Rounding up sheep in New Zealand, South Island
Alan has put the dogs on the back of his ATW. The dogs are eager and excited; they have a job to do. Alan has four dogs. Two are used to run the sheep forward with their barking and two are used to gather the herd by running around. We are guests at Mary and Alan`s farm north of Invercargill on the South Island of New Zealand. The farm is 300 acre and Alan has sheep, cattle and deer.
For New Zealand conditions this is a small farm, but we are still impressed when Alan points across the endless landscape to show what he owns. It is beautiful. Green gentle hills extends al the way towards high mountains in the distance. It is a lush landscape and the fog gives the valley a bewitched atmosphere. The humid climate provides great grazing for the animals.
In Norway its mid winter, but here its summer despite the cold, only 8 degrees C when we woke up early in the morning. Only a couple of weeks ago a thin layer of snow was covering Mary`s lawn. She sent me a photo to warn me about their strange summer. We are very far south on South Island and here there is no Golf Stream to warm them up!
We are staying a short week on Mary and Alan`s farm. I am teaching quilting for a group of ladies and Per will be joining Alan in his daily work. To day the neighbor have asked for help to gather all his sheep and then separate the lambs from their mothers. More than 5.500 lambs must be separated from their mothers and moved to a separate enclosure. To do this, people are needed and also sheepdogs. It is dirty work with mud and dirt everywhere. But it is also a fantastic experience.
After a hard working day moving sheep from one ground to another, Alan and Per want to end the day at the pub. The nearest is in Nightcaps and it’s a suitable name. The little town looks like Western town from the movies in the good old days! Here they have to take off their boots and leave them outside the pub.
Before we arrived at Mary and Alan`s, we had driven around South island in a rental car. We started in Christchurch. There we stayed 2 days at Foly Towers, a nice and inexpensive place in walking distance from the city center. In Christchurch we got a taste of New Zealand food, it was super and a big surprise for us that we got such excellent food even at the smallest and simplest cafe.
Left hand drive for the first time, this was back in 2006, started with the loss of both confidence and a hubcap. But then it just went better and better. All together we drive 2.200 kilometer on roads that reminded a lot of the roads in the western part of Norway.
First destination was the peninsula outside Christchurch. We enjoyed a beautiful and hilly landscape before we drove towards Arthur`s Pass in the mountains and the Westerland. It was an experience of a lifetime. High mountains towered over us someone more than 3.700 m high. The New Zealand Alps have many peaks and around Arthurs Pass you will most certainly meet the Kea, the parrot that steals everything it finds and make life miserable for people stopping to get food and petrol.
The scenery got more and more exotic as we drove on. Between the mountain peaks we found valleys of rainforest with the typical black tree fern growing like a palm tree (Cyathea medullaris). I am sure we stopped at least a hundred times to take photos of one larger than the other.
We spent our first night in Hokitika, a small town on the West Coast south of Greymouth. This was like a Western town as many of the others on the South Island and it had an amazing beach. Wandering along the beach late in night was very romantic. Further south on the west coast we passed through Westland National Park. We stopped and walked in the rain forest. Its magic to walk in such a tropical vegetation and at the same time looking at the glacier coming down through the mist, almost into the forest.
Further south at Haast, we turned inland and once again we crossed the mountains on our way to the city Dunedin. We arrived in Dunedin at nine in the evening on New Years Eve. The streets where filled up with people in party mood and it was difficult to find our way. So we stopped and asked a policeman to help us find the best hotel in town. He kindly explained the way to get there. The plan was to stay for one night. But when we saw the room, very big and nice and also affordable, we decided to stay for 4 nights at Scenic Hotel and use Dunedin as a base for day trips north and south on the coast. We never regretted that decision.
The next days we drove everyday north or south on the coast and had a great time. The beaches in New Zealand are an Eldorado for stone and shell collectors like us. I can walk for hours or just sit down in the sand and dig for hidden treasures.
North of Dunedin there is a very special beach with unique rock formations, Moeraki Boulders. We had heard about it from friends who spent time in New Zealand some years earlier. So this beach was our first goal on the first day trip from Dunedin.
On a beach south of Dunedin, around Taieri Mouth, we came upon a sea lion with a suckling young pup. For us this was not a very common animal and we both wondered; is it dangerous? After some discussion we concluded that it certainly was not dangerous. It did not look as a very fast running animal! We did not want to disturb and walked cautiously around in order to get a better view at the pup. Just five meters away we sat down and admired the big clumsy but beautiful animal. Later we got to know that they can be dangerous and that they do run fast. With pups they are extra aware and can be a risk going too near.
Our round trip in New Zealand and the South island ended in Queenstown. Here we turned in the rental car and Mary picked us up and took us to the farm further south. We stayed a little more than 3 weeks in New Zealand and got to see a landscape with an incredible variation. Not so very different from Norway, but may be more dramatic.