Last weekend my sister flew down from Wellington to catch up on her southern family, and to do some family tree research. Before we headed off into the wider environs of Dunedin City, we visited a local sightseeing spot, Larnach's Castle, built high above Dunedin's harbour and often surrounded by a persistent mist.
Which only seems fitting for a castle. The castle was built by a William Larnach who we learnt, had an extremely interesting history. And there is meant to be a ghost. But we didn't see it - although one room we went into gave me the creeps.
We could hear country and western music pouring out of this little shop, making my sister's partner's description of the country we were in as 'banjo country', rather prophetic.
The mist was not going to let us go, and continued to tangle itself about the landscape. As well there was a dogged, autumn drizzle hindering our efforts to explore.
My sister saw a paddock full of mushrooms and made whimpering noises when I didn't stop the car so she could clamber over the barbed wire fence and gather them up. I was too afraid of a gruff farmer shouting, "Oy! What do you think you're doing?"
An example of the many rocks to be found around, being put to good use as a fence post.
We decided we wouldn't press on westward, but turn back and approach my brother's place at Beaumont, where we were staying the night, from the east. Having been out of range for phones and internet during our travels, it wasn't until we stopped to have dinner at the town of Lawrence (a town which offers free internet) that we heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I was very concerned about our son living over there, but Facebook messages assured me he was fine. However, from then on until I returned home again and could Skype him, it was constantly at the back of my mind.
The Creamoata Mill at Gore is now a stock-food factory, the market for creamoata ( a fine rolled oats) having dropped considerably in recent years. However, Sergeant Dan the Creamoata man who encouraged many a young Southlander to eat up all his breakfast porridge, is still there. My sister reminded me how you could smell the oats (roasting?) the minute you biked over the railway lines to got to the swimming pool. One of our other sisters worked there for a time.