Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

All visits to lovely towns eventually come to an end, and the best way to ease the sorrow of leaving is to have an interesting next destination to head to.
And so it was when I packed up and departed the Roslyn Apartment, back in the car for the northward part of my road trip.

I hadn’t yet explored much of the Otago Peninsula even though there is much to see there, so I decided I would squeeze in a detour in the morning before I hit the road north. It’s possible that later in the day I might end up regretting that decision (spoiler – I DO!) but the day stretched out ahead of me and it seemed like I had time for anything…

So I drove to the Larnach Castle which is New Zealand’s only castle and seemed like a novelty to check out.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

The castle was built in 1871 by William Larnach, a banker and politician, for his first wife Eliza. He and one of his sons were horseriding on the Otago Peninsula when they chose the site for the castle – it’s easy to see why they chose it!

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

It took more than 200 workmen three years to build the Castle and a further 12 years designing and furnishing the interior.

William’s story is quite tragic. His first wife Eliza had all six of Lanarch’s children and then sadly died at the age of 38. He later married her half-sister who died five years – also aged 38! His oldest daughter passed away in her twenties, he remarried one more time but then tragically took his own life in the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in 1898. The family struggled after this and sold the castle in 1906. The current owners bought the castle in 1967.

I paid the small fee to enter the grounds and explore the gardens which were quite charming.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

I opted not to pay for entry to the castle as I was short on time and had already gotten my fill with the Olveston House visit. I did visit the tea rooms though and enjoyed coffee and fresh scones.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

The grounds have a few little Alice in Wonderland influences hidden in crooks and crannies, such as a Cheshire Cat in a tree. I later learnt that it is a tribute to the New Zealand reference made in Lewis Carrol’s famous work.

“I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! The antipathies I think… but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please Ma’am, is this New Zealand?”

 

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

The grounds actually reminded me more of another classic book, one I was a bigger fan of as a child – The Secret Garden. There were so many nooks and hideaways around the gardens, some felt like they were all but forgotten until I stumbled on them.

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Larnach Castle - Along the Away

Time to depart as the day was pressing on and I had a 5+ hour drive to Akaroa. I left the Otago Peninsula with a few sneaky detours down some dirt roads to the coastline and stops by the roadside to snap some pics.

Otago Peninsula

My good friend Leah, a pal I met while travelling in India and who I caught up with in Auckland, told me about a great restaurant called Fleur’s Place which she highly recommended I visit as I was passing. WOW – I’m so glad I did!  It is a small cosy ocean side restaurant at Moeraki. While there I saw books on the shelf that had a photo on the cover of the smiling woman who greeted me – Fleur Sullivan. I thought she must be someone interesting to be on the cover of a book so I did some Googling. This interview reveals a fascinating and inspiring woman!

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

I sat inside by a pretty window and enjoyed a delicious seafood chowder and fresh bread.

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

The restaurant is located on right on the water – like, water on three sides! It was incredibly pretty. The site was an early whaling station and is built from gathered collectables and demolition materials from all over New Zealand.

Fleurs Place, Moeraki - Along the Away

OK, so I referred earlier in the post to regretting taking my time heading north.

I lingered a little longer than I should have, and by the time I hit the road I was pushing hard to get to Akaroa before sundown, which I wanted to do seeing as I didn’t know the area at all.

Holy moly. Worst. Drive. Ever.

So I stopped to fill up with petrol at one point. It seemed a bit strange at the time, but even though the station attendant was right there chatting to a truckie, I had to use the pre-pay station. Actually, I was a little put out at the time, because I didn’t know what the go was with the whole pre-pay system (I haven’t come across it in Australia). I picked up the nozzle up and it wouldn’t work, so I was trying this and that, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. The station attendant saw I was having trouble and called out the instructions to me- I had to first walk across the station and use the pay machine before filling it up. I thought it was a bit inconvenient at the time, couldn’t he just interrupt his chat to help me out? But it saved me big time later that night, you;ll see! I hit the road and drove straight through to Akaroa… which got HAIRY people. HAIRY.

Storm clouds rolled in. The sun set. The rain shattered down. My petrol tank emptied. AHHHHH!

It got later and darker, the road got steeper, and then every turn became a hair pin.

road to akaora

Every ten minutes or so a set of headlights would rapidly come up behind me, and in the pouring rain, my windscreen wipers on the highest setting, it would overtake me impatiently. I didn’t pass a single car in the other direction. There wasn’t a building or street light in sight for what seemed hours. As I drove up the incline, I steadily cast glances at the navigation system as my car plodded along the road next to a vast nothingness. I couldn’t see a thing out the window but at some point I realised I was on the water’s edge. I anticipated every minute that the car would run out of petrol and for the first time in my life I had a moment where I thought –

“OK. This is how it ends”

I had a vision of the car stopping, and me being stuck on the narrow road, tucked behind a hairpin and a car coming behind me and nudging me off the road into the water below.

But I kept chugging forward, up the incline, corner by corner. I leaned forward in the drivers seat, hands gripping the steering wheel, peering through the rain on the windscreen, praying to see a building of some sort – preferably a petrol station. I searched on my phone, I searched on the navigation system – no luck!

FINALLY I came across a pub at the top of climb. I eased into the car park and ran inside to find them closing. I explained my plight and the bartender shrugged, he didn’t seem too fussed. I stressed the urgency and he said there was a petrol station at the bottom of the hill, about 15 minutes. I figured if I coasted down I wouldn’t need to use any petrol, so I hopped back in the car and did just that. I drove into the petrol station on the whiff of nothing. AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? It was a self serve petrol station. Which I would not know how to use if it had not been for the station attendant earlier in the day. Without that lesson, I would have assumed the place was closed. But I recognised the self-serve machine and was able to cruise in and fill up. Another five minutes down the road, with a full tank of petrol, I was in Akaroa and outside the hostel I was staying at for the night.

PHEW!!!!!

Lessons learned:

  • Plan ahead.
  • Fill up at every petrol station (almost).
  • When driving alone at night, pack a flashlight at the very least!
  • Be grateful for the gift of every day.
  • And for having a brave heart to make the most of it.
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A traveler, dreamer, designer and optimist sharing all of the above.

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