Friday, January 27th, 2023
Distance travelled 206 kilometres
In a big contrast to the warm and balmy evening in which we had gone to sleep, we woke up into a cloudy morning. We were dithering a bit, because we had quite a short trip to our next stop, so the weather decided to punish us. It began to drizzle, which turned very quickly into rain and then into a heavy downpour.
Lucie consulted the situation with “Windy” (one of her local weather Apps) and it looked bad. Ever the hopeful one, she installed two further local weather “radar” Apps – but the discouraging results were almost identical. The rain belt was moving, so we decided to try and wait it out.
We finally set off around 10:00. It had stopped raining, but the roads were still pretty damp. We did not put on our waterproofs which was, with the benefit of hindsight, probably a bad decision. Our scheme was to trail the western end of the storm so as to remain in the dry. We waved to the statue of Burt Monroe on the southern fringe of the Queen’s Park. passed an imposing Victorian looking water tower and set a course for Gore and Balclutha.
At first, our scheme worked. It was VERY windy, but at least it was dry. The trouble with technology is that it can generate false hope and so we were disappointed when more rain caught us up. It was not that it poured so terribly, but oncoming trucks always threw up a soaking and muddy spray. Thanks to that, we soon had quite wet legs. We agreed that we should have taken at least waterproof trousers. By the time we came to our planned breakfast stop, at the Country Cottage Café (87 Main Street, Mataura), we were both pretty well soaked.
Luckily, the heaviest rain fell while we were actually inside the café and enjoying a nice breakfast.
We did not move on again until the traffic coming from the direction of Gore no longer had its windscreen wipers going.
We did not know it at the time but compared to what was happening, in Auckland, at that very moment (more on that later), this was actually still fun … .
We soon came to Gore. We have a Kiwi friend, currently living in the south of England, who grew up there. Like most, now respectable, Kiwis, he claims to have had a rascally youth – and in this case it is almost certainly true ! He once claimed that he was almost obliged to leave Gore because of his “ways”. We came to a sign that read “Welcome to Gore” – so we stopped and I held up, just below the sign, the notice we had made the day before. This read “Former home of Morris W…”. Lucie snapped it – and off it went to Morris by email. I understand that, about 19,000 kilometres away, in a straight line, it was received with quite a chuckle !
We came to the accommodation in Balclutha, the Highway Lodge Motel (165 Clyde Street, Balclutha) a little earlier than the check-in time. Lucie had emailed them in advance about the likelihood of this and it was not a problem. It seems that, if it is a motel you are staying in, this is not usually a problem at all and there is no real need to let them know. Our room was well up to the standard we had come to expect and, as always, we were given fresh milk for our tea.
As soon as we stopped, we started again. Balclutha is at the edge of an area called “The Catlins” and there were things we wanted to see there. Obviously, this would involve some walking and because of our experience on the previous day we did not want to underestimate how long the “walk” might be. We arrived on the coast at the town of Kaka Point. It was beautiful and the sea was a bit wild in the very strong wind.
We did not stop, but continued around the undulating coast road towards Nugget Point where both a viewpoint and a lighthouse were promised.
The walk to the lighthouse was only about a kilometre – but the views were as stunning as ever. On the rock stacks close inshore, there were colonies of sea birds. They were impossible to identify, because they were just too far away, but I think they were gulls of some kind.
Signs all along the approaches to the point had warned of Sea Lions, not seals and there was supposed to be colonies on some of the beaches. We did see two, swimming in the sea some way out, but could not spot any, anywhere, on the sand. We walked to the lighthouse, which overlooks some picturesque rocks jutting up from the ocean. Weathering and erosion has rounded these into the nugget shapes that give Nugget Point its name. It was all so very beautiful.
We returned to the Softail and made the very short trip back to Roaring Bay. This gets its name from the fact that the “Roaring Forties”, the very strong winds at the forty degrees south Latitude, blow almost directly into the bay. The wind, even on a clear and sunny day, was fearful ! There was supposed to be a colony of Yellow-Eyed penguins in the bay. However, as the birds nest in burrows and the non-incubating partner spends most of the day out to sea fishing, there might well have been – but we saw nothing.
We headed back the way we had come. There was an incredible raw kind of beauty to the windswept beaches and the crashing waves. Despite the numerous signs, we did not see any Sea-lions.
Along the way to the lighthouse, in Kaka Point, we had driven past the Point Café and Restaurant (58 Esplanade, Kaka Point). This had been recommended to us by the lady in our motel as a good place to go.
We now headed there, hoping it had not closed. This time the situation was the opposite – the restaurant did not open until 17:30, but it was already completely booked for the evening …. Bar snacks were, however, available. After a little confusion over which menu to use (there was an “until 17:30” and an “after 17:30” menu – both were different – and it was 17:20 …) we managed to get a snack of shrimps and green-lipped mussels. It was sufficient to take the edge off of our hunger, but not really enough to fill us up.
Whilst still in the café, we consulted with TripAdvisor about restaurants in Balclutha. We knew enough by then to know that we were unlikely to find anywhere by just walking up the road. A recommendation was the Captain’s Café restaurant. On the Harley, we rode up and down the road a couple of times but could not see it. Eventually, we surmised that it had (at some point) been where a totally demolished city block now languished. Fortunately, on our rambles, we had noticed that there was an old fire station with the words Café and Open down a side street. As a final throw of the dice to try and avoid an Indian meal in the”Raj”, we drove there. We found the Casa Fuega Restaurant (2 George Street, Balclutha), in an old fire station.
It offered a mix of Mexican cuisine with everything possible. It was sort of New Zealand cooking with a sombrero thrown in. The staff were very nice and dealt efficiently (and amiably) with a slight culinary mix-up (wrong dishes to wrong people). There was real beer – with an alcohol free variant for Lucie and the food, prawn chimichanga for Lucie and a lamb burrito for me, hit those proverbial spots.
The waitress, who originally brought me a chicken dish by accident, wanted to give us our drinks out of her wages ! I managed to talk her out of this, telling her no harm had been done and that “anyone can make a little mistake”.
Just how accurate an observation that was became evident only about twenty minutes later when, back at the motel, Lucie could not find her iPad. I jumped back on the Harley and whizzed back to the restaurant. As I pulled up, the same waitress came running out of the door – and placed the iPad into my hands. She gave me a smile, but she said nothing. She did not have to. After all, anyone can make a little mistake ….