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New Zealand - The Road Trip (part I)

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 21 May 2013 | Views [577]

It’s all about the view! I discover that I‘m a scenic type traveller. I look back and realise that whenever I arrive somewhere, invariably the first thing I do is look at the view. I love landscapes, natural or even man-made and if I were a photographer, without doubt this is where I would invest my talent. My discovery isn’t particularly remarkable in itself but I think it indicates how you travel. There are destination-focussed travellers who just want to get there as quickly as possible, participation-types who want to get stuck into some activity upon arrival and probably several other categories but I think the general principle could be applied when looking for a suitable travel buddy. My type ideally needs time but even if limited, would rather take longer to get there following a scenic route. With only a little over 3 weeks here, the decision was whether to see as much as possible and absorb the overall picture, or choose a few places and get to know them more intimately. In character then, it is probably fitting that I am doing a whirlwind tour of New Zealand.

Day 1 and I collect the hire car and head south along the S1 route. I will stop short of calling it a motorway although it’s as close as it comes over here. In fact the S1 runs from the very bottom of the South Island all the way up to the top of the North Island. Setting out with my general map – no GPS, no road atlas, it’s a straight and not overly exciting run down to Timaru (pronounced Timarooo). The land is still almost totally flat and I can focus on the drizzle-induced poor driving conditions. Arriving in Timaru, the weather has perceptibly brightened and I get my first glimpse of the sea. Why is that always so exciting? The terrain becomes more undulant and I press on to my first proposed stop (subject to change if it doesn’t grab my attention).

Oamaru, however, does and I pull up next to the tiny harbour. The weather and seagulls put paid to any intention of having my sandwich outside, so end up sitting in the car having lunch, complete with thermos of tea – I always swore I would never do that! The Victorian Center is a quaint collection of warehouses featuring workshops, artisan outlets and a café that serves the best fudge cheesecake I’ve ever had. The good intention was there, but the opportunity was just too good to miss – a traveller’s justification or prerogative? The small steam train puffs out of the village leaving a mushroom of black smoke in its wake. There is more to do here, but I have 400kms to cover today and it gets dark around 5pm.

Moeraki, Shag Point and the reserve land offer the hope of sighting the rare yellow eyed penguins, seals or possibly even dolphins. Luck is not on my side as I faithfully detour via each one but the views alleviate the disappointment.

I arrive in Dunedin (pronounced Duneeeden) just as darkness descends with no idea of where I will stay. I researched a few hostels but whilst street names abound, directional signposts in this town are abysmal. My small map does not enlighten me as to my current whereabouts and the sea inlets make it hard to know which direction you are facing! Eventually and totally by chance, I see a sign for a backpacker’s and am pleased to note it was one I had shortlisted. At this time of year the crowds have thinned out and there is a definite chill in the air as winter approaches. Getting a dorm was no problem, although being stuffed between the laundry room and internet study, it wasn’t very quiet. The room had a bit of a strange smell to it as well but for one night, it would do.

The next thing on my agenda is dinner and I have been longing for a good curry for some time now. Fortunately I am in luck. The Octagon Centre is a ten minute walk away and there is a small Indian restaurant, India Gate. A main lamb dish, a side of saag paneer, peshwari naan and even a mango laasi, I couldn’t have asked for more. As a lone traveller there is nothing worse than being loudly greeted in a restaurant with ‘table for one?’ That says so many things, and none of them positive. However, I had my heart set on this meal and it totally surpassed expectation. Greeting forgiven!

Tags: backpacking, car hire, curry, dunedin, jucy rentals, moeraki, new zealand, oamaru, shag point

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