Thursday, 19 January 2012

NZ travelogue: Day Four

The day we left Wanaka for Dunedin marked the mid-point of our holidays in New Zealand's South Island. It was time for the long drive back to Christchurch. There were still lots more to see and do in the next four days though. And we weren't going back through the mountains. No sirree, we are moving down to the coast.

We left Wanaka at about 10 o'clock in the morning, later than I would have preferred. At the outskirts of the town we stopped by the Puzzling World for a good two hours. At first I had some doubts whether this place could hold my interest but I must admit that I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Unfortunately we did not get to the outdoor maze. Time was against us. Dunedin was still some 275 kilometres away and I really didn't relish driving long distance in the dark for another day.

Pretty soon we were heading down the state highway with Lake Dunstan on our left. Then, just as we were about to enter the little suburb of Lowburn, I screeched the car to a halt and turned back. I'd just noticed something by the side of the road and I wasn't going to miss its symbolism. It was this:

A marker by the side of the road to say that we were crossing the 45th Parallel at this very point. The 45th Parallel. The imaginary line that divides the southern hemisphere into two halves. The line passes right through New Zealand and at several points on the South Island, markers and monuments are erected to denote this fact. Gee, we were crossing the 45th Parallel but as usual, my wife wasn't impressed. So what, she had sniffed at me.

Eventually, we reached Cromwell. The town was right in the midst of Otago's orchard and vineyard region. We decided to lunch here at the Mall which was located in the Cromwell town centre. But it was pretty weird that although it was already one o'clock in the afternoon, we hardly met any people out walking or shopping. It was not like there were crowds of people. We wondered how the shops actually survived when there were no business.

It was pretty weird too when we came across this shop at the Mall which sold professional audio equipment.  Well, I guess the manufacturer does have a big presence in New Zealand or else it wouldn't have authorised resellers in small towns such as Cromwell.

This is our final look at the town as we drove off. We had seen the fruit sculpture from afar when we came into the town but didn't really appreciate its immense size until we drove past by it. There's a pear, an apple, an apricot and what I'm told is a nectarine peach. Outside the town centre after crossing the bridge, we stopped at the look-out point which gave us a breath-taking panorama of a sprawling Cromwell. The town wasn't that small after all; it was just that we didn't give ourselves half a chance to explore the place. Right below us was still the Lake Dunstan but at this point, the breadth of the lake had been reduced to that of a wide river. The Clutha River, actually, which had been dammed several kilometres downstream and caused the water to rise. Opposite from us was the old part of Cromwell town.

The journey south from this look-out point was a pleasant drive along a winding road that hugged the narrow arm of Lake Dunstan. At one point we had to halt for several minutes until rock blasting work was completed.  The next stop for us was outside the town of Clyde. From far, we could see the Clyde Dam stretching across the Clutha River/Lake Dunstan. So when I saw that there was something to see here, I turned into a side road which took me right till the edge of the lake. Marvellous site. Clear, pristine water.

Out stop was brief; just enough time for me to wander outside the car and enjoy the scenery around me. What I would give to come here again to enjoy the solitude. By now it was already three o'clock in the afternoon. Maybe just about two hours of reasonable daylight left. And there were still 200 kilometres to go on the road.

Clyde and Alexandra are practically neighbouring towns. Perhaps they can also be considered as a single township, such is their close proximity to one another. Without blinking, we passed through Clyde and ended up in Alexandra. We took a leek at their public toilet then walked briefly along one of the roads before continuing on our way. But after crossing the Half Mile Bridge, we decided to stop at the Frenchman's Point to look at the remains of the stone piers of the original Alexandra Bridge.

There was a final brief stop for us at Roxburgh after which we decided to press ahead to Dunedin without any further delay. By the time we passed by Milton it was already pitch dark. And eventually, we reached the Albatross Inn in Dunedin at about six o'clock.

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