Slacking around in (Northern) Southland

Dolomore Park Scenic Reserve is a gem. We intended to just spend the night there, but this soon changed. There were walking tracks all over the place, so on Wednesday we decided to spend the day, and do some walking. There was a Whisky Creek Loop Track, which was supposed to take 2 hours and get us back to where we started, with a 45 minute side trip climb to a lookout. It was a lovely warm day and well past midday before we started. And about 5 hours before we finished – but we were in no hurry. There was lots of lovely native bush, and a great view south, and a little waterfall. It was only our second walk after Kurow Hill, so we were happy just to be out and about. We even wandered back into the bush after dark to check out the glow-worms.

Thursday 15th – To Waikaia

We made an effort to get away early(ish) next morning, not that we had far to go. There was talk of coffee at Mandeville. Except when we got there (maybe 20 minutes away) the cafe was closed for what look like major renovations.  Funny time of year to close your cafe, but it was closed.  So it was on to Riversdale, another 15 minutes or so. By now the day was hot and sunny. We went looking for the dump station noted in the books. It was well hidden around the back of the garage, with a few hazards as well. So far, it is easily the worse we have come across. Eventually we got it sorted, and then went for our coffee, with a paper to catch up on a bit of news. We discovered that Riversdale has a great recycling area out the back of the hall. Then we discovered the wonderful butchers shop – just like every town used to have. Riversdale grew on us. We thought they could improve the dump station and encourage more motorhomers to stop. We turned off SH94 there, and headed up the Waikaia Valley to Waikaia, somewhere neither of us had ever been. We went looking for the camping ground and the caretaker, and eventually got ourselves installed in the camping ground. It was a relaxed old-style camping ground, and soon we were relaxed as well. We managed a walk to the pub for a beer in the evening, and that was about it.

Friday 16th – Tramping at Piano Flat

Both of us were wanting to get to Piano Flat, we’d heard of it years ago. It is the upper part of the valley, sort of the end of the road for cars and the start of the native bush.  So we got all our tramping gear out, and sorted out what we’d need to a 4 hour tramp – this one wasn’t really a walk. It was another warm day, although it did threaten rain sometimes. The road up had been used to move a zillion sheep not long before we came along, and we ended up splattering the sides of the car 🙁  With the threat of rain, the sandflies were out in force, so we didn’t take long to sort outselves out once we got to the reserve at Piano Flat. There were signs up warning about ferocious native falcons nesting near the bridge, suggesting bridge users wore a hat, carried something above their heads, or came back another time! They dive bomb heads apparently, and silently. We took our chances, and crossed the bridge, and followed the track up the other riverbank. It was a lovely track, spoiled only by nasty hook grass that attached itself to leg hairs! It certainly wasn’t a walk, it was up and down and around, and we were pleased we’d remembered to bring our tramping poles. The rain held off, and the heat in the bush was quite oppressive for a start. We were pleased to reach the top swing bridge in not much more than the advised 2 hours, and crossed it and had a late lunch. The walk back on the true-left bank was even nicer. We stopped by the river on the way back down, and I even managed a sort of dip in the river.  It was cold, but refreshing! The last part is on the road that goes on over the tops to Roxburgh – for the 4-wheel drivers. We beat the rain back, although only just.

Saturday 17th – at Waikaia

We spent the day recovering from the walk the day before. Showers were promised, and came just after Wyn hung a lot of washing out. So we bunged it in the camp drier and the sun came back out again.  We walked a couple of blocks to the shop, and had a look around the museum as well. It is another gold-mining town – we could go back some time to explore more of it.

Sunday 18th – back to Wingatui

Sunday was colder but the weather was clearing up.  We took ages to pack up, it is lovely to not be in a hurry. We’d enjoyed our three days at Waikaia – without mobile coverage. We stopped in Gore to check out the Art Gallery, and found it wasn’t open until 1pm. So we mooched through their museum, and then got on the internet to sort out somewhere to stay in Wellington. Eventually we had a look at the Art Gallery as well, this is the one with a big Ralph Hotere collection, as well as lots of others including a bunch of Rita Angus pictures. It is well worth the stop.

The traffic was heavy back up SH1, especially by the time we got to Milton. I made a bad decision to stop for fuel, and pulled off at the BP. As I pulled in I saw their sign warning that their roof is only 3.3m clearance, and we’re over 3.5m!  Woops. I’d pulled in far enough to get the car on behind off the street, but then had to figure out how to extricate myself. Wyn had stopped off at the chip shop down the road, but luckily saw my plight, so came to help. I figured the only way out was to take the car off the back and get it out of the way. Except it refused to start, the battery had flattened itself while we were towing it. The people in the BP were helpful, and came out with their car starter thing, except it was flat as well! So she came back with a battery, and we managed to start the car, and remove the A-frame, and get it into a side street. Then we could back Suzi back out into the traffic, which never seemed to end. Eventually we got ourselves sorted out, and got our chips, and got out of Milton. The wind blew us up to Wingatui, and we were pleased to get to the race course for the night.

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