The Scenic Route

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Emily and I had a few days to kill before meeting up with some friends in Cromwell for the weekend, so we decided to hire a car. Rent-a-Car hooked us up with a compact white Mazda that we lovingly named Dora the Explorer, or Dee for short. We had absolutely no agenda expect to drive away from the miserable Dunedin weather and see pretty things. We aimlessly drove around the bottom of the South Island, and at some points we even picked a random car and followed it just to see where we would wind up. Creepy? Yes, probably. But keep in mind that New Zealand is a very travel friendly country full of one way in/one way out two lane highways, so you have to actually try to get lost. I think when I look back on my time in New Zealand, our three day adventure will without a doubt be one of the highlights. Writing about it will definitely not serve our trip justice, so I am currently in the process of looking for a website where I can upload all of my 180+ pictures into different online albums. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me at

We kicked our road trip off with a cruise around the Otago Peninsula. It is home to New Zealand’s only castle and colonies of yellow eyed penguins. We saw neither of these things. Instead, we enjoyed fantastic panoramic views of Dunedin. We made our ways back into town where drove up Baldwin Street. If you remember correctly, this is the world’s steepest street. I’m not going to lie, I seriously contemplated how embarrassing it would be if an 18 year old British female driver and a 25 year old American girl passenger would look if we completely bombed the drive up and rolled back down the hill with tourists bordering both sides of the street, but Dee puttered on up to the top like a champ! I thought it was quite an experience making the journey by foot, but conquering the incline in a motor vehicle is much more exhilarating. We even had a German video the whole thing. Maybe we’re YouTube famous overseas.

On our drive North away from Dunedin, we stopped to visit a couple of llamas in a pasture on the side of the road. That was pretty exciting for me. Emily just had to burst my bubble though and tell me she lives next to a llama farm back in England. Lucky chick. We stopped at a cheese factory for free samples. I was only mildly surprised that I did not see mass amounts of cows nearby. The girl working there said that we had found our way into the middle of nowhere, and that the area is so small she has her mail delivered to the next town away. She suggested our next destination, and we drove off the beaten path into a quaint beach town called Karitane.

The next part of the drive is special to me. Highway 85 will forever be significant because it is here where I drove on the left side of the road for the first time in my life. I nervously climbed into the driver’s seat, the seat where I would normally take a snooze during long road trips back home, and got a few quick driving tips from my English driving buddy. After adjusting the mirrors in complete hesitation and letting out an emphatic “Eek!” we were off! Driving on the left side of the road itself didn’t feel so off balanced, it was sitting in the wrong seat driving down the road that felt weird. If cars didn’t pass me, it just felt like I was driving in the fast lane back home. I had to maneuver the gear change with my left hand and the blinker with my right and after driving for 10 years in the opposite manner, that part definitely took some getting use to. I can’t even count how many times I turned on the windscreen wipers instead of signaling my right hand turn. I think Emily really enjoyed that one.

There was a detour that looked promising, so we took it. We found ourselves at Blue Lake in Saint Bathans. The water was so pure and the lake was surrounded by the most unique white cliffs. This was the obvious spot for our picnic, or “Steph Special” as Emily liked to call it. We feasted on room temperature soup out of a can that we shared with one spoon, apples, clearance sale bread, a block of cheese we had to manually break apart and pasta salad that was on the verge of festering from sitting in the car too long. What our meal lacked in satisfaction, the scenery definitely made up for. That was the “special” part of our dinner.

We carried on to Alexandra and walked along the Clutha River. I have seen green water before, or what sometimes looks like dirty bong water back on the coast of Virginia, but this river was a majestic shade of emerald. It was spectacular. Emily asked me how the water got its exotic tint, and she believed me when I told her the water turned green because it was flowing overtop of extremely green grass.

It started to get dark a little after 9 pm when we hit Omarama (pronounced Omair-a-ma, not the way I tried to rhyme it with Homearama) so we decided to call it quits for the day and treat ourselves to a Speight’s at the local pub. We met some of the friendliest locals, and it was a great end to our road trip part one.

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