I was anxious to get away from Christchurch for a few days just to catch a few zzz’s. Insomnia had gotten the better of me and all of the waiting for the predicted whopper wasn’t doing me any good either! So, we hied off to the Waitaki Valley, down South, and spent a few days there enjoying a long drive of four hours, broken up by visits to the famous Temuka Pottery showroom, and the Wild Bean Café! Since Iain was going to do a lot of driving, I borrowed an mp3 audio book from the library. It was tantalisingly called Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy by Shamini Flint, featuring the portly, beer-swilling Sikh Poirot, Inspector Singh. Jonathan Keeble was an excellent narrator, and we fell about laughing at his accents (some of which were more successful than others!) This audio book successfully accomplished its aim of keeping Iain awake and alert on the four-hour drive to Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley.
We sought sanctuary at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Windhaven, run by Brain and Margery Deaker. Oh my, but it was lovely! So restful and peaceful, set in a lovely white converted farmhouse embraced by a gorgeous garden. Our room was luxuriously spacious and beautifully appointed. Charis enjoyed the privacy of her very own bedroom!
I love being surrounded by beauty and, in this case, was not disappointed. Everywhere the eye rested was harmony of colour, texture, and design. French doors opened on to a balcony where we enjoyed a scrummy Continental breakfast when the weather allowed, and imbibed Sauvignon Blanc by the light of the full moon at day’s end. The house is set way back from super-highway 83, and patrolled by sentinels of pine, eucalyptus, and various fruit trees so that our dreams were undisturbed. It is a half hour’s drive from the nearest large town, Victorian Oamaru, but well worth the commute. You could not do better for hosts than charming, friendly, and knowledgeable Brian and Margery Deaker, who armed us with valuable information and wonderful suggestions regarding places to eat and venues to visit.
Charis especially loved Benson, their black cocker spaniel, who welcomed us with the mad frenzy of a speeding bullet on steroids, and Toto, their sleek blue-eyed Siamese feline who curled up in bed with her. Other attractions Charis loved included an obstacle course and a home-made flying fox, constructed by The Man Himself, master builder and joiner, Brian. If you’re ever on holiday in the heart of the Waitaki wine valley, you couldn’t do better than Windhaven. Check out their website here: http://www.windhaven.co.nz/
After the heartbreak of seeing the lovely heritage buildings of Christchurch lying in ruins, it was such a do-I-dare-to-believe-it-pleasure to witness the grand, stately neo-Classical buildings of Victorian Oamaru.
We loved Oamaru. It is a city by the sea, and the light was beautiful. We followed the heritage trail of buildings that lined the broad avenues of the city centre. Here, have a peek: http://www.visitoamaru.co.nz/?precinct
The buildings were constructed during a time of unprecedented growth in the 1880’s -1890’s. The newly renovated Opera House was stunning, but, it was a difficult choice to pick a favourite heritage building. It was like attending a Miss Universe beauty pageant where every contestant looked like, well, Miss Universe!
Highlights for us were the heritage trail; the art galleries (i.e. the Forrester Gallery, The Woolstore Galleries and Cafe, and the Whisky Art Gallery); Totara Estate (from where NZ first attempted to export frozen meat to England with great success); the Vanished World Fossil Trail (We saw whale fossils in the same place where The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed!); the Whitestone Cheese Factory where we sampled 18 varieties of scrummy cheese; the Kurow Wine Cellar where I tried 14 varieties of aromatic wines from Pinot Gris to Rieslings (It was a challenge to walk straight after that!) ; and, the Blue Penguin colony, where our patience was rewarded (after a 2 1/2 hour wait) by seeing a foot-high blue penguin with two downy chicks not two metres away from us. We, the remaining die-hard viewers, held our collective breath at this breath-taking miracle!
OUR SOUTHERN FRIENDS
One day, we popped in to the premises of Oamaru Heritage Radio to view their amazing collection of vintage radios. We were fascinated, but especially Charis, who had never seen radios that were bigger than TV sets! We met one of the presenters, Wyn Machon, who was all Southern hospitality and charm. Because he was on-air, I asked him to kindly thank all the people of Oamaru and the surrounding districts for their love and generosity towards Christchurch. “Why don’t you do it?” he suggested. So I did. It was easy to feel emotional about this thanksgiving tribute because everywhere we went in Oamaru and Duntroon, we saw evidence of the love and care of our Southern friends. Red and black stickers (Canterbury colours) emblazoned with the words “We Care” were pasted on the glass doors and windows of various establishments and retail outlets. The Vintner’s Drop in Kurow offered a free glass of Sauvignon Blanc to anyone visiting from Christchurch. (We got called “refugees” a lot.) The Blue Penguin Colony offered free daytime passes to view the nests of the Blue Penguins. And Riverstone Kitchen, one of the BEST places to eat in Oamaru, donated a full day’s takings (with all the staff working for free!) and gave a full $10,000 to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. How could your heart not be touched by such kindness?
On our way back to Christchurch, we visited the Aighantighe Art Gallery in Timaru and were not disappointed. We were fortunate to catch them before closing hours.
Here’s the blurb from their website:
The Aigantighe Art Gallery in Wai-iti Road, Timaru is renowned internationally for its art collection and innovative exhibition and education programmes. It was founded in 1956 by the Grant family who came from Scotland and it now holds the South Island’s third-largest public art museum collection. Aigantighe is Scottish Gaelic for ‘at home’ and is pronounced ‘egg and tie’.
Aigantighe holds New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art works from the sixteenth century to the present day. Its British Victorian painting collection is of great significance. Masterpieces by Goldie, Hodgkins and McCahon (born in Timaru) feature in a room dedicated especially to them and six new thematic exhibitions from the permanent collection are held in the House Gallery each year.
As usual, I loved the Victorian paintings best, along with the masterpieces by Charles Goldie, and the series of lithographs and etchings titled the Labours of Herakles, by Marian Maguire of Christchurch. They were whimsical, witty, thought-provoking, and skilfully executed. Think Classical Greek meets Maori in colonial New Zealand. Check it out here: http://www.exhibitionservices.co.nz/exhibitiontours/show/lithographs-and-etchings
Happy to be home again. Finished the audio book on the way home to Christchurch. Mystery satisfactorily solved. End of story. 🙂