212. Clyde

Where to after Te Anau? Well we have to be back home in 5 days’ time so Asti our wonderful home-garden-cat sitter can take off.  Clyde and our friends Graeme and Barb beckoned. We first met them some years ago in the North Island, travelled with them for a while, spent one memorable New Years’ Eve with them and their daughter near Cambridge, and have kept in touch ever since.

The drive from Te Anau to Clyde took us through some of the changing Otago countryside which I love.


First  through Mossburn then mostly north to the outskirts of Queenstown where we were lucky to get straight across the bridge, still under repairs, with long delays due to one-way traffic. Then east again alongside the Kawerau river to Cromwell and then south-ish again through the Cromwell Gorge to Clyde. Hard to believe that the Kawerau is part of the mighty Dunstan scheme.



The Dam is indeed impressive.



Graeme had told us of a free camp near the Clyde Dam, right beside the water. We were soon set up and ready to explore. The water was very clear and a secluded bay with a little beach was popular with people and dogs alike. We stayed there three nights with very variable weather.



Early one morning I saw a long orderly line approaching: Those little ducklings could move very fast if needed!


0017The first day was overcast with a few drops of rain, yet 35 km or so south Roxburgh had some of the worst floods in living memory! We had a wonderful dinner that evening with our friends at the Post Office in Clyde – highly recommended.


The next day was fine and hot, but thunderstorms in the evening developed into heavy rain and as we’d left a couple of windows half open plus one roof vent, we thought it wise to make tracks back to the caravan soon after a delicious dinner at Graeme and Barb’s. It was our 13th wedding anniversary – one to remember!  Thankfully the caravan was still bone dry.0023



211. Te Anau

We had an invitation to camp on new-found friends’ deer, sheep and cattle property some way out of town, but first we did a quick tour of the Lake itself and had lunch near the small boat harbour which was showing the signs of a lowered Lake level; the entrance channel was very shallow indeed.


Spotted in town; the latest in bicycles, a 5-seater ‘Spider’.


We had thought to do a Nature Tour boat trip up Milford Sound if we could find a place to leave Penny for two nights. The plan was to put Penny in a Kennel, tow the caravan part-way and leave it in a camp before the Homer Tunnel, spend a night there, drive the rest of the way to Milford next day, do a day boat trip and return to the caravan late afternoon/evening and back to Te Anau – and Penny – next morning. There is only one Kennels business in the area, out towards Manapouri, so we took a drive to have a look then phoned them, and booked Penny in for next morning. But on the drive back ‘home’ we realised we didn’t have Penny’s vaccination record book, and without that the kennels would not take her. I thought of finding a dog sitter through ‘Pawshake’ similar to the one who looked after Penny for us when we were last in Australia but it seems there are none in the Manapouri – Te Anau area, rather surprising considering the number of pets travelling in motorhomes. So we decided to leave Milford Sound for another day (we have both been there before) and instead concentrated on a Glow-Worm Cave experience, a 2.25 hour adventure during which time Penny would be happy to stay in the well-ventilated truck. As she did.

To reach the glow- worm cave one takes a 20 minute or so catamaran ferry trip up the Lake. Plenty of time to admire the clouds! 


Once at the Cave, photography is forbidden. One must keep silent, rather difficult I think for several young tourist children who were with our group. The adventure itself involves a short bush walk before entering the caves. The walking platform is very good and there are plenty of handrails, which I appreciated as I have almost no balance in pitch dark! After going up and down and admiring the rushing water everywhere, our group of about 10 embarked on a boat ride in total darkness (and hopefully silence) through wondrous caverns twinkling with millions of glowworms. The tours are so well organised that there must have been about 5 or 6 groups all at various stages of entering or leaving the tunnel and two boats at a time being silently propelled along by the guides holding ropes. Afterwards we were given tea or coffee and treated to a short presentation about the glow-worm lifecycle. 


Our friends’ property was about 25 k out of town, a long drive heading west and then north through wonderful scenery with views of the mountains. We set up  the caravan for a few days, surrounded by sheep and, in the next paddock, deer.





We had views of mountains on one side and a huge stand of trees on the other, and free use of a little house nearby, thus sparing our black water tank!



Not far away was a  public access road to the Upukerora River but when we finally reached it after fighting our way through long grass, it was not particularly imposing.


After a few days, although Te Anau, our friends’ property and indeed the whole region are wonderful, it was time to move on.

210. Manapouri

it wasn’t a very long drive from Clifden Bridge to Manapouri but how the weather changed. We went from overcast, drizzly and chilly to brilliant sunshine as we climbed the range. Round the corner, what a lovely sight – blazing gorse and distant snow-capped mountains. So very NZ.


Downhill we soon came to the Waiau Dam, at first sight not particularly imposing but of very great importance, as the signs show.


On to Manapouri, the most beautiful lake. Low cloud contributed to the moody scene. We stopped to inspect a large turbine and then noticed this sign on a huge rock. Another sign said that the lake level would have been right up to that rock if the full scheme had gone ahead.


 Seen in a local garden – a seal rather far from home! It was sitting in a little pond.


When I first visited Manapouri on the back on Dave’s huge MotoGuzzi all of 17 years ago, we took a boat across Lake Manapouri then a bus to the power station then another boat to Doubtful Sound, and return. Motorbikes can be left behind for the day, but live fox terriers cannot, so we decided to forego nostalgia and go for a coffee instead. We had coffee and the inevitable whitebait pattie – an especially good one – in a converted church. An old organ sat in a corner.


After a quick look round the near-deserted town – all the tourists were out on boats and the carparks were full to bursting – we continued to Te Anau.

209. Colac Bay and Clifden Bridge

We left Invercargill on a lovely but slightly chilly day and headed west, through Riverton to Colac Bay where there is free seashore camping but in a very exposed position, so after taking various photos and admiring the multicoloured beach pebbles, we pressed on.


Colac Bay must have some very artistic residents. The village’s name sign is a surfer in relief …..


….. but the piece de resistance to me was this school bus shelter, thoughtfully turned around to really give shelter from the prevailing wind. The strength of the wind can be judged by a shrub growing in a garden opposite the bus stop. 

0005000600070004Next along the coast was Monkey Island. Actually the shore near the Island, which is rather small! But although the camping area was much more sheltered, it was also very cramped and Dave had quite a time backing and turning the caravan around not once but twice as we tried to extricate ourselves. 


So we headed on and finally found shelter in a free park at Clifden Bridge. 


This is a wonderful old bridge which deserves the accolade given by the Society of Engineers: every inch demonstrates the workmanship of the early builders.



A very curious thing, C H Howorth/Howarth (the name is spelled both ways) was the artist whose three works were donated to the Invercargill Art Gallery by my Great Aunt. At least I think it’s the same man. The artist definitely died in 1945. What a coincidence!

The bridge spans the Waiau River. Below the bridge is a tramper pick up/drop off point for  a jetboat. There were quite a number of people there when we arrived and also a little coffee/food caravan, probably hired to meet them. Good coffee!

01Clifden Bridge


The Wairau cuts through limestone, which is still visible just below the bridge. It used to be NZ’s second largest river. 0025


Much has been done since then. The river flow is now reasonable. I will give more information in a later blog when we have been to Manapouri.

There were lots of semi-tame birds hopping around the food cart.  There was also a rooster from a  nearby farm strutting around, particularly  among the parked motorhomes and caravans. Some overseas tourists took many photos of it, I wonder what they though it was!

05Clifden Bridge04Clifden Bridge03Clifden Bridge


There was an interesting-looking cave in the limestone at the far end of the bridge. Also a rather mysterious “underground stream toilet” (according to Dave)

06Clifden Bridge02Clifden BridgeTomorrow we head for Te Anau.


208. Invercargill

No visit to Invercargill would be complete without a trip to the Museum to pay our respects to Henry the 100+ year old Tuatara. Here he is, plus some other Tuataras almost as big as him, so probably not his offspring. The Tuatara breeding program at the Museum is one of the best  (the only one?) in the world.


There is a wonderful display of Victoriana too – I wonder if any of the articles once belonged to my great grandfather and his second wife?   


Next, a quick trip to the temporary Art Gallery (Anderson House is closed for repairs) to view two of the three paintings which Great Aunt Fonna bequeathed to the gallery in 1965. At that time the Gallery was entirely run by volunteers. She had asked that a plaque be fixed to each saying “In memory of my parents Frederick Wentworth Wade and Ada Wade, presented by their daughter Florence Ada Beere.”

But what the plaques actually say, apart from the titles, are “Bequeathed by Ada Beer.” Aaaaggh.  The Art Gallery has offered to fix things though, more credit to them. They were delighted I’d visited – “We love having family members and loved ones of people who bequeathed works coming in to see them; it just adds another layer of context and history!”

136_CH Howorth_Amalei Riviera

Southland Rugby followers are an avid lot. These hay bales in the team colours (well, pretend the black is maroon) were spotted on the way back to the Lgnite Pit.  We’ve also seen a few bales in bright turquoise and purple but most of them are now back to a pasty green.


We left the Lignite Pit next morning. Here is the view looking down from the caravan – I took a photo in the previous blog on the footbridge in the far right distance.


We had another essential visit – to the grave of Great Grandfather Frederick Wentworth Wade and his wife Ada. Last time we visited, the cross with Ada’s name on it had been shifted to another grave, but I retrieved it. I was glad to see it had not migrated again. I really do hope to get the monument repaired soon and a plaque attached because my Great Aunt Fonna is also buried in the grave with her parents.  The cemetery is well looked after, the grass freshly mown. 00110013

Ada’s sister Constance (Macloskey) Tothill is also buried nearby. Her story is in “The Macloskey Wives of Invercargill” published here: https://nancyvada.me/genealogy/the-macloskey-wives-of-invercargill/


207. The Lignite Pit

Next day we shifted to the Lignite Pit, a rather interesting place 20 k out of invercargill which we discovered on a previous trip. Formerly an open-cut lignite mine, once working stopped it filled up with water and new owners turned it into a wonderful lake bordered by an extensive garden with lots of little walking tracks (and some big ones). There is a cafe and a camping area which the latest owners intend to develop in future.


(Above: The front awning of the caravan can just be seen peeping out of trees on the skyline).

0005 We went for a long walk …..




….. which included inspecting a little island, where I managed to step off a boardwalk and found myself with one leg buried in mud up to the knee; Dave hauled me out then Penny decided to have a go too! She had to be given a shower when we got back to the caravan, using my shampoo (we’d forgotten the dog shampoo too.)



This is a much wider, sturdier boardwalk (!) …


There were just so many gorgeous flowers. Here’s a selection:

This appeared to be a multicoloured broom, with a smaller yellow one growing in the middle. 0007That was a lovely sunny day and I was hopeful that at long last I would see the Catlins in sunshine, but that night there was some rain and the morning was dull and quite cold. Nevertheless we set off on a drive of exploration with Slope Point and Curio Bay first on the list. At least till we got to the little township of Fortrose where a large sign told us that the Catlin Heritage Coastal Drives to both places were closed. Roadworks in preparation for the Christmas tourist season, probably.  This is Fortrose – not much to see really, but an interesting history.



We did eventually get to Curio Bay by a circuitous route, but Slope Point was still cut off.

There is much landscaping being done around Curio Bay. There’s now a largish parking area and a track leading to a viewing point and then steps going down to the petrified forest. It is planned to link the Bay to a Recreation Reserve.






After a quick visit to the “Falls” at Niagara we had lunch at the old Schoolhouse, sitting outside in a lush green setting. Unfortunately the food did not quite live up to its visual appeal.


0018Tomorrow we are probably heading west. Or we might stay here another night and go for another walk in the gardens (and avoid any boardwalks).

206. Heading South

After six months getting our Christchurch home and garden into order, we’re on the road again, but not for long. We thought an invitation to a Clan Johnston(e) dinner in Invercargill plus a friend staying with us for a few weeks until her job in town finished was too good an opportunity to pass by! Asti is happy to look after the garden, goldfish and cats. particularly the latter. They will get plenty of cuddles.

Living at home has softened us both – we’ve had to think twice about things we used to do automatically such as all the interior checks before taking off on the road. For example, making sure the interior power switch and water pump are off, the shower door secured, and anything moveable off the benches. We discovered too late we’d left various things behind like the TV direction tuner, a large serving spoon essential for the kitchen and the coffee (but at least we remembered the percolator). Apart from those we had the fridge pretty well stocked with vegies from the garden including a big bag of herbs.

Our immediate aim was to attend a Clan Johnston(e) dinner in Invercargill in two nights’ time. No rush. So we spent the first night at the Oamaru Showgrounds, being VERY CAREFUL not to lose the caravan keys (as happened several years ago at that place).

On next day through the green and yellow countryside – yellow gorse, yellow canola/rapeseed crops, yellow broom, yellow road signs, yellow road markings. Down the steep hill to Dunedin, at this time of year lined with gorgeous rhododendrons in full flower. I love Dunedin with it’s beautiful old buildings.


We wanted to see the newly refurbished Otago Settlers Museum, and what a treat it was.


Particularly the Portrait Gallery which took my breath away when I first saw it abut 16 years ago. All the portraits have been rehung, according to a system based mainly on the date on which the persons arrived in Otago. A touch-screen easily enables one to locate any particular portrait and any information about the person.

This is what the Portrait Gallery looked like originally:


And now ….  the same on all four walls. Awesome.


The Buchanan Family from Kirkintilloch were there of course, and amazingly there was also a display of household items which the family brought to New Zealand with them on the Philip Laing in 1848. Dave’s ancestral Gibb family also came from Kirkintilloch and probably knew this family; they may even have been related although this has still to be investigated in depth.


There were lots of new displays everywhere and many touch screens. One that particularly impressed me was a whole series of old photographs of Dunedin streets; touch any one and up comes a modern-day photograph of exactly the same place. Even the awning lines coincide…   It has to be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated.


There were also many screens with videos of living people talking about (I presume) their families. While they ‘waited’ for some to touch their screen to activate their talk, their holograms could be seen to gently sigh, look around, shift their stance … it was uncanny, just like they were really standing there in front of you.

We spent the night at a new NZMCA camp right in the town, very convenient, particularly as it had water and a dump site.

Next day we made Invercargill without mishap and parked in the yard behind the Club where the Johnston(e) dinner was to be held. A perk of being a member of the NZ Motorhome and Caravan Association is the arrangement the Association has with various Clubs all over the country – very cheap or free parking and use of the Club’s facilities. We both got dressed up in tartan and sauntered round the corner and into the Club. What a way to go! 

The dinner was wonderful and we made some new friends. So many people had the surname Johnston and one even had the surname Gibb (no relation!). The well organised dinner bodes well for the success of the Clan Johnston(e) AGM and associated activities planned for next year.