South Tripled

We even made it to Slope Point. The most southern point on the South Island. As well as the Niagara Falls (south of the Southern Hemisphere’s version, that is.)

Our apple tree has blossomed – photo taken this morning – Saturday, September 26th, 2020

A busy time for me lately with three trips south (and one more to go yet before I head north, just for a change!)

I love travelling south to Murihiku, but three four! and counting … returns in a row?

Yet, despite what may be described as a bit of a far south overkill, I can report that my relationship with my birthplace province has survived and remains strong.

Seaside daffs at Colac Bay, Murihiku

The first trip south was a quiet trip to commemorate my father’s 100th birthday. Appropriate too for this, my 100th blog post.

As he died at the age of 48, one could be forgiven for thinking that a centenary memorial hardly qualifies.

However, I found it kind of soothing.

To dwell on the fact that 100 years has passed since baby Don McKenzie arrived in Riverton, Southland, and to imagine all the history that has filled in the 100 years following, kind of puts things into perspective for me. It doesn’t hurt to check in on perspectives and how time levels out stuff. Everything is relative. Or. ‘Everything is relative except relatives, and they are absolute.’ Alfred Stieglitz.

Horse, Riverton

There were ‘Dad’ signs everywhere that weekend. Horses I associate with him. And skylarks. Because of its extremely pastoral aspect, Southland has a lot of skylarks and I heard plenty while there.

Look closely and you’ll see me inside this wall hanging placed outside the room where we stayed in Riverton. Sometimes I do feel as fragile as a glass mermaid.
Otautau; St Joseph’s Catholic church

We finished our ‘Dad Weekend’ with a visit to Otautau on a Sunday morning of an unfortunate grey, to quickly touch base with the church where my father died. Birth place and place of death, separated by 25k’s. If you kept drawing that line on a map to take in birth place and then the two places where he lived; Orepuki (for 43 years) and then Otama Valley (for 5 years) – btw Dad, what is it with the ‘O’ word places? – and back down to Otautau where he died, it would form a kind of rough diamond shape. I think he’d rather enjoy being called a bit of a rough diamond. It fits with how much he hated towns and sophisticated life styles.

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Present state of Invercargill’s city centre with propped up shop frontages (the belly of the shops having been demolished) and street art on hoardings

The second visit south was to take the Dan Davin Literary Society’s lecture and to give out the awards to the Poetry Competition I helped judge. The very hard working members of the Dan Davin Literary Society look after their visiting speakers well – they are certainly a shining light in Invercargill’s literary crown.

Note the socially distanced audience … we were still in Covid Level Two at that stage. Also a young audience. I would have tailored my talk to the young audience if I’d known there would be so many there. I think my talk on history and childhood memories of Southland, may have been a tad boring and perhaps hard for them to connect with. In saying that, it was pleasing to have some of the audience come up to me and tell me how much they identified. So I guess it went down okay. (I’m still trying to convince myself.)

Cherry blossom trees help soften Invercargill’s present messy centre – the city centre is in the process of being refurbished after its demolishment; the end result yet to emerge …

Robert and I stayed in Orepuki on the Saturday night, enjoying a very delicious seafood pizza at the Tavern there and meeting up with locals and a cousin, Possum – formerly known as Paul – who is he tells me, Orepuki’s Mayor. (Was he pulling my leg? Maybe, then again, maybe not? The humour that runs in our family has a fairly untrustworthy element.)

Orepuki Fire Station – the view from the Tavern

A local (‘the woman who lives in a shed’ – self-titled) bought my book, Craggan Dhu. Is it true she asked? I said no. It’s fiction. A fictional novel. The town Craggie may bear some striking resemblances to ‘Puki, however, I told her.

We stayed in a place called Orepuki Retreat where we’ve stayed before. Just lovely. In the morning, we had a scrummy brekky at Orepuki Beach Cafe just down the road, and where I gave Brian my poetry book and novel for customers to peruse, with details of how and where to procure for themselves. (See my Poetry Books and Novel pages on this website for more details.)

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The third visit to Southland was just last weekend, in the company of my sister. A sisters’ roadie! We stayed in a very roomy motel unit at Tower Lodge Motel, opposite Invercargill’s Water Tower landmark. When you’re travelling as two singles it’s hard to find a two-roomed motel unit that’s a reasonable cost. This motel offered us that and to our surprise the unit assigned to us was virtually a cottage – very roomy. We loved it .

We also had an enjoyable meal that night at the The Saucy Chefs restaurant. Again, roomy and with comfortable seating. Plenty of elbow room and great meals. Recommend.

We set off from Dunedin to travel to Southland via the Catlins. Breakfast at the Black Swan – a long-established Waihola institution.

Curio Bay petrified forest is worthy to qualify as a wonder of the world I reckon
Curio Bay’s petrified forest

The Catlins is always worth a look-see, with its native forest and coastal aspects mix, plus little corners, bays, waterfalls, caves and nooks and crannies to explore – yet nary a cup of tea or cafe of any description to be found! We were thirsty and very hungry little campers by the time we arrived in Invercargill that evening.

Our guess is that the tourist capacity of the Catlins has dropped since the pandemic and they haven’t quite got back up and running – despite the numbers of travellers we saw on the road looking as thirsty as we were.

Slope Point

We even made it to Slope Point. The most southern point on the South Island.

As well as the Niagara Falls (South of the Southern Hemisphere’s version, that is.)

Niagara Falls – tee hee. (Whitebait site was For Sale).

The next day we did the round trip – from Invers to Riverton, Colac Bay, Cosy Nook, Orepuki, Tuatapere and back to Dunedin via Otautau, Winton, Mataura, Clinton …

Cosy Nook
Gemstone Beach at Orepuki
Believe it or not this used to be the main street of Orepuki when I and my siblings lived there …

Unlike the Catlins, in Western Southland there were plenty of eateries available for us to wet our whistles.

We breakfasted at the Aparima Restaurant and of course the amazing Orepuki Beach Cafe was open, but we decided instead to drop into the Orepuki Tavern again to check on sales of my novel, Craggan Dhu. I have the book available on the counter there. As Orepuki was the major inspiration for this book, it pleases me that it is sitting there on the bar counter. I’m sure Dad would be proud. (Or more likely, a mite mystified.)

Lunch / afternoon tea (a cuppa with a Melting Moment for me and a cheese toastie for sis) in Tuatapere, where my sister (and our five siblings) were born.

From there a pleasant trip nor’east and back home through pleasant countryside and – apart from the occasional milk tanker etc – easy travelling on quiet roads. We saw lots of camper vans. Kiwis ‘seeing the country.’

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Here in Dunedin, we are now at Level One. No need for masks on buses any more. But tracing and care of hand hygiene etc. still necessary.

After every trip south, it was always great to arrive back in Otepoti, Dunedin, my home. East-West, Home’s best.

Soon I head south again for a poetry reading at the Gore Library, copies of my poetry book, Upturned in hand. It will be good to touch base there again.

Good to be, ‘Turning Up’ in Gore. Again.

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