From Rock Snot to Rick Stein

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
Trip End ??? ??, 2009

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A while ago we visited Arrowtown, near Queenstown, which is described as 'the most picturesque and best preserved gold-mining town in the area'. The main street still has many of the orginal colonial shops and buildings which now host rather chi-chi souvenir, clothing and food shops and it has a rather 'touristy' feel - unusual in New Zealand.  There are also several cafes and restaurants, some of which are quite upmarket.   At one end of the town are the remnants of a Chinese miner settlement, which is well worth a visit to see the tiny stone buildings and cottages (some of which are remarkably well preserved)  in which they lived. The Chinese miners arrived to fill the place of the European miners who had left for the West Coast gold rush. Whilst there, we saw a sign near a track leading to the river and lake which said 'please wash tyres - we do not want didymo here'.  At the time, we had no idea what this meant but subsequently I heard a programme on the radio discussing the problems of 'rock snot' - aka 'didymo' - aka 'didymosphenia geminata', with which you are all no doubt familiar!  Rock snot is such an appealing name and probably most appropriate, although I've not actually seen it.  It is a type of algae and was first found in NZ (and for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere) in 2004.  It is not dangerous to humans but it can affect stream habitats and sources of food for fish, and make recreational activities unpleasant as it forms a slimy mat on the floor of rivers and lakes.  To prevent it spreading, all boats, clothing, fishing gear, cars etc that have been into a stream, river or lake must be cleaned before entering another waterway.  Biosecurity New Zealand are pretty strict.  We had to remove our walking shoes from our case and have them examined by customs at Auckland airport on our return from the UK, even though they had not been recently used. Due to the unique nature of NZ flora and fauna however, this is certainly a very sensible precaution.  

We drove on to Cromwell, which survived the end of the gold mining era by acting as a supply town to the many fruit orchards in the region but was more or less swallowed when an electricity generating dam was built and created a lake. A few of the more notable buildings were relocated stone by stone to a new site, which now includes a fascinating museum and is worth a detour. On the way to Cromwell we passed and viewed the Kawarau Gorge, where A J Hackett first set up his bungy jumping empire.  Tempted - but not that much! Maybe next time.....

  One of the many wonders in NZ are the Moeraki Boulders, a strange set of rocks which seem to be growing out of the sand on a beach to the north of Dunedin.  From a distance they were a little disappointing, as we had both imagined them to be more numerous and larger. However, on closer examination, they are actually quite fascinating.  To geologists they are septarian concretions (look it up!) and many look perfectly round and you can also see 'new' ones waiting to emerge from the cliff face, as well as the circular indents from previous boulders.  Some have a 'crazed' pattern and others have already broken open and look just like enormous broken gobstoppers!    So where does Rick Stein come into this?  Well, when he was told he could choose to go anywhere in the world to write a travel article for the Daily Mail, he chose Fleurs Place which is in Moeraki, New Zealand. It is close to Dunedin and so, on another visit there to see the Albatross chicks, and after visiting the boulders,   we decided to call in for lunch. The restaurant, run by Fleur Sullivan, was said by Rick to be 'Just one of those places that keeps cropping up in conversations whenever there was a gathering of foodies'. There's water on three sides, fishing boats bobbing in the harbour, the famous Moeraki boulders across the bay and, to the north, the open sea. Fleur uses only local ingredients and the fishing boats land their catch right into her restaurant!  It had a great atmosphere, great food and great wine. Definitely worth a detour!  Whilst there, Lyn picked up one of the books for sale on the counter and, on the inner cover, was handwritten by Fleur 'Kia Ora, Lyn'!!  Bizarre to say the least.  Lyn decided it was a sign that she should buy it and took it over to Fleur, who explained she had started to sign it for someone else but had spelt their name incorrectly, however she knew that one day someone with that name would come along.  So, in addition, she wrote "you are the one - thanks for finding us in this small part of Aotearoa. Nau mai, haere mai'.  Maybe it was just meant to be.......
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