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Monday, April 19, 2010

Feb 18th – 20th , 2010: Invercargill, Dunedin & Moreaki …The World’s Fastest Indian, Beer and Chocolate and Boulders!

I got my dates backed up.  Last entry was supposed to be Februaruy 16th – 18th.  Work your way back. We left Queenstown on the 16th of February.  We made good time through a very odd-looking countryside down to Invercargill.  It is way down south in the "Roaring 40's", and a look at the trees and shrubs tells all.  They appear to have been half blown over by the Jolly Green Giant!  I think even the cows and sheep walk a little lop-sided.  The whole area looks like a nursery rhyme about a crooked man in a crooked house…OK enough of that.  Invercargill is probably known for many things, however, the big draw for us is that it is home to the World's Fastest Indian, Burt Munro's famous motorbike that won many races at the salt flats in Bonneville, Utah.  He put Invercargill and probably New Zealand on the map (so to speak). A really good movie was made about him, starring Anthony Hopkins as Burt.  We have the movie. We have watched it twice and probably will again as our dementia kicks in.  We arrived fairly early in the day, so we grabbed a couple of hotel rooms and drove over to have a look at the Burt Munro exhibit of bikes and movie paraphernalia, which believe it or not is housed in Hayes hardware store and museum.  What a hardware store it is!  Throughout, along the aisles are various makes and models of antique and unique motorcycles and motorized bikes.  One section is dedicated to Burt's collection.  The store itself had Frank jittering with excitement.  While I was browsing the museum pieces, he came up to me with a big grin on his face, talking like a little boy in a candy store telling me about all the great things he was finding that he could not find anywhere else.  He said that it is too bad we didn't have the boat down there so that he could really stock up.  He settled on a few items that we thought we could get into our bags for the flight back. He even managed to pick up a very sporty wool pullover sweater that looked quite nice on him.  After dragging him (and Earl) from the hardware store we went over to the local microbrewery.  The boys wanted to tour and taste.  Gosh darn, no tours today but tastings are always going on, so they bellied up to the tap room and got down to business.  The gentleman giving samples was pouring fairly large amounts of the stuff.  After going through all of the beers they moved on to the ciders.  Marsha and I began to get a little worried that they guy was going to have our men on the floor if this went on much longer.  Finally, they had their fill, made some serious purchases of variety packs of libations and then we rallied forth to the museum.  Invercargill's museum is quite extraordinary.  We spent hours there.
Next day off to Dunedin, known as Little Scotland.  We had planned to spend a couple of nights there, arriving just after noon in a cold downpour to find that every single hotel within 100 miles was booked through the weekend. Not ready to give up hope, Marsha and I went to the "i-Site"., where a very kind young lady informed us that there happened to be two vacancies for one night only at the university's lodging house which accommodates visiting professors.  By then it was late afternoon and we were very soggy, so we drove right over.  We were quite impressed with the amenities available to us there – of course the price was on the high side, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It appeared that we had arrived in Dunedin at the worst possible weekend of the month.  It was visiting parents weekend at the university, there was a rugby game in town and some kind of convention.  Splendid!  We got settled in, in time for afternoon tea.  We went down to the lounge and enjoyed ourselves for a while, then walked to dinner after the rains had somewhat cleared.  The next morning was absolutely beautiful.  We enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the hotel and then set off to enjoy the pretty day.  Marsha and I had booked a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate factory and the boys were booked for a tour, tasting and lunch at Speight's Brewery.  We had agreed to meet after lunch.  Marsha and I arrived at the rendezvous with large bags full of delicious chocolates, and sober.  Can't say the same for the boys, although they arrived with big silly grins on their faces.  It was decided that neither of them would be driving any time soon this day.  We had a date with some boulders – the Moreaki Boulders a couple of hours' drive up the coast.
We enjoyed the drive to Moreaki.  There isn't anything to see there except the boulders, and of course some souvenir shops and a not-so-good-yet-overpriced-café.  Of course to get to the boulders you must pass through the café which was built in front of the beach access, and where you are asked to place a donation in the box to help the café maintain the gate at the entrance, which the café constructed so that they could ask for this donation, yada, yada.  Love it!  We donated a few bucks and walked down to the beach.  Wow!!!!!!  These boulders are an anomaly.  They are utterly amazing and most unusual.  There is no one explanation of how they were formed and from whence they came.  There are only found here.  They are nearly perfectly round, scattered up and down the beach, along the sand dunes and in the surf ranging in sizes from a large beach ball to perhaps 5 feet in diameter.  The centers are honeycombed.  Sadly, time, weather and the ocean is doing an erosion number on these magnificent wonders. We stood in awe of them for several minutes and then we posed with them and took pictures.  We scratched our heads in amazement and then we left.  We wanted to get to Oamaru by suppertime to see the penguins.

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