Monthly Archives: December 2012

Gold in the hills

Jean’s colleague Steve invited us out today to pan for gold in a river nearby. I won’t give details on the location because his son has a great new find on the river he just started working. I’ve never looked for gold before but the key is to find a good spot and work it. When the river floods certain spots are regular traps for little nuggets or gold dust. For me and Jean it was mostly an excuse to explore our new backyard and walk by a river for the day.

It was glorious, a gorgeous location all to ourselves, along a beautiful river. Sam and Steve’s dog Oscar had the best time. We all had fun hiking and swimming and panning, even though it was kind of a bust on the gold front, just a wee bit was found.

Day tripping in Otago

This was our first weekend to explore the area and we took advantage of it, poking around the district near Oamaru. We went to Elephant Rocks, taking the back road through some farming country. This is an area we hope to come back to for bouldering. Unfortunately we can’t bring Sam there but we found lots of areas nearby for him. We met the owner at Elephant Rocks who was very welcoming. There was only one other couple there. The rocks have really cool pocketing and are just plopped in the field. Parts of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were filmed here but I haven’t seen that yet. Nearby we got to hike with Sam by the river where he enjoyed terrorizing the local bunny population and playing in the river.

We made it out to Kurow and after a hike up a hill in town went to the winery cafe for an excellent tasting and meal. We really liked the Pasquale Waitaki Pinot Noir. And we got a recommendation on another hike we could take the dog on near Lake Aviemore. We headed home to recharge for the next day. This morning started more slowly but we took off south and checked out a beach really close by that was great for walking. Sam found a seal lounging by the river mouth. We drove on down the quiet coastal road and had lunch at Fleur’s Place, a pretty famous restaurant in Moeraki that specializes in cooking up fresh fare that the fishing boats in the harbor bring in each evening. We had a really delicious blue cod. Sated, we headed home, pretty excited about everything that is in our backyard.

Free dog!

I picked up Sam from quarantine in Christchurch this morning, just after making a big run to Animates, the NZ PetSmart. It was a big process to get him here and an ordeal for him with the long flight and ten day quarantine. But he’s looking pretty good and I hope he will enjoy his new home of Oamaru, New Zealand. Looks like we will be moving to a house with a nice fenced yard for him. Once I got back to town the initial experience was not so welcoming as after the six hour round trip drive I decided to get a coffee at an excellent little place in town and walk Sam around a bit. Sam did get some positive attention at first with a “beautiful dog” comment but right after that another lady informed me that dogs weren’t allowed on the street! Further, she said the fine was $500. I was kind of mystified but then I did see an outline of a dog crossed out stenciled on the sidewalk later. I’ve since read that dogs are indeed not allowed in the central part of town. So we headed back to the car and took an on leash walk in the local reserve where there are also quite a bit of sheep.So we will have to figure out the best ways to exercise Sam since there doesn’t seem to be an off-leash park in town although one has been proposed. There may be a stretch of beach he can run on but I definitely have to keep him from harassing the local penguins. So perhaps he’s not a totally free dog but we are back together and should have many adventures to look forward to.

A ferry, a train, a bus and in to Oamaru!

We dragged all this stuff to Oamaru…

We arrived in our new home of Oamaru last night! Traveling from Wellington was fun but also a schlep with all of our stuff and the transfers we had to make. But we got the beginning of a feel for the South Island and all there is to explore. We were blessed with a fair day for the ferry crossing of Cook Strait. We took the first of many Super Shuttles to the ferry station that morning. They have been great because they have a trailer which fits our bike box and all our other luggage. We brought a lot of luggage, but we are planning to be here a year and it’s very expensive to ship things over.

After the three hour ferry crossing we transferred over to the train from Picton to Christchurch. We ran by lots of beautiful farm country with sheep and vineyards and along the coast where we saw seals. Here’s a very brief clip from the open air viewing car on the train.

We stayed in Christchurch one night and had the chance to walk a little in the Botanic Gardens which were beautiful although we only saw a small part of them. In the morning we drove out and saw Sam in quarantine. We rented a car as it was the cheapest way to get out there and I got some experience driving in New Zealand. After visiting Sam we transferred to a bus in the pouring rain. I think they used to have more of a bus station before the earthquake but now it’s a small container pod that doesn’t fit the people waiting for the bus and their luggage. The bus trip was another four hours and the rain passed and finally we were in Oamaru.

So far, we love it. We were met by the manager at the clinic and also our landlady for the beginning of our stay came and helped us carry our bike box back to our apartment. We had dinner with her and her husband who moved here from England ten years ago. Our place is on a big hill right near town and there’s a great view of the town and harbour.

This morning we looked at several rental houses we might move to over the next couple of weeks. We also got a better sense of where things are in town and saw the old historic section. There are magnificent preserved buildings in Oamaru made with a special kind of limestone. We ran in to a shop called Oamaru Cycle Works and met David Wilson who has toured New Zealand on a penny farthing bicycle. He was very interesting and welcoming and gave us two safety bicycles from the 1920s to use and gave us a suggested route around the Oamaru streets and harbour.

So not even twenty-four hours in and we were bicycling around the town. It seems like it’d be great to get around town in a bike, it’s pretty compact. Jean has her bike here, I will probably have to pick up one sometime soon. And we will definitely go back to Oamaru Cycle Works, he’s turning it in to a museum of penny farthings he’s built and collected. He was teaching someone how to ride one when we were there and I’d like to learn myself. Perhaps so I can ride in the Victorian celebration parade next year.

Sam is doing well in quarantine

We got a chance to visit Sam this morning in quarantine on our way down to Oamaru. We rented a car in Christchurch and I got my first left side of the road driving experiences going out to the kennel he is staying at while in quarantine. It was so great to see him even though we could only play with him in his little run and not take him for a walk or anything. He looks really good actually, sweet as ever, perhaps a bit bored. I am looking forward to many adventures together and get to pick him up on Tuesday. His spot looked pretty cozy and the people there were very nice.

Windy Wellington

Wellington from the top of the cable car

Monday morning Jean went off for her orientation with NZ Locums on being a GP in New Zealand. She may have a guest post sometime on her experiences here. After a blustery weekend Monday was a very fine day and I set off for Zealandia, a wildlife conservation area that is very impressive. They have constructed an over 8 km long predator fence around about 1 square mile of a valley that has a couple reservoirs that used to supply Wellington with drinking water. The stated goal of Zealandia is to return that small area to the state New Zealand existed in before humans arrived, which they say will take about 500 years. With the cats, stoats, rats and others excluded from the preserve the native birds are able to thrive. Also they do some supplementary feeding to encourage them to breed and stay in the preserve. I saw lots of birds as well as the tuatara, which looks like an iguana. One interesting bird display was this pair rolling around on the ground, possibly mating, but I don’t really know.


Zealandia really is an amazing place, especially so close to the city, to get away and experience being in nature. There are some great walking trails also, as there are all over the city actually.

Today, I ran the City to Sea Walk, or about 12.5 km of it from downtown Wellington to the sea on the south coast of the North Island. Usually you can see the South Island but it was a little too cloudy for that, also very windy which we are discovering is the norm around here.

Those trips are pretty typical tourist activities but I also got a New Zealand mobile phone and am about to go finalize arrangements with our new bank account. So it does feel like we are moving here but is still more of a holiday until we are down in Oamaru settling in with Jean starting work.