Penguin Place to Waimate

November 6 – Penguin Place to Waimate, New Zealand

Checking e-mail was grand today. With Australia on tomorrow’s itinerary, and the possibility it may be our new home, we’re thinking of our Canadian home and of friends around the globe. So we were thrilled to hear from trekkers in Kelowna, from people I grew to love through my work with Interior Health, from new friends who came into our lives on the cruise.

Hunters Hills Lodge in Waimate
Hunters Hills Lodge in Waimate

We’re in yet another modest but perfectly adequate lodging tonight, our last in New Zealand. This one is the Hunters Hills Lodge, a former nursing home now used as an adult daycare centre. Other than the resident manager, we are the only occupants of a hostel that accommodates 50. Cost for the night? $50 NZ (about $38 CDN)

Sun alternated with rain as we prepared to leave Penguin Place. Distant hills were covered with new snow, a wintry scene not common this time of year.

We packed up and left before the young German fellows who shared the lodge last night were completely awake. Alas, that meant neither they nor Robin noticed that the jacket I put in the car wasn’t ours. It looked like Robin’s when I packed it.

It wasn’t, and we didn’t realize that until we settled into our home for the night in Waimate. I called Penguin Place and asked if the young men had left a forward address. They hadn’t. So if two lovely young backpackers, traveling in a gold car, happen to read this and wonder where Jason’s jacket is…we have it and will ship it wherever you are. We’ve left our e-mail address with Penguin Place. Or contact us via the blog.

Leaving Penguin Place, we drove along the east coast of Otago Peninsula and into Dunedin. I’m not much of a city visitor, unless I have time to settle in and get to know it, and traffic in a strange city makes me nervous – even moreso when it’s coming at me from unexpected, left-side directions. So we did a cursory tour of Dunedin’s centre, with its fine stone buildings, a quick check of e-mail, and then drove north.

Since we have to be in Christchurch around 1 p.m. tomorrow to catch our flight, we decided to spend the night in Waimate. The town itself isn’t much, though it does have some attractive historic buildings. It has the empty-store, too-many-secondhand-shops-on-main-street appearance of a town on a downward spiral.

What it also has is splendid, nearby walking trails. We chose the one that ends at a lookout on the hill where a big white horse lies just below the crest. Made of slabs of stone, it commemorates the Clydesdale, the horse that contributed so much to the development of Waimate.

If we had known how steep the trail was, we would probably have decided to just relax over coffee and a pub dinner. Fortunately, we didn’t. By the time we reached the top, we were feeling inordinately proud of ourselves for having persevered.

Rainbow over Waimate
Rainbow over Waimate

Though we walked through rain and hail on the way up, a rainbow met us at the top. We were also met by the sound of a cat clearing broom, leaving only native trees behind. The driver had more nerve than I have, pushing his machine right to the edge of a cliff before backing up and pushing again.

Broom-clearing caterpillar
Broom-clearing caterpillar

As we neared the car on our descent, sun shone on the Hunters Hills for which our lodging is named. The verdant hills and gently rolling farmland must have been a reminder of home for the Scots who settled there in the mid- to late 1800s.

Hunters Hills
Hunters Hills

Now we’ve had a pub dinner of fish and chips in the Empire Hotel. We’ve picked out clothing for tomorrow’s flight and done a last re-packing. We’ve been traveling since September 15th and have been away from our home country since September 18th. Tomorrow we reach the reason for this whole journey: to see whether Australia will be a great place to visit or our new home.

Like the cruise, New Zealand has been a fantastic experience. What a lovely country!


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