Tag Archives: Dunedin

Trip to the Antipodes series : New Zealand (part II)

7th January 2015 : The Southern Scenic Route – There were several detractors of the ‘Southern Scenic Route’ that starts from the heritage town of Dunedin following the southern coast to Invercargill via the Catlins and continuing west to our final destination – Te Anau. ‘There’s nothing much to see on this route’; ‘it’s a waste of time’; ‘you should rather opt for a 3 hrs non stop drive to Queenstown’ and so on, is what we heard all along.

Truth be told, only because we had driven on the Inland Scenic Route with fabulous views of the Canterbury Plains and the surreal Southern Alps , this part of the journey paled in comparison. But not without a few surprises.

7th Jan /

7th Jan / Southern Scenic Route – After accounting for the places we wanted to stop along this route : Dunedin – Milton – Kaka Point- Nugget Point – Owaka – Purakanui Falls – Papatowai – Curio Bay – Invercargill – Colac Bay – Lake Manapouri – Te Anau, it was clear that we were in for a long drive, about 8 to 10 hours long.

Like Nugget Point, with its solitary lighthouse dominating a jagged peak on the Catlins coast. It feels like a place you may see in your dreams and have a lingering memory of when you wake up. As you climb up the steep headland with a 200 feet drop on the left, the wind howls in your ears, shuffling through your hair and clothes. The brooding grey sky hangs above. And the ocean, somnolent at a distance is broken into indignant froth by the nugget like rocky islets scattered below. Fur seals and sea lions laze on the rocks, undisturbed.

7th Jan / Te Anau -

7th Jan / Southern Scenic Route – The three tiered Purakaunui Falls was tucked in a soft mossy green aura ; Curio Bay showed us three hector dolphins and Invercargill was only good for a cup of coffee and döner kebab. Note the signage near the Llama farm in Manapouri!

It was near the spectacular Lake Manapouri that we stopped by a llama farm and I sketched the one remaining llama that didn’t flee as I approached the barbed wire fencing. At Te Anau, we checked into a refurbished cathedral working as a B&B and after a freezing stroll along the lake, we ended the day in Mother Superior’s room.

January 2015 : Day trip to Milford Sound – If there’s something in this world that holds the power to transform and transcend, it is nature. I’ve felt that numerous times while driving through New Zealand, across varied landscapes but never did I feel it so strongly as I did on that ferry sailing through the fiord, past lush rainforest covered sheer rock faces, rising from the water like giant mythical creatures, their peaks hidden behind a thick veil of mist.

We were on the 2.5 hours Milford Sound nature cruise with Real Journeys that started at 1:30pm.  As per the brochure, a million people visit what Rudyard Kipling called the 8th wonder of the world. The anticipation was high.

As the 2.5 hours MIlford Sound cruise ended, I became a sad, bumbling mush.  called it the Milford Hangover. It was hard for my husband to drag me away to the car. I kept walking back.

8th Jan / MIlford Sound – As the end of the Milford Sound cruise, I became a sad, mumbling mush. I called it the Milford Hangover – a mixture of awe and humility. It was hard for my husband to drag me away because I kept looking back for ‘one last view’. In the evening we checked into Dusky Ridges, a working farm in Te Anau, amid rolling fields, distant mountains and pine trees. Next morning, Win, the kiwi owner let us feed goats, chicken, deer and alpacas!

The deeper we trudged into the fiord, more windy and mystical it became, with the boat bobbing with the waves and spraying water on the deck. We were soaking wet, fighting the howling gale, holding on to the mast, stupefied with the outlandish beauty.  Just as we were sailing back to shore, Mitre Peak dusted itself off the clouds and appeared in full regalia. The captain killed the engine and said, “This isn’t something we see every day. You’re very lucky”. He wasn’t talking about the snow capped peak. A school of dolphins were joyously swimming past the boat, some jumping in the water in perfect arches.

9th January 2015 : Te Anau to Queenstown – The sight of the mighty Remarkables signalled the arrival of Queenstown which was living up to its hype of the adventure capital of New Zealand. A casual stroll through the streets took us past a string of shops retailing bungee jumping, jetboating, rafting, sky diving offers plus a host of another selling appropriate gears for engaging in these high adrenaline sports.

The mighty Remarkables in the evening light had be awestruck for a very long time. While  I was sketching the mountain range, a lady   few hundred metres away from me was perched on a projecting rock and was reciting a verse out loud with conviction and tempo.

9th Jan / Queenstown –  While I was sketching the Remarkables, a lady few hundred metres away from me, perched on a projecting rock, was reciting a verse in English, out loud with intense conviction and in a quick tempo. It was very powerful, especially during that time of the evening. I had goosebumps.

High end hotels, mid range apartments, low range hostels, backpacker joints, all kinds eateries and their purveyors were crammed in every corner of Queensland, strolling, driving, sunbathing, swimming, photographing, souvenir shopping, hiking, clubbing and what not. It was the most touristy spot I’d come across in the entire South Island.

Forty five minutes drive to Glenorchy with spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu against sheer mountains and an electric blue sky, was the perfect antidote to boisterous Queenstown. We spent the evening at Glenorchy Cafe listening to live music in its backyard and watched the sun set behind the mountains.

10th January 2015 : Day Trip to Arrowtown –  Arrowtown looks like a film set for a period drama, too quaint to be real at times. The tree lined 19th century cottages and historic wooden buildings have played their part in the 1850s Gold Rush, and now pull their weight by housing museums, restaurants, real estate agency, cafes, bars and shops selling sheep skin carpets, sweaters, vintage decorative items, souvenirs and so on.

There’s a meditative silence interrupted by bird cries and the constant drone of visitors who are here to collectively travel back in time. To savour this anachronism some more, we have coffee at Postmasters – a historic cottage which was once the home of the postmaster.

10th Jan / Arrowtown - I tried Gold Panning at Dudley Cottage for 10 dollars and got a certificate and vial containing my find!

10th Jan / Arrowtown – I tried Gold Panning at Dudley Cottage for 10 dollars and got a certificate and vial containing my find! ‘Success was guaranteed” though!

On the way back to Queenstown, we stop at Lake Hayes. The 100th annual Lake Hayes agricultural and pastoral show was wrapping up for the day – the horses, sheep were led to the cattle trucks, the organisers resting their legs on chairs, drinking beer, the makeshift structures being dismantled, the dust from the festivities finally settling. From a private nook along the lake we watch the purple sunset. The melancholy of the the last night in New Zealand was fast approaching.

11th January 2015 : Queenstown to Melbourne – Thank God for an extra day in Melbourne, because QVM was fantastic! It was in the deli section where my pulse quickened. Extensive range of cheese, marinated olives, cured sausages, dips, pates dazzled in their marble counters. Bakeries, patisseries, spice shops, wine sellers, chocolatiers, coffee and tea merchants got me absolutely berserk. You can gauge my excitement from the shopping I did there in the short amount of time. Everything got sketched, of course!

Gewürzhaus was my favourite shop in QVM

11th Jan / Melbourne – Gewürzhaus (the top right sketch) was my favourite shop in QVM. I bought a pack of French Lavender salt from them. Also, their salted caramel candy is finger-licking good!

12th January 2015 : Melbourne to Singapore – The last day was spent in revisiting some favourite spots like Cumulus Inc – pigging out on yet another plate of roasted cauliflower and buying more spices from Gewürzhaus. We sealed the trip on a victorian note, sipping ‘snow white’ from dainty white cups in HopeToun Tea Rooms, a 19th century tea parlour in Block Arcade.

IMG_1463

12th Jan / Melbourne – The Two Korean guys who bought our Myki Card were students from Brisbane. They asked me if we were on our honeymoon!

Above is the 49th as well as the last page of my journal that records a fabulous 18 day trip to the Antipodes. Sketching a journey so extensively has been a revelation! Apart from the sense of joy in putting pen to paper everyday and creating something from nothing, it became a practice in self-discipline and mindfulness. When I started the first page, listing the items packed in my backpack, I did not expect it to evolve into what it is now – a tactile treasure trove of memories.

Trip to the Antipodes series : New Zealand (part I)

1st January 2015 : Sydney to Christchurch –  As you can see from my sketch I started the year with a tall glass of promising ‘Green and Lean’ juice at Lumiere Cafe on Bourke Street. Five seconds later, a massive portion of Egg Benedict followed. New Year resolutions be damned.

To work that off we voted for a walk from City Hall to Sydney Opera House and see the iconic building one last time. What seemed like a great idea, gradually lost its appeal as the day became hotter. Most shops were closed and there were understandably few people on the streets after last night’s revelries, making our stroll even less fun. The chilled passion fruit smoothie at Starbucks saved me from passing out before the flight.

Sydney to Christchurch / 1st Jan : Highlight of the day was picking up Charlie from the airport.

Sydney to Christchurch / 1st Jan : Picking up Charlie from Christchurch airport was the only highlight of the day.

And then – Kia Ora New Zealand! We picked up Charlie, our rental car from Christchurch airport around midnight. John Steinbeck may have something to do with my naming our red Toyota Corolla. Charlie’s Odometer Reading showed : 43300Km at the time of pick up. I kept a record of the readings on my sketchbook to gauge how much we drove each day.

2nd January 2015 : Hanging out in Christchurch –  The scars of the 2011 earthquake, were prominent on Christchurch. Vast spaces lay bare in between buildings. We walked past piles of rubble, damaged structures, collapsed, stripped to the core with iron rods sticking out of them. It was heartbreaking especially the plight of the 100 plus years old Christchurch Cathedral. Outside these cordoned off areas containing the wreckage, the story was one of resilience and hope.

The Re:start mall seemed such a beacon. Everything from food, carpets, sweaters, shoes, clothes, souvenirs and kiwi knick knacks were sold from inside of colourful shipping containers! We shared a bench with a family from Wellington and sipped lemonade right in front of a bright red metal box that had become the home for Scorpio books.

Christchurch / 2nd Jan : We had dinner at Indian Sumner, an Indian restaurant at Sumner. After surviving on Egg Benedict, Fish and Chips, sandwiches, wraps and burgers for days, a slice of home felt heavenly.

Christchurch / 2nd Jan : We had dinner at Indian Sumner, an Indian restaurant at Sumner. After surviving on Egg Benedict, Fish and Chips, sandwiches, wraps and burgers for days, a slice of home felt heavenly.

If there’s one place I’d like to return to in Christchurch, it would be the Risingholme garden, inside the Botanical garden. The serenity of nature, the meditative silence and the feeling of being minuscule, inconsequential amid the giant oaks, cedars, beeches and Spanish chestnut will remain special. I flitted from one tree to another, hugging, smelling, caressing their massive trunks, finally settling under the shade of Cedrus Atlantica, from where this sketch was done.

In the evening, Charlie drove us to Sumner – a pretty seaside suburb of Christchurch, about 12 km away. We watched a dramatic sunset and walked on the long beach in the golden light, listening to waves violently crash against the jagged rocks. It was cold, so we huddled up close to each other and held hands. For a little while, the poignant reminders of a brutal calamity writ large upon Christchurch was forgotten.

3rd January 2015 : Onwards to Lake Tekapo  – Black Betty, a stone’s throw from Southwark Apartments, was open for business, post new year. We were among the firsts to show up. The gothic accents were interesting but thankfully not overpowering for detractors. The hot chocolate and blueberry muffins lived up to the great reviews.

But we didn’t want to fill up because our next stop was Lyttelton Farmers Market, in the port town of Lyttelton, about 12 Km away. I was so enamoured with Sue’s marinated olives that we spent an inordinate amount of time at her stall. It was very hard to turn away from the rest of her wares – semi-dried tomatoes, dolmades, marinated artichokes, several kinds of dips and hummus – everything fresh, fragrant, glistening and ready to eat! “I used to own a cafe there (apparently the legendary Volcano Cafe)“, she said pointing to her right. Then added “..but after the earthquake destroyed it, I do this.” Sue has developed the volcano brand of delicatessen food that she sells at various farmers markets.  After she helped me pick out 4 different kinds of olives, I sketched her little set up. She graciously signed her name under it, at my request.

Christchurch to Lake Tekapo / 3rd Jan : We were lucky to be able to experience something as local as a farmer's market at Lyttelton. Meeting the people, chatting with them, hearing their stories and, watching them go about their business trumps any tourist attraction. And sketching is the fastest way to make friends!

Christchurch to Lake Tekapo / 3rd Jan : We were lucky to be able to experience something as local as a farmer’s market at Lyttelton. There were times when I wished I was a local just to be a part of their spirited community. Meeting the residents, chatting with them, hearing their stories and, watching them go about their business trumps any commercial tourist attraction. It felt real and authentic. And sketching seemed like a great way to start conversations and make friends out of strangers!

Walking through the market felt like gatecrashing a private party. ‘How’s your mother doing?’, “You looked great in that bikini the other day”, “Were you out of town?”, “Happy New Year!” were some of the snippets of conversation I heard been exchanged between the bread, mince pie, cheese, sausage, herbs, fruit and vegetable stall owners and their customers.

A band played slow music beside a cafe and the harbour across the street looked beautifully blue. Armed with a gigantic ( about 20cm in diameter) Focaccia bread that took us 5 days to finish, 100 gm each of herb and garlic cheese and my treasured olives, we forged ahead towards our destination.

The first sight of Lake Tekapo had us swooning over its terrific blueness. It was bluer than the bluest blue I had seen. Up at St. John’s Observatory, the air was so clean and transparent that the farthest mountains in the backdrop became visible, forming a soft undulating dark green outline in contrast to the stark and edgy blue foreground. For urban dwellers heavy-handed with photoshop and Instagram filters, this sight would be a revelation.

4th January 2015: Mount Cook bound – The owner of Glacier Rock B&B – our fantastic lodging (the view from the patio alone makes it worth the stay) in Lake Tekapo said to us at breakfast, ” I have a feeling that you’ll have a clear view of Mt. Cook today“. Apparently, it isn’t uncommon for the weather to turn without warning and for us that could mean losing our only chance to view the highest peak of New Zealand. Already the radio was abuzz with the news of the three missing mountaineers attempting to scale Mt Cook after the weather deteriorated. I hoped Mrs. MacLaren was right.

Lake Tekapo - Mount Cook - Omarama / 4th Jan : Peak of the day was dipping my feet in glacial water at the end of Hooker Valley Walk. And the bland under seasoned pea soup I had at Shawtys in Twizel has to be the slump of the day. Yes, it was worse than the 120$ speeding ticket.

Lake Tekapo – Mount Cook – Omarama / 4th Jan : Peak of the day was dipping my feet in glacial water at the end of Hooker Valley Walk. And the bland under seasoned pea soup at Shawtys in Twizel has to be the slump of the day. Yes, it was worse than the 120$ speeding ticket.

After a short stopover at Lake Pukaki, the plan was to drive non stop to Hermitage Hotel, take in the famed view of the mountain from there, then start on the 4hours tiring yet spectacular Hookers Valley Walk that ended at the Hooker glacial lake. But the closer we got to the mountain, more compelled were we to make random roadside stops just to adjust our senses to the beauty unfolding. Unsullied nature at such a grand scale was a lot to take in. It was humbling to stand on that listless road snaking feverishly though a sweeping landscape of massive forbidding mountains surrounding us, rising from the ground like mighty waves.

The day ended at Omarama – the starting point of our ‘gold heritage trail’.

5th January 2015 : A long winded route to Dunedin – There is of course a straightforward and quicker route to Dunedin which we did not take. Relaxing is something we forget to do on holidays. Instead we carved out a day long plan to drive through the preserved goldrush towns of Cromwell, Clyde, Alexandra, St. Bathans, Naseby, Ranfurly, Middlemarch and finally to Dunedin, that claim their origins to the discovery of gold in 1861.

Otago's Gold Heritage Trail/ 5th Jan :  I got myself four souvenirs from this trail - a 'Lavender, Lime and Spice' soap bar from Cromwell, a maori dolphin tail locket made out of bone from Clyde, a tacky fridge magnet from Alexandra, a sticker for my diary from St. Bathans. I cannot bring myself to use the soap. For now it perfumes my study table.

Otago’s Gold Heritage Trail/ 5th Jan : I got myself four souvenirs from this trail and none of them was gold. I picked a ‘Lavender, Lime and Spice’ soap bar from Cromwell, a maori dolphin tail locket made out of bone from Clyde, a tacky fridge magnet from Alexandra and a sticker for my diary from St. Bathans. I cannot bring myself to use the soap. For now it perfumes my study table.

The historic precincts in each of these towns being pedestrian, it’s easy to slip back in time just by walking past the retro architecture. Art galleries, restaurants and cafes are housed in some of these establishments. Some act as museums, some sell handcrafted soaps. But together they exude a cute picture postcard beauty and nostalgic charm that made the detour every bit worthwhile.

6th January 2015 : Touring Dunedin – Except Omarama, where our lodging didn’t turn out as expected, I did a pretty good job in finding unique accommodations on this tour, the creme de la creme being Lisburn House in Dunedin – a stunning 19th century Victorian property turned into B&B that will feed your fantasy of living as a member of 19th century English nobility.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time at the Otago Settlers Museum. Not because it was hot outside and I needed the shelter, but because it was of the best curated museums I had visited – one of those educational establishments that believes in telling a compelling story through its exhibits, encouraging its viewers to join the dots instead of spoon feeding them.

Dunedin / 6th Jan: We woke up in a Victorian dream home, toured a chocolate factory and climbed the world's steepest street, all in one day. Pretty productive, I'd say!

Dunedin / 6th Jan: We woke up in a Victorian dream home, toured a chocolate factory and climbed the world’s steepest street, all in one day. Pretty productive, I’d say!

After romping about the city some more, we drove 70 Km to see an unique geological sight that had intrigued us ever since we saw its pictures. Moeraki Boulders seemed like gigantic concrete cannonballs randomly lying on the beach, some in clusters, some solitary. There were deep cracks all over their surface, like some sort of design. Some boulders were intact, whole – people climbed over them and took pictures, while others lay cracked open like an egg shell, with fragments scattered all over the sand.

At sunset, the tip of the boulders became golden tinged. The waves crashed against their smooth bodies, trying to pull them in, but failing and sliding off the sand around them instead. It was hard to make sense of their existence, but that was a good thing because it’s better to be curious than blasè. Isn’t it why we travel?