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.

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