Part 2 - Central Otago

Lake Hawea
After lunch we drove inland on a particularly windy piece of road which was the Haast Pass and then as if by magic we started to come out into this totally different landscape. No longer were we travelling along the rugged West Coast with its stony beaches, wind and foreboding mountains. We were transported into a land of drier vegetation and brownish hillsides where the air felt less damp and the landscape was less dramatic but in fact utterly beautiful. This was more my kind of scene.

The first lake we saw, but only drove past as we wanted to keep moving, was Lake Wanaka.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Lake Wanaka.

Then as we moved further inland we came to a lookout over Lake Hawea, and what a sight that was...
We stopped for a quick photo shoot and then drove as far as Lake Dunstan where the dogs played, swam and generally chilled out!
Phoenix with stick (left) and Phoenix looks out at someone swimming (right).

Kula with stick.

In the video below you will see how dogs like to do different things with sticks - Phoenix is very intent on chewing and Kula is busting to retrieve.

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After that little break we started the final leg to our cottage in Alexandra and we were very much looking forward to this part of our trip as we were going to have three nights there and it would be a chance to settle for a bit.

What a lovely sight it was to see our historic stone cottage at last, draw up to the back door and turn the engine off for the last time that day. Our home away from home was just perfect with great grounds for the dogs and what's more, the main excitement was that there were loads of BUNNIES, yeah. So, we started the job of unpacking the van and the dogs went off to find out where all the bunnies were hiding. Then we got on to the job of sustenance for humans and dogs.
Unpacking (left). Sustenance for human (right).

Dogs investigating (left).  View from the cottage looking up the property (right).

Looking from the top corner of the property back to the cottage (left). Looking across the top of the property (right).

Looks like a bunny hole to me (left). Yep, definitely a bunny hole (right).

Nope, no-one home here
:-( (left). View down the road (right).

Now, as you can see from the above photos, we fell in love with the property. The accommodation was basic and quaint but had everything we needed (except a freezer). Our dogs are raw fed so we just popped into the supermarket every day to get something fresh for them. We spent the first night playing cards and having a relatively early night after a long trip. It was very peaceful at the cottage. An occasional vehicle might go along the road but it mainly had the peace of the countryside and that lovely pitch black at night - there were no street lights here.

The dogs slept the night in the lounge and then I took them for a walk around the property around 6am the next morning. The walk around the property became a favourite thing to do every time I had a bit of time to while away, so at least five or six times a day. The dogs would love racing around trying to find the rabbits. My lot are too slow for the rabbits but they scored 110% for trying. And anyway, I don't think they'd know what to do with one if they caught up with it. The excitement is in the chase and not the actual catching. I am pretty sure they actually wouldn't harm them because a while ago Sherry cornered a fairly large duckling (not quite flying) by a gate and all she did was run back and forth by the gate after the duckling wagging her tail and trying to sniff it. There was no sense that she might be wanting to harm it, just get to know it! Shadow is my hunter and Sherry goes after her, but as I say, even Shadow hasn't ever got that close to anything that she would catch it and I don't get the impression that she wants to harm them.

The dogs would be racing around the property trying to sniff out the rabbits, oh boy, did they have fun. Below are some short videos of the dogs having fun.

The first one is a classic and you definitely need sound for this one to hear Shadow go past after the rabbit. Also, note how Kula and Sherry totally didn't know where the rabbit had gone even though they flushed it out, and the rabbit went right past Phoenix's nose and (blind as she is) she knew something had happened but not quite sure what!

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This second video shows Shadow and Sherry bounding after a rabbit that was on the other side of the fence - you can just see it go past.

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This third video shows Shadow, Sherry and Kula running around the field looking for rabbits and Phoenix finally cantering up the paddock happily.

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So on our first day at the cottage we decided to go for a walk at Butchers Dam. We set off along the road and I was in for a big surprise. I have never been to Central Otago before and I had no idea about how it is famous for wild thyme. We arrived at the dam and got out of the van and started on our walk. Unfortunately there was a cattle grid there that we had to carry all the dogs over, ouch, that hurt! However, we navigated that little obstacle and came to the dam and a stone shelter. I do suggest you enlarge some of these scenic photos because it was so beautiful there.
Round the lake and looking back across to our van (left).

The walk started off around part of the lake and then to the dam itself.
Butcher's Dam.

There was a track leading up to "Table Top Hill" and that sounded nice so we decided to follow this track. Obviously, as the name implies, there was a climb involved. The hills were covered in this purple flower and as we began to walk up the track we noticed a lovely smell. At one point we stopped and had a good look at the flowers and the smell. I decided that I thought it was thyme and so on we walked. It wasn't until later on when we were in a cafe in Alexandra that we saw a leaflet talking about the Central Otago Wild Thyme Festival which I think was for about a week starting on 17 November. This is to celebrate the lovely wild thyme on the hills in the area which flowers at this time of year. So we couldn't have timed our trip better for this as they were all in flower and the hills looked absolutely stunning. The smell of thyme will always remind me of that walk now because it was everywhere in the air - beautiful. It felt almost a crime to step on the plants but they were everywhere and you couldn't really help it sometimes.

Meanwhile, Shadow, followed by Sherry, took off over the hillsides. We have no idea how far they went because it wasn't worth calling them as they were on a mission - Shadow to find bunnies and Sherry to keep up with Shadow in case anything interesting happened! So we just let them go and every once in a while they would turn up absolutely gasping for breath. The day was getting hotter, though not too bad - we wouldn't have wanted to do the walk in the heat of the summer - but the dogs were getting pretty hot with their fur coats on.
Taking a breather on the way up the hill looking back over the lake.

Nearly at the top.

Stunning rock formations and Shadow taking a breather from the rabbit run.

View from the top to the Clyde River.

After we had got to the top we had to then pick our way down. We didn't follow a track because the tracks went on all over the hills. We had seen all we wanted and the dogs were so hot that we really needed to get down to the lake to give them a swim. We too were hot, but not hot enough for a dip. So, we picked our way through the thyme and went a fairly direct way down the hill. It took quite a while and meantime Shadow and Sherry were dashing all over the place still looking for rabbits - they didn't seem to understand that they actually don't come out in the day and although we tried to tell them that, the message wasn't getting through. We were partly being foiled by an occasional rabbit that ventured out of its burrow in the distance and then the dogs got the scent of it and they were off again. I should rephrase that, most rabbits don't come out in the daytime!

Finally, we arrived at the lake and the dogs were in. Oh, what a lovely cooler that was for them.

Kula bathes (left). Sherry eats grass and the others wade around in the lovely cooling water (right).

We went to Alexandra after our walk and had lunch in the old Courthouse and then spent a lazy afternoon back at the cottage reading books and generally soaking up the peace and quiet. However, later that afternoon we discovered a rabbit that we had caught - or did it just die of fright? Yes, that seems to have been it. The rabbit was quite warm still and obviously had just dropped dead. Shadow and Sherry were sure that this was their doing and that they deserved the spoils of their efforts.
This is ours... we caught that... we did, we did!
Give it to me dad!

That night, well... were we bushed or what? Could hardly have moved if we had wanted to. What a lovely day it had been.

The next morning we woke and I took the dogs for a walk around the property at 6am and then back to bed for a lay in. It was very peaceful at the cottage, idyllic really. We took our time getting up and having breakfast and another walk around the property. Rob had a play with his phone camera and discovered he could do panoramas!

Then we decided to have a drive to Clyde just for fun and to see what was there. We found a lookout and took some photos there.
Panoramic view of the Clyde Dam at the right and Clyde township to the left.

Then, as usual, we went down to the river to give the girls a swim.

We drove into Clyde and had lunch in a cafe that was in the old bank building - they make a mean slice there, yum! Then in the afternoon we wandered round Alexandra shops and then back to the cottage for some more bunny chasing and several walks around the property. Just a lovely, relaxing time.

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Phoenix and Sherry relaxing.

Next morning we could not really believe that our time there was over. It was one of those places that you look forward to going to - partly for us it was that we were going to have three nights in one place but also we had heard that Central Otago was lovely. However, I certainly had never expected what we actually got which was just pot luck really that we turned up when the wild thyme was flowering. That was just a bonus and a complete surprise. In fact, I am not sure what I expected with the landscape but it certainly wasn't what I saw. The real thing was much more enchanting than I could have wished for. We were quite sad to be packing up and we took the dogs for one last wander round the property to suss out any rabbits that might be out in the daytime. Then we loaded the dogs into the full van again, drove out the gate and shut it and said goodbye little cottage. We would definitely consider staying there again and especially at that time of the year.

There was another dam that was nearer to the cottage than Butchers Dam and this one was called Conroys Dam, so we decided to pop in there for a nice walk and swim for the dogs
before we headed south. It was only a couple of minutes down the road. We drove the van to the end of a track by the lake and then I decided to walk with the dogs back to the other end of the lake again while Rob drove the van. Shadow and Sherry did the usual thing of disappearing off up the hillsides while Phoenix and Kula stayed with me. We didn't worry about Shadow and Sherry because they would come back eventually and I figured it was good exercise for them. The only problem I had had with these few days was the fact that I wanted to put some weight on Sherry between the two shows because I felt she was too skinny at Greymouth - ha, what a laugh that was. The dogs were eating heaps every night and morning but there was no chance of putting on weight because they were running up and down huge hillsides in the day time. So I just gave up on that thought and let them have fun while we were on holiday. Plenty of time to add a bit of weight when we get home.

Then we all took a walk together across the dam and around the other side of the lake. We found a lovely swimming hole for the dogs and they had some fun there.
Conroy's Dam (left). Walking round the lake (right).

Below are a couple of videos of the dogs having a swim. It was so calm and peaceful there and a fitting way to finish our time in Central Otago.

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It's easy getting in Kula, but not so easy getting out again!

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