dinner. I had seen a place called Restaurant 1861 that looked interesting. It was described as a tapas-style restaurant. Cool. It seemed to be in a weird location in a residential neighborhood, but we thought we would give it a go. It turned out to be in this very cool B&B/Hotel. The building and gardens were beautiful. We stood at the entrance for a while waiting for someone, but nobody was around. Finally we went into the dinning room and made some noise. A woman came out and saw us and then took us to a table in the back of the restaurant in a crappy corner. There was nobody else there. Did we have body odor I wondered? Susanne asked for the table by the window and she seated us there. Sheesh. We ordered 5 small plates. They were all quite good. We were happy to have found another good restaurant in Oamaru. We also ordered some desert which was decent but nothing to write home about. And finally we got a chance to try some Oamaru-made whiskey. It wasn’t too bad! All in all, it was a very nice dinner in a lovely atmosphere.
We said “goodbye” to Bushy Beach and Oamaru and headed to Dunedin where we were going to catch a plane back to the States. Before we left, we walked down to Bushy Beach one more time just to say goodbye to the penguins. We didn’t see any, but we did end up chatting with the dude that was there every morning. Nice guy and he was really into the penguins. He told us there are 6 penguins on this beach. Not many. No wonder we didn’t see that many.
We have been in New Zealand for 5 months and it was feeling a little strange and exciting to be headed back to the States. I think both Susanne and I have really started to feel like New Zealand is our home now. It will be nice when we get an actual home, but the pace of life certainly suits us well.
We have seen a lot of the country already and Otis has logged about 6000 kms in that time. Our brains are fully left-drive now. We have also survived 3 ferry crossings which mostly are just a PITA, but that one time….ugh. I think we both agree that the South Island is where we want to end up. Just haven’t figured out where yet.
Our plan was to drive down to Dunedin and meet Amy and Brandon, the folks we are going to dog sit for when we return, and then catch a plane to Auckland. They had nicely offered to let us park Otis at their house while we were away.
We had seen a few houses for sale in Brighton (a beach town just south of Dunedin) and decided to go look at an open house there and drive around a bit. The coastline is amazing there. The open house turned out to be way down at Taieri Mouth, a good 35 minute drive to a grocery store. It was a nice area, but we decided it was too remote and blew off the open house and headed to our farm stay in Mosgiel. We checked into the farm stay, which was at the end of this road on the edge of town. Carl greeted us and then proceeded to talk our ears off. He was quite the chatter. We finally managed to extract ourselves with just enough time to grab some lunch and then head over to meet Amy and Brandon at their place.
It was over near Tunnel Beach and had an amazing view. They quickly told us that there wasn’t much to go over since they had just bought a new house and would be closing on the 13th of December. Whoa! They showed us pics of the new place and it looked lovely. So we spent about 1/2 hour meeting Emmitt. He is super sweet older dog, total Heinz 57. He reminded us of our first dog Cooper.
Amy gave us a ride back to the farm stay which was nice. It was a gorgeous day, so we risked asking Carl if there was a good place to go for a hike. I say risk, because every time you talked to Carl, a good 15 or 20 minutes would pass before you could extract yourself. I was prepared, so we got a recommendation in under 5. Whew. We did a nice hike up the hill and then came back and sat out on the porch. It had a nice view of sheep pasture and it was quite peaceful. Just what we needed. It was a great way to end the day and prep for our trip. There were a lot of lambs about and every now and then, momma would call out and the little ones would coming running.
I remarked that watching the sheep graze was like watching a fish tank — kiwi style.