Hampden, and the Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders

We have just spent a relaxing week in Avis and Brian’s bach (holiday cottage) in Hampden, north of Dunedin. Unfortunately, Brian was unable to be with us from Monday to Friday due to pressure of work in Invercargill, but Avis looked after us extremely well and we are very grateful to her for that. For the most part, the weather was lovely and David was able to go for his daily run on the beach; although neither of us swam, unlike Avis who being a tough Kiwi braved the rough, cold sea on more than one occasion.

One great walk was along the beach to the Moeraki Boulders (see photos). According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds and calabashes (traditional Maori food) washed from the great voyaging canoe, Araiteuru, when it was wrecked upon the coast of New Zealand 1000 years ago.

Scientists explain that the boulders are septarian concretions formed some 65 million years ago, which have been eroded out from the cliffs of soft, black mudstone that back the beach. My theory is that they are alien pods waiting to crack open in the night, under cover of darkness, and release the alien within!

One day we went into Dunedin for the day. To begin with, David and I wandered down to the old Dunedin railway station, a very fine Victorian building, while Avis went to see her optician. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see how far we are from Shanghai (although we are rather bemused by the discrepancy between the distances of Edinburgh and Portsmouth).

This was followed by lunch, then shopping, then the movies. We saw the new British comedy, ‘Death at a Funeral’ – highly amusing! This was followed by a rather splendid dinner at the Bacchus restaurant.

We have been making a habit of fine dining. Once Brian had rejoined us for the weekend, we dined at Fleur’s Place right on the waterfront at the old jetty in Moeraki. Fleur serves fresh fish which is brought in daily by the Moeraki Bay fishing boats.

Only last year Rick Stein visited New Zealand just to do a show on her restaurant and it is not unknown for people to helicopter in from Auckland, just to eat there. We were tempted by the Kai Moana platter, but decided that more than four people would be needed to do it justice! This enormous dish contains about eight different types of smoked fish, along with bowls of raw fish in coconut milk, mussels in an Asian-style marinade and steamed cockles! We opted instead for the blue cod, which was cooked to perfection, as were all the accompaniments. A dessert each was out of the question, but David and I managed to share a Pavlova, while Brian and Avis shared a Berry Parfait – a most memorable meal!

All those calories needed to be worked off, so on Monday we climbed Trotter's Gorge, an untouched indigenous forest, flanked by towering limestone cliffs. As we climbed, we listened to the bird song and were highly entertained by the antics of a little fantail. After our exertions, the picnic Avis had prepared was doubly delicious and well deserved!

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I couldn't resist this one!