As we set off for St Bathans, the wind and rain edged behind us, saying ‘please excuse’ on its way past. The Maniototo landscape was its magnificent self; dry, desert-like land stretching to a distinctive mountain border, the wide sky bursting with blustering clouds fighting a losing battle for their place in the sun.
The small town of St Bathans is a little off the beaten track (and the road we took to get to it was gravel) but it's certainly worth the trip.
The old gold diggings are testament to the fact that desecration of the land is not always ugly - in this case, nature and weather taking over the remains of brutal, high-pressure sluicing by miners, to form sculptures from the exposed, pale cliffs.
In this photo, Robert is sitting outside the local hotel, known for its ghost. While sitting there drinking his coffee, and as I was taking the photo, a woman went past with the laundry (you can see her in the photo holding a pile of sheets). On her way past the wooden seat farther along the wall, she said, "Hi Joe", to what appeared to be an invisible person. Uh-huh, thinks Robert, she's saying hello to the ghost. Then he noticed that lying in the shade under the seat was a dog (no doubt called Joe).
As we drove into the small rural township of Omakau, we saw that their annual A&P* Show was in progress. It didn’t take us long to decide to stop and have a gander. We ended up staying a couple of hours. Long-gone, it seems, are the days of the large A&P shows I remember, ones that lasted for two days with merry-go-rounds, plastic windmills, ferris-wheel and chair-o-plane rides, Miss 'Whatever-Province' competitions, bonniest baby competitions, candy-floss, clowns, ballerina dolls on sticks, highland dancing, wood-chopping, toffee apples, carnies running their suss, evening side-shows and in the Grand Parade, impressively scary bulls and vain roosters, obstinate pet lambs and calves, obstreperous shetland ponies ... However, at the Omakau show, the remnants stalwartly remain. As soon as we got out of the car and smelt horse-dung and heard bagpipes, we knew we couldn’t be anywhere else but at an A&P show. We found pens of woolly sheep, bagpipes, horse jumping, hot chips in a paper cup, and there was even a Grand Parade. As we headed for the car, over the loud speakers came the announcement that the Jack Russell race was about to begin.
From there we headed for our Saturday night destination, Wanaka's Top Ten camping ground. Past a serious array of business-like vineyards that pooh-pooh any idea of wine-making as a mere cottage industry, we sped, past the long Pisa Range, its trademark, snipped-off tips marking a blue boundary to the west, to sit basking in the last of the sun and eating a tea we made up from what we had left over in the picnic basket and chilli-bin.