04.04.2010 - 11.04.2010 14 °C
After a longish drive we eventually parked up at a campsite in Invercargill – not the world’s most exciting city but the campsite – ‘Timbertops’ not far from the city centre was lovely. In the morning Richard made a friend named Troy who regaled us of stories such as the time he met Chris Ryan and Andy McNabb in a pub and the exploits of his friend who was a Ninja having trained in Japan for two years. The friend had sadly recently got into a fight with some Paramilitary men. Fascinating fellow. We said our goodbyes (as he was off to court that morning) and headed off towards the Catlins.
Driving towards the Catlins the sun showed up again! Yay! It was still freezing but it lifted our spirits. This area is really beautiful – not to be missed. Our first stop was Waipapa Point where we took a wander and saw the lighthouse there. Fairly standard, but as we wandered along the beach we spotted three sea lions! They were huge! We got to within about 15 metres of them – not daring to get any closer as apparently they are easily enraged by prying tourists! They really are spectacular creatures and we were chuffed to be able to see them as it’s never guaranteed.
After getting our fill of sea lions we moved onto Slope Point – the southernmost point on the South Island of NZ. It was bitterly cold and windy here so we didn’t stick around long. We decided to move onto Curio Bay where we decided to stay on a really nice campsite right by Porpoise Bay where allegedly Hector’s Dolphins can be spotted. We didn’t see any in our time there but we parked up in an area of the campsite named ‘Penguin Point’ and sure enough in the evening we spotted a rare yellow eyed Penguin coming in from the sea to its nest! We were quite far away so the photos were a little blurry. Luckily we did spot another the next day. We’d gone to see the ‘petrified forest’ where you can see fossilised trees, which were alive around 180 million years ago. It was quite amazing to see huge stone tree trunks lying down within the stone! Apparently there were lots of standing tree stumps but had mostly been stolen as souvenirs. These lost appeal as soon as we spotted a little penguin legging it from the hordes of tourists there. It was really lucky to see one this close up and the DOC guy who was there gave us a little talk explaining about that particular colony. He told us that they have found no changes or problems with the penguins lifestyles having interaction with humans but to still give them space, despite this people seemed determined to run towards it and stand 5 metres away scaring it sufficiently that no one got any good photos!
We moved on in the afternoon to Cathedral Cove - $5 entry as it is privately owned but a 15 minute walk through some forest takes you to an almost deserted beach where at low tide it is possible to walk into some naturally formed caves. They were really cool – many people were coming out soaked to the bone due to misjudging the tide. We managed to escape without getting soaked by being patient and judging the waves! Pleasing.
Later we headed to Purakaunui Falls where we decided we would camp up for the night as it was fairly remote and was getting late. Apparently these falls were very popular along the tourist route and after a few minutes walk through forest we were at a loss as to the reason for this popularity – we have seen many better! An excellent free camping spot nonetheless.
The next day we headed to Nugget Point to try and spot some dolphins. Sadly none appeared but we spotted plenty more seals frolicking in the pools made by the rocks. We then walked up to the lighthouse which warns ships away from the ‘nuggets’ - rocks stacks out in the ocean. It was a beautiful view but sadly the wind and rain clouds moved in so we headed back to the camper.
We parked up just outside of Milton to sleep for the night then headed into Dunedin bright and early the next morning! We took a wander around the city and managed to get some snaps of the nice old buildings including St. Paul’s Cathedral, their statue of Robbie Burns (a nod to their Scottish colonial history) and the train station (most photographed building in NZ.) We also stopped off at Speights Brewery to have a look and contrary to what you will all be thinking we didn’t have a beer! Instead we’d heard you can fill up your empty bottles with some water from a ‘water spigot’ fed by the ‘same sweet tasting artesian water’ that is used to brew the beer! This sounded very good as we had run out. We donated a few dollars to the cause as any donations they receive they put towards environmental projects in the surrounding areas. Thanks Speights! Sadly it doesn’t taste as good as the beer, but not bad.
Next we had a look at the world’s steepest street! Baldwin Street north of the city holds this title officially. We had a walk up which was painful but manageable. We also enjoyed watching people attempt to drive up and down it. Our camper would have swiftly plummeted back down, probably taking a few houses out with it if we had attempted such a feat.
After the giddy thrill of Baldwin Street we cruised to the Otago Peninsula about an hour’s drive around the harbour from the city. We parked up at the Albatross Centre to try and spot some of these birds as this is the only mainland colony in the world. Richard spotted a few and got some good photos. We sneakily parked up down the road when it got dark as we had spotted a rest area with toilets that was surrounded by trees!
The next morning we headed to the Albatross colony again to have a look inside the centre and got a few more photos though there were fewer around during the day. We decided to head on and made our way to Wakouati where we stopped at a nice rest stop by a river. The next morning, Joy finally persuaded Richard to let her cut his hair as it was sunny day and by his own admission he was beginning to look a state! It was a very good first attempt at hair cutting, ten points for effort. Richard loves his new 70s do.
We decided to hit the road and headed for the Moeraki Boulders. The boulders were very interesting but were overshadowed by two schools of Hector’s Dolphins playing in the surf. Everyone was standing on top of the boulders to get a better look. Richard finally got his dolphin shot!
We moved on to Oamaru where there are two penguin colonies, one of blue penguins on the shore close to town (also found in Australia at Philip Island, known there as the ‘little penguin’) and one of yellow-eyed penguins on Bushy Beach which to our approval has been left to the Department of Conservation to deal with, so no tat peddling shops or entry fees. We pulled up around three and saw several scampering across the beach to their nests! We also were lucky to see one who had climbed up the cliff face to have a rest in the bushes and we got some good photos of him/her/it. At one point the penguin became very scared and stood to attention as a cat sauntered by him. We got chatting to a Scottish gentleman named Colin, a sort of self-appointed penguin expert who comes down every evening to chase people off the beach as the penguins won’t come ashore if they see people. We did see him frogmarch two tourists off the beach so naturally we zoomed in on Richard’s camera to have a nosy at the action.
When we were all penguined out we doubled back on ourselves a little to stay at a locally owned campsite near Oamaru as the only other option was a rip off Top Ten. Here we met an elderly gentleman who gave us a bag of 40 onions, which was very nice of him but we only had 5 days left to eat them. He also told us the life stories of his two Bichon-Frise dogs, Kasey and Lucy.
In the morning we headed off towards the Peel Forest where we had a chill out day and night as we felt we’d earned it. We free camped just outside the DOC campsite and at one point a Ute stopped and shined a search light on us but luckily it just drove off! We certainly didn’t want a repeat of Wanaka! In the morning we headed to Rakaia Gorge as we’d been told it was a beautiful spot for some lunch and a wander. Indeed it was! We had a little wander round the water and some lunch before heading off to the Banks Peninsula...