The New Zealand Diaries: rainy day fun in Otago (19/01/16)

I am sitting in the camper here on a beautiful campside at Trotters Gorge (isn’t that a great name?) just a few kilometres before the Moeraki Bolders just before Oamaru, a wonderful drive despite the rain. Sheep, as always grazing unaffected by the weather, and some beautiful views of forests and of clouds and mist drifting across the top of the mountains sweetened the drive staring through wind-screen wipers on the highest setting.
It is, in fact, raining so hard that there have only been 3 things for me to do since reaching my place of rest for the night:  planning for the little time which I now have left here; maths (!!!!) and writing. You will be pleased to hear that tasks 1 and 2 have been accomplished for the day; and now for task 3 😀
I have avoided talking about the weather because I do not tend to let it bother me that much, but in the last few days I have had to wear a jumper and rain jacket pretty much all the time and have not even had to put on sun-cream (and that is significant in a place like NZ where so far, the tiniest ray of sun has converted me into Rudolph. Again, we have had some episodes of that…..). Given this, the following actions and observations may be significant:
1. I have had the biggest ice-cream ever in Portobello on the Otago Peninsula today.
2. Sea-gulls (hundreds of them by the Albatross Centre at the tip of the Otago Peninsula) are undeterred by wind and rain and scream as loudly in rainy conditions as they do in dry weather. (They also like particularly clean, bright breen cars……..honestly, with all the vehicles around, they all seemed to pick this one car as their “loo with a view”)
3. Owners of old Morris cars ( today is the international motor festival’s “one day one make” day) will drive in their open- top cars and the females wear straw huts regardless of the weather.
To put all of the above into context, I started my day at the Albatross Centre to view the excellent exhibition there on the rare Northern Royal Albatross. I was actually booked on an expensive tour to see them but cancelled it as I knew albatrosses can best be seen in the afternoon and like stronger wind than we had this morning. The kiwis are really good at their exhibitions and document information in such a clear, varied way that it is always a joy to learn. It was also through this exhibition that I learned the exact species of Albatross who flew by our boat on the way back from our Ulva Island bird tour the other day: it was a”shy albatross”, recognisable by the colouring and little droplet of salt on the end of the bird’s beak.
Having admired and taken some pictures of the old cars (the motoring convention really has added such joy to my driving these past 2 days) and laughing at the sea-gulls and pitying the owner of the car, I started my way down to see a Maori marae ( which could only be seen from the outside) and saw a girl walking all by herself in the rain so gave her a lift. This is the first time I picked up a hitch-hiker-I have always been a bit wary of that- but when I saw her I instinctively knew it would be okay. In fact, we had the most wonderful day together: we went for a short walk to one of the inlets (not spectacular but at least a walk before the rain got really bad) and so earned our giant ice-creams.
For the size of ice cream scoops alone, it would be worth moving to NZ: they are about the size of 3 UK scoops and cost NZD4  each (equivalent of a bit more than GBP 2). Andrea, an Austrian social worker, and I could not decide which flavours to go for, so ended up with 2 scoops each….you can imagine how long it took to get through that. Lunch was skipped as a result. We had our feast in the campervan –by the end of our walk, the rain had really become heavy –and spent lots of time chatting about life and NZ, and sharing tips on potential destinations (mainly for Andrea as she has only just started her trip). I dropped her in Dunedin before she headed West and I headed North but I think this will be a life-long friendship. We really did hit it off and it was nice to have some company for the day.
Given the heavy rain, there really was no point doing much else, so I drove up the East coast and am now on this wonderfully basic campsite (compost loo in the woods and nothing else) where all I can hear is birdsong. I plan a little walk early tomorrow morning if the weather is better (which it should be, according to the forecast) and am enjoying the sounds and solitude, though I am also glad that that there is one more set of campers. This time,  learning from the experience at Hokitika Gorge, I parked the car not on grass but on the only bit of tarmac there is and so my only fear is that the river will rise too much so that I cannot get through it on the way to Oamaru tomorrow.  If this blog is posted, it means I did 😀.
My time is slowly drawing to an end and  so I am keeping my itinerary fairly flexible. I would like to see some Maori rock carvings on the way up towards Christchurch and still have to decide between Lake Tekapo in the Mount Cook area, or Akaroa on the peninsula near Christchurch before heading home via Singapore. I think time and the weather will be determining factors in the final decision. For now, I may make another hot drink and then grab that early night I so desperately need.