October 19th, 2006

full steam ahead

Mountain! Mountain!

From Christchurch to Geraldine to Fairlie and on to lake Tekapo, where we stopped at the Church of the Good Shepherd. The water really is that blue and the view is stunning - the window behind the altar frames it beautifully. There's a regular tidal flow of trippers from the buses surging into the church and away. A short walk away is what can best be described as a memorial to the unknown sheepdog...

The next lake is Pukaki; again an unreal blue and with little wind we saw the alps relected brown and white across the blue. Mount Cook was clear; cloud kep drifting to the next mountain but never making it in front of the two peaks. You have to keep stopping to look at the lake and the mountains as the roasd curves round the lake and towards Mount Cook. At the base of the lake the ground turns slowly grey with streams snaking through it. The peaks all have at least a topping of snow: ice gleams on some of them and the glaciers tumble down in shudders and shelves of turquoise blue ice.

I was tempted by Twizel for the night for the chance to play a version of golf with clubs, oval balls and rugby posts but the guidebook says no-one has yet finished a game in under a day. We picked Omarama to stay because the Clay Cliffs winery cafe sounded nice (it was: delicious prawn crostini, whitebait on not so much fish mash as a mini fish pie, bacon wrapped pork on pumpkin mash, lamb rack with aubergine and a sweet tart tomato confit plus pinot blanc and pinot rose). As we reached the town limits we saw a sign 'Beware of stock'. This was timely as the next thing we saw was a flock of sheep all over the road. Freshly shorn yearlings bob and plunge with feisty energy but the shepherd stayed in his 4WD and the sheepdog did the work, including - at one point - dividing the flock in two and sending them around a car so it could drive away. I can see why they put up statues to them.

Rainbows to Ranfurly

Driving out of Omarama we stopped to take a photo of the eroded pinnacles of the Clay Cliffs. It's a great flat plain circled by brown and green slopes and as we set off there was a sprinkle of rain - and a low lying rainbow clinging to a distant slope.

Then up through the Lindis Pass - great brown sloping mountains humped against the wind where we saw a car carrier full of porsches and a sign commemorating the liberation of red deer erected by the deerstalkers. Amazing what a hat with flaps can do

Down the pass the hills turn green and little by little smooth down and retreat back. The cafe woolshop post office seems to be all of Tarras, home of Shrek and it would be easy to lose a determined sheep round here. And yes, I succumbed to some wool along with the mushrooms, bacon and rhubarb cake

The slopes around lake Dunstan are full of what I think of as Gorn rocks (think Star Trek). Grey green rocks with purple bubbles of heather. The lake is turquoise and white caps, ducks and water. A stop at the fruit shop and cidery for juice and dried cherries. The Clutha is greener, rushing fast to run under the red bridge at Clyde. I remember reading that Nik Kershaw wasn't recording any more because he had doubts about his music; I'd like to say to him that What Do You Think Of It So Far is perfect music for driving up the crest of a hill to see the river and the dam dramatic at your feet and nothing could better it.

Plenty of deer and sheep today: but no more ostriches - yesterday we saw both the mating display and, er, the mating. Mailboxes; we like the beer barrel, the golfer, the tractor and the truck. But the pink elephant will be very hard to beat.

We passed a little distant from Ophir and gazed into Rohan. We slowed down for stock in the road - cows ably herded by a dog and a 4WD- but not quite enough for the speed limit: what with the Billy Bragg version of When Will I See You Again and the clouds racing along over the high Otago roads we sped past a lurking police car and collected (eek!) our first ever speeding ticket :(

On the positive side of the civic responsibilty sheet, I decided the other day that I so dislike trash in scenic places that I'm going to start picking it up. When we stop somewhere I look around for a tin or bottle or paper bag to take away: we found milk, beer and tequila bottles today.

If we all took one piece of trash from everywhere things would be a lot cleaner. We used to have mainframe trash: one big midden. Client server trash: dustbins and garbage trucks. Think of this as open source trash collection: many eyeballs picking it up because they're interested. Pass it on!

Dunedin City begins out in what I call the back of beyond, high in the hills where the pools are inky blue and the wind pulls and pushes when you stop for a photo. The cycle rail trail goes over trestles and into tunnels: the Taieri here is flat and gorgeous without the gorge. There's a fence hung with hundreds of pairs of shoes. And Middlemarch - set in a desolate moonscape - has a stranded submarine!