Alexandra & The Catlins

So as my dearest mother-in-law has pointed out, it has been far too long since I’ve written anything and everyone is clearly waiting with baited breath for my next post so here it is.

Since I last wrote about our stay with the Gibson’s on their farm, we’ve finished a few more WWOOFing trips (see last post if you don’t know what WWOOFing means). The first being in Alexandra as we waited for our appointment to get a “house” battery for the van that would charge up once the vehicle one was topped up so that we could have a working fridge! No more scurvy, vegetables here we come. Anyway, our trip from the gorgeous coastal university city of Dunedin to Alexandra was of course scenic. We’ve come to expect nothing less from this country. The landscape changed from rocky outcrops of seal and penguin habitat, to the rolling countryside of farmland we had come to love in the Otago region. Once closer to Alexandra however a completely new kind of rocky landscape began to emerge. Eroded, slab-like rock that seemed to sit on a pedestal was scattered across the rolling terrain. This spot, I knew from our good friends Rob and Utah, was a kind of mountain biking Mecca. It was unique in that it was not the usual hard packed forestry trails around the equally amazing trails of Queenstown and the west coast but ones of rock and gravel in an almost desert like environment.

Alexandra Landscape
Mountain Biking on Flat Top Hill
Another Angle, Because Why Not
Looking Down on Butcher’s Dam with Alexandra In the Middle Ground at the Base of the Distant Mountains

Our hosts were Audrey and Reid and we were their first ever WWOOFers. They were just outside the rown and beside Butcher’s Dam, a beautiful body of water that sat right at the bottom of some of Flat Top Hill’s finest mountain biking tracks (not planned but a very nice surprise). They had purchased an incredible old estate that had been vacant for some time and were turning it into a functioning bed & breakfast. This meant our first task was to help with some of the demolition to an old cabin they were restoring. First off, I need to note the interesting history of the place as the land was owned by a Chinese gold prospector back in the gold rush days. He had run a general store there for other travelers as well and an old 1800’s mud and stone building still stands on the property today. If you want to learn more just google Lye Bow Estate.

Reid, an electrical engineer, had moved to New Zealand from Britain and met Audrey later on who was from the North Island. They now lived on this Lye Bow estate with their two dogs and they were kind enough to let us work there as we waited for our appointment with the electricians working on the van. We helped tear down old walls and carpeting from the cabin on the first day and then set weeded and lay down sod for their gardens during the next few. In between we of course managed to get some riding in on flat top, the river track to the historic town of Clyde and the tracks up and behind the landmark glow-in-the-dark clock screwed high into the rock, Hollywood sign style.

Deck and Garden of Lye Bow Estate
One of the Original Buildings on the Estate
Laying Down Wood Chips for the Herb Garden
Path to Dock on Butcher’s Dam
Butcher’s Dam reached by Bike Path
A Walk Around the Lye Bow Gardens



After our stay at Lye Bow, Meg and I rode along the Otago Central Rail Trail for a day at one of the most scenic portions – from Omakau to Auripo Station.

The Old and the New – Bridge into Alexandra
The Alexandra clock with a daring mountain biker below
Meg Biking along the Bridge towards Auripo


Dynamite Blasted Tunnel on the Rail Trail
Tea after the ride at a little cafe
Display of old radios at the cafe

After the amazing folks at Dunedin Motorhomes fixed up our electrical wiring to the new battery and hooked up the fridge free of charge (I was going to try and do that but they probably saved me one hell of a shock) we set off for a trip through the Catlins. The Catlins are famous for penguins, waterfalls, New Zealand’s only castle, historic lighthouses and some of the prettiest coastline you’ve ever seen.

Here are some of the highlights:


Boasting itself as New Zealand’s only castle, this historic building is filled with incredible architecture. A sad history to it, Meg and I wandered this famous building on the Otago peninsula, just outside Dunedin one rainy day – a fitting atmosphere to view the grounds.

First View of the Castle
Front Entrance
Some Fancy Guests (you can stay at the castle) Arrive in Style


Meg enjoying the audio tour
The Motto “Sans Peur” meaning No Fear in French in Stained Glass, the Cat was meant to be Punny as Peur is pronounced like Purr (not really, more like Pear but they were Scottish or something)
My Inner Grandpa Dave Desperately Wants A Library Like This With Leather Sitting Chair
A Look Up The Wooden Spiral Staircase to the Intricate Ceiling
Top Floor Raised Ceiling that Allows the Light In
And Down the Spiral Staircase…
Meg’s the King of the Castle – Standing at the Top


Trail leading to the Lighthouse
Nugget Point 
Seals Sunbathing Spot
Catlins Coastline
One of the Bays for Penguin Watching


Meg Outside of Cathedral Caves
Dave Outside of…You Guessed It
Start of the Catlins River Walk
Swaying Suspension Bridge at the Catlins River Walk
Lunch Break in the middle of nowhere
Lost in Thought
Beautiful Purakaunui Falls


Relaxing on Our Day at the Beach
Curio Bay
In Honour of Meg’s Dad Clif!

Since it’s been a month since my last entry to this blog this post is actually just a small portion of some of the amazing things we’ve been fortunate enough to do since then. Still to come are some pictures and stories from our stay at a “definitely haunted” (in Meg’s words) B&B called Mainholm Manor and a stay at the Tui House B&B just outside of Queenstown that buys one ton of sugar every year to feed sugar water to the robot-like calls of the Tui bird.

Until then, we are still so grateful we have the opportunity to do something like this so it’s time to log off of the computer and keep exploring!


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