Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blackmount, NZ: Southern Hospitality

Invercargill was not a city we planned to visit, but my snapped shifter cable changed the itinerary. We arrived late Saturday, and the bike shop not open until Monday, we occupied ourselves by blowing our wad at the local farmer's market and visiting the amazing Queen's Park.  First thing Monday morning, we were in the bike shop.  Within five minutes my bike was up on the rack and complimentary cappuccino was brewing -- $22  and a half hour later we were on our way.  By this time I also had not a twinge of shin muscle pain, so it looked like both bike and body were cured.  The next day we were on the road early in the morning, taking the Southern Scenic Route towards Te Anau.

Things are finally going our way!
Despite the formal designation, the route in this part of the country is rural and remote, and greatly reminded us of our time on the West Coast.  Campgrounds were a bit widespread, and we figured we might be able to find a place to free camp along the way.  Just as we made a late afternoon stop at the park in Orepuki for a restroom break and to fill our water bottles, it began to drip.  Drips turned to rain, and we ducked into the bus shelter across the street to wait it out.  Minutes turned to hours, and the rain did not stop.  Since only two cars passed in the last five hours, and it was a rather spacious bus shelter -- it seemed like half the size of our place at home -- we decided to go ahead and cook dinner.  The rain continued, the wind howled, the sun set, and no more cars passed,  So we just went ahead and set up the tent inside the shelter to spend the night.

Shelter and seating -- what more could you ask for?

Weather kept happening into the night.

The next morning we went out to fabled Gemstone Beach -- no gems, just horrendous winds blowing foam across the sand.
It took is an two hours to go 10 kilometers the next morning, as winds from the passing storm front was directly into our faces.  But as morning turned to afternoon, we turned inland so the headwind was now a tailwind.

Most of the sheep we see now have been freshly sheared, with the linear traces of the shearing blade evident.
Again, with no campground nearby at the end of the day, we planned to duck into the forest for the night.  But a big black cloud formed to the east, and another to the west, and both approached fast and coalesced before we could outrun it.  So public facilities once again came to our rescue.  We pulled under an awning in a schoolyard.  A local gentleman came by, walking his dog.  We asked, could we camp in the schoolyard?  No, that is not allowed, but if you wait a minute I will go get the key to the community center next door -- you can stay there.  The rain has started, and it won't stop soon.  So just like that, we had a cavernous hall with a kitchen, hot water, and a heater to ourselves for the night.

The trust and kindness of strangers are amazing.

We spent the night at the foot of the stage on a beautiful polished wood floor.

The clouds broke up just before bedtime, painting the pastures in the distance with light.
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