This past autumn, Murphy and I leave the house one day without a specific destination in mind. We pile some stuff into the van and just, well, start driving. Fortunately, New Zealand isn't that big, so we'd eventually have had to stop, but we also aren't intending to go on a huge mission.
Before too terribly long, we find ourselves down in Southland, which is the state to the south of Otago, and it's also the state that encompasses most of the southern coast of the island as well as all of the massive fjords.
We end up in the little town of Colac Bay, which is normally pretty quiet, but this weekend happens to be hosting a surfing competition, so it's super busy, which of course is a relative term. There's a perfectly adequate campground, and since "super busy" is, remember, relative, there's plenty of space left for us to park the van and pitch the tent.
Accommodation sorted and with the rest of the more-meager-by-the-day daylight hours to burn, we venture out from the campground for an exploratory run and get a pretty fair tour of the place. The battered trees and bush we find suggest that the weather deteriorates quite frequently, so we consider ourselves lucky that it's only blustery and showery.
Tour complete and bellies rumbling, we walk a few minutes over to The Pavilion, where we are served a fantastic feast. I think it's since changed ownership, so hopefully it's still as good... Our waitress tells us she was surfing with the little local dolphins earlier in the day; I believe this is called the good life.
After a worthy meal and a bottle of wine, we walk it off and burn some time with the camera, and we're rather ready to retire. What we haven't counted on is that the surf comp after party is being held at the tavern attached to the campground, and this is the biggest party of the year. Were it not for the belly full of food and red wine, I like to think we'd have wandered over for a pint, but we instead play the Old Card and opt for earplugs.
Colac Bay dusk
However, before turning in, Ethel takes a few minutes to commandeer the mini-horse that's in a pen in the campground and looking awfully neglected. He's thrilled to be out and about and makes short work of every patch of grass he can find. Good deed done, we turn in.
Murphy's new friend
Breakfast options in Colac Bay are approximately zero, so we head down the road and find a cafe in Orepuki that has just opened and features a super friendly owner. Fixed by coffee and pastries, we continue on, making a lap through Tuatapere and Nightcaps (where we visit our landlords) before Ethel realizes that she's left her purse at the restaurant in Colac Bay the night before. Oops.
Being less interested in the Big Backtrack than Murphy is, I let her chuck me out of the car in my running clothes to bash out 16k towards an intersection by which she'll pass after she's reunited with her purse. The only downside to this is that we're currently in a "less-inspiring" section of Southland than many others, where "less-inspiring" is a euphemism for "boring as shit." As unexciting as that sounds, I'm able to pretend that it's an episode of Top Gear wherein they're racing each other across some godforsaken landscape using different forms of transportation, and that makes the kilometers go by with more enthusiasm.
Finally, with people and payment methods reunited, we cruise back to Queenstown and call it a successful mission.
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