Life's a beach

Life's a beach
Life's a beach

Dunedin to Omarama – Seals, seafood, hot tubs and liver & bacon brekky

What else can you do on a rainy day in Dunedin
but head for the local brewery?
The rain that had dampened our final morning in Queenstown continued to plague us all the way to Dunedin. Additionally, the wind had picked up and temperatures plummeted by 10c. Given this, it was little wonder that Dunedin failed to charm. Indeed, it appeared so grim that I gave serious thought to simply driving on through. However, the Otago Peninsula and harbour are renowned for spectacular scenery and wildlife so it would have been foolish to pass up this opportunity. As it transpired the weather actually got worse for the only full day we had in the city. This necessitated a hurried trip around Dunedin's Chinese Garden (somewhat dilapidated) and a mercifully indoor tour of the local Speights brewery.

View down Otago Harbour from atop the peninsula.
We had hoped that the weather might have improved for our drive over the Otago Peninsula and the wildlife boat trip down the long harbour inlet and out around Taiaroa Head that afternoon, but this was not to be. The clouds broke for a while to provide some welcome sunshine but the wind picked up even more so the trip was, of course, lumpier and colder than usual. 

A bit of a lump around Taiaroa Head.

Despite this we got to see fur seals, cormorants (amusingly called shags down here), huge Southern Royal albatrosses with 3 metre wingspans and a couple of dolphins; though catching any of this on camera from a boat that rocked wildly proved tricky if not impossible. Fo was green around the gills for some of this boat ride but refused to accept that this was seasickness, stubborn to the last.

Skies improving over Otago Harbour?
By the end of the day we were both chilled and in need of a reviving portion of fish and chips but, once again, Dunedin failed us; both chippies were closed. We settled for cheese on toast, an early night and dreamed of blue skies with warm sunshine. The following morning Dunedin delivered neither so we cut our losses and headed immediately for our next destination, Omarama (emphasis on the second syllable and all of the 'a's are short). Dunedin will not long linger in the memory, neither will the Tourist Court Motel; both had seen better days and neither had been particularly warm.

View across Moeraki Bay to Fleur's Place.

En route to our next destination the cloud cover broke and we were treated to tantalising glimpses of blue as we headed north up the east coast. On the advice of our Dunedin wildlife guide, Bruce, we had aimed for a coastal village called Moeraki and a restaurant with the unassuming name Fleur's Place. This turned out to be a ramshackle boathouse on a small peninsula that had been converted into a restaurant and stuffed with rusty marine artefacts. 

It looked great, but no substance sadly.

Rick Stein had once visited the place and blessed it in his own unique limp-wristed and pretentious way. However, I refused to let this prejudice my attitude to the place, at least until I had eaten there. The location and atmosphere were great; the food failed to deliver, sadly. It wasn't bad, just not great and served with badly undercooked potatoes, Yuk!

Tickle my tummy. One glass of pinot gris and
she's anybody's.

On the way back to the car Fo had another trip and sprawled in the road. She's starting to think that there is something fundamentally wrong with her. I maintain that she has always been accident-prone and that she falls more now because her reflexes have slowed and she is no longer as strong or as flexible as she once was. Thus reassured she took to the nearest playground with relish.

Hardly a sheep rustler. Chilling out, downtown Omarama.
As we drove up country the weather improved, unexpectedly. Moreover, the higher we climbed, the warmer it became. By the time we arrived in Omarama it was hot and we had clear blue skies. The town sits in Mackenzie country, named thus after a roguish sheep rustler of the 19th century, James McKenzie. He is credited with being the first to realise that the remote, high valleys were ideal hideaways in which to stash stolen sheep. As I understand it, he was arrested on several occasions but always managed to avoid conviction on account of technicalities and thus became a local hero.

View from our secluded hot tub. Other images censored.
Omarama itself sits astride a T-junction in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, much like the rest of New Zealand's south island really. By and large it's a quiet place with a couple of pubs, a few shops, a scattering of motels and a small, but busy airport that caters for those keen on gliding (great thermals apparently). The other thing is it has is hot tubs. There's something wonderfully decadent about soaking naked in a large wooden tub in the middle of the Kiwi bush. We compounded the decadence by having a full body massage as well. It was a sublime way to spend a couple of hours, so much so that Fo returned the following day for another massage (it aided recovery from the fall apparently). Hmmmm.

I may never eat again after this liver and bacon extravaganza.

I'd like to say that we did something more meaningful that simply pamper ourselves in the 2 days we were in Omarama, but I can't. Indeed, as we drove out on our final day it was all I could do to resist the urge to turn around and check-in to the motel again for more of the same. That and the fact that I didn’t think my digestive system could survive another breakfast at the Wrinkly Ram.

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