We’ve had a couple of days of mainly travelling, something like 300km and are now on the very south of the South Island in Invercargill, at the gateway to Stuart Island, New Zealand’s third Island.
On the way we’ve passed by some really good and some pretty boring scenery, so it’s been a mixed couple of days. On leaving Wanaka we passed through the Cardrona valley, which was pleasant enough, and then through the Kawarau Gorge, which has the original bungy jumping site, off the historic Kawarau bridge.
This bridge, built in 1880 was the first crossing over the river and became the site of the first bungy jump in the world in 1988. Today the bridge has been by-passed by a much more up-to-date bridge, but it’s still possible to walk across it to access, what is now a walking trail, on the way watching the worried queue of waiting victims and look over the edge at the furious flowing river a long way below.
|Close up showing the bouncing person|
Victims have a harness strapped round their ankles, a large bungy cord is clipped into it using a karabiner, they stand on the very edge and, in full view of everyone standing on a viewing platform nearby, jump off towards the foaming river below! They bounce three or four times before being lowered, inelegantly, into a raft bouncing up and down in the river below. Apparently it’s possible to have the cord extended so you can dunk your head into the water on the first drop! All that for NZ$185. I didn’t want a go, but I felt Jackie could be tempted, so I tried to encourage her, but she declined. (It all seemed too ‘conveyor belt’ and there are other far more exciting things to spend our money on!)
We continued onto Cromwell and into ‘gold country’, the whole area being the scene of a gold rush in the mid nineteenth century, now sleepy towns seemingly locked into the past. Cromwell is not even the original town, it disappeared under water when the Clyde dam was built in the 1980’s, but some of the original buildings were dismantled piece by piece and reconstructed on the bank of the new lake Dunstan. We went into one, an old sweetshop, and it was just like I remembered when I was a child – bottles of sweets on shelves. I asked the shop assistant if she had the small paper bags they used to serve them in and she did! I told her I’d buy my favourite sweets if she would put them in the bag and then twirl it closed by holding the two top corners. She did – fantastic! The ‘jazzies’ or chocolate buttons covered with ‘hundreds and thousands’ tasted just like I remembered.
|The Clyde Dam|
We went on past the goldfields mining centre, where you can see original huts and equipment, go down original mines and pan for gold yourself, but although stopping for a coffee we decided to keep that until Pauline joins us in February. We ended up at a campsite in Clyde, close to the huge dam that formed Dunstan lake and provides NZ with 5% of its electricity from its 460MW hydro power station. A nice campsite with friendly locals, most of whom seem to live there, all except the butcher from Dunedin we met on holiday camping with his family. He told us he works in the New World shop and to call in and see him when we’re in Dunedin.
Today we drove all the way to Invercargill, stopping at a few places on the way, but the rolling, grassy hills weren’t particularly inspiring, so here we are. It’s now raining and everyone is telling us how unseasonal it has been since Christmas. ‘We should be complaining it’s too hot now’ they say, but last night we were quite chilly and this morning there was a dusting of snow on the high hills!
Jackie has got to know the cats at both camp sites, Jez at Clyde and Mac here at Invercargill, who has already made himself comfy in our van!
|Brian, new haircut and Mac|
Invercargill is a reasonably large town, so we think we might stay here a couple of days to explore. We went to see the Tuatara breeding programme at the museum earlier, these are small dinosaurian reptiles found nowhere else in the world. They look like lizards, but apparently they are not and their lineage is linked directly to the dinosaurs, somehow they survived. Friday at 16.00 is feeding time, so we were there, sadly the Curator is on leave, so the poor little blighters weren’t going to get fed at all! I felt like starting a protest, but decided against it, so we went to get B a haircut instead! 9 times more expensive than his last one in Thailand, but half as expensive as mine, despite the fact that I too went to a barbers!
|One of the many Tuatara at the breeding ground|
We’ve decided not to go over to Stuart Island, mainly as its very expensive, but also because we don’t have sleeping bags to stay overnight (you can only go Kiwi spotting in the dark), so we’re going to head off round the Catlin Coast instead, which apparently is fantastic (and reads very well in the Rough Guide).