Letters from readers
It isn’t home – home is the real Far North where we can be at any number of beautiful beaches within half an hour, but Allan Dick’s article The Grande Tour has opened our eyes to the fact that there is a lot yet to be explored and enjoyed in the Otago region.
Warbirds over Wanaka was on our bucket list, so as this year marked the centenary of the beginning of World War I, my husband and I, together with friends, made the trek south. After flying into Christchurch we stayed at a PSA house in Otematata, a town built to house the construction workers for the nearby Benmore dam. There is a map on the wall of the local pub showing the street names and the names of the people to whom the houses were originally allocated. Otematata’s current population of approximately 200 swells to 10,000 in the summer as tourists head for the fishing, the walking/ cycling opportunities and the chance to escape the ravages of Christchurch.
Warbirds itself was an unforgettable experience beginning with a mock dogfight over beautiful Lake Wanaka on Friday as part of the centenary celebrations.
During that afternoon the crowd was entertained by a skiffle band busking in the street. The musicians appeared to be migrant workers, presumably here to help with the grape harvest and their bass was an empty tea chest with a taut rope leading diagonally from the chest to the top of a tall stick.
Great entertainment. Highlights from the following day included Greg Murphy racing a Lamborghini up the airstrip in competition against a vintage plane flying upside down, local Kurow boy Richie McCaw commentating as his father and others demonstrated aerobatics in a glider and a Lithuanian pilot who threw his plane all over the sky as though it was a paper dart.
We drove more than 2,300km in one week, enjoying visits to Oamaru, where my husband was captivated by the Steampunk museum and the tales and tastes from the whisky outlet (once was Wilsons – a good story there) in the heritage precinct. The Roman Catholic basilica is stunning, particularly on the inside, and the playground on the foreshore which caters for older children as well as the little ones, is a credit to the town. My daughter visited Oamaru a week after we did, and on our recommendation took her 9 and 13 year olds to the park – they had a blast!
We headed west with the intention of visiting Naseby and then St Bathans, home one of the two remaining wooden 2-storey post offices accessible by the public (the other one is in Kaeo and celebrated its centenary in 2012). However upon reaching Ranfurly it became evident that we were running out of daylight, and the weather was closing in so we turned around – towns for another trip now.
On a trip to Duntroon we were lucky enough to be shown through the old blacksmith shop, about to be restored, and see the brands used on animals long gone imprinted on the walls.
There was a 1928-ish Chev truck just sitting outside someone’s house as though it was used every day – perhaps it was.
Our visit to the Clay Cliffs near Omarama was another highlight as we walked around the amazing formations, and we couldn’t believe the acres and acres of wild roses, growing for miles between Otematata and Clyde. They must be a major nuisance for farmers, but looked beautiful when we saw them – covered in rich red hips, and one imagines they were brought to this country by early settlers hoping to recreate a little piece of home. Our next trip will need to be in the spring so that we can see them in flower.
We saw the Elephant Rocks, a number of dams and wineries, a magnificent sunrise over Lake Tekapo, which we were thrilled to see featured on TV1 weather that evening photographed by regular contributor George Empson, and in general had an unforgettably enjoyable trip, but now, having read Allan’s article – we MUST return!! Sheryl Bainbridge Kaeo. ED. Thank you for your beautifully written letter and for supplying the stunning photos.