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Published: November 19th 2006
At our campsite near Invercargill.
Bit of a cheesy title but you'll be able to see why as the report progresses (if you can't guess already that is). I could have used Rock Bottom, Down but not out, or anything of a similar nature.
Sunday 5th November
Leaving our camp site we started south for what will probably be one of the last mornings of our travels here in NZ. As we've become accoustomed to recently, the journey was partaken in a veil of rain which didn't stop all day! Anyway, we made our way to the town of Bluff and weren't going to have our day spoilt (too much anyway) by the weather. There was a very useful Heritage trail of the town that we could undertake in our van and we spent a while cruising the streets stopping outside historic buildings, the graveyard, the harbour and war memorials before getting to the most southerly point (of Bluff) where a very famous signpost stands. Famous in New Zealand anyway. Photograph taken as proof we soon jumped back in the van out of the rain.
The next couple of hours we spent making our way along the south coast of the South Island
Slope Point (possibly)
Simon ponders why anyone would steal the sign?
in an area called the Catlins. Here the roads were dodgy at best and apparently a lot of rental companies don't cover the area for insurance purposes which was good to know. No accidents were had though thankfully seeing as sensible people seem to avoid the area due to the rubbish raods. One stop in the area was at a place called Slope Point which is the southern-most point of the south island. Here we had to park the van and brave the drizzle to walk 20 minutes across a sheep field to the coast. Alex described the walk as a "dodge the sh*t exercise"! At the coast we were a bit confused seeing as there should have been a very helpful sign telling us that we were just over halfway between the equator and the South Pole but it seemed to have vanished - we're sure that we were in the right place before anybody asks. We got a photo anyway. Back in the van we decided we'd made a better effort than about seven people who piled out of a 4x4 only to take photos from the car park before jumping back in and dissappearing again. We don't
think they would have managed the walk though as they looked like they were more suited in a fashion show rather than the walk in the rain across the field.
Curio bay was the next stop of the day. The beach is famous for having rocks on the beach containing petrified trees from thousands of years ago. We had a wander among the rocks and managed to spot a few rocks with bark patterns on them. The next sight on the drive certainly didn't live up to expectations. We pulled off the main road to Niagara Falls, obviously named by some joker - the falls were basically a minute drop in the river with about one rock in the way and a signpost showing the Niagara falls in USA/Canada.
The night was spent next to a more impressive waterfall though called the Purakaunui Falls which are one of the most photographed in New Zealand. A short walk from our camping location (which wasn't actually a camp site but we couldn't find the proper one) led to the falls which weren't the largest that we'd seen by a long way but seemed to consist of many little waterfalls.
Waking up in our so called campsite we decided to make the short drive down the road to some more waterfalls before breakfast. Here we found two waterfalls, the Matai and the Horseshoe falls which were worth the walk, before making our way back for the much needed breakfast. We continued east and had another stop shortly down the road. Here we found an old railway tunnel that was abandoned but is still available to walkers who want to walk down the 240 (or so) metre length of it. We were well prepared with a torch thanks to a handy sign but unfortunately the batteries were close to dying so we could see about 10cm in front of us. Thankfully we could see the other end of the tunnel and we shared a bit of a joke with an Aussie couple who we passed (didn't really see them) as we asked if there were any big holes as we wouldn't see them until we had falled down them. Thankfully we managed to navigate ourselves to the opposite end and back with only one hole found by accident.
Nugget Point was next on the itinery and we drove
down a small peninsular to the end where a lighthouse sits on the rocks overlooking the Nuggets, which are stacks of rock in the sea. Here we could see some sealions basking on the rocks as well as one or two swimming in rock pools or the sea. We were also hoping to see the rarest penguin in the world, the Yellow Eyed penguin, but were not rewarded with a sighting.
Needing a shower and having had enough tourist sights for the day we ignored the chance to see a whale fossil in Balclutha and headed straight for Dunedin which would be our base for the next few days.
The day was spent checking out the city of Dunedin. I was given a welcome break from driving as we caught the bus from the camp site into the middle of the city. This gave me a chance to see what we were driving past which wasn't much as it turned out. We got off the bus and almost straight away stumbled into a photography exhibition that was being shown for free. Most of the photos were cracking with only a couple that we didn't like. After
an interesting start to the morning we made our way to the information centre so we could see what else was on offer for the rest of the day. Here we found out that Dunedin is actually the fifth largest city in the world! This is only on city area though and Dunedin isn't really that big as the city boundaries were set miles into the surrounding land for no apparent reason - we'd actually passed the city limit signs the previous day and they were miles out from town where there were still fields. We left the information centre and had a wonder around the city centre, a lot of the streets named after Edinburgh. We found our way to the Railway station which is a very grand building and inside we paid to have a look around the Sports Hall of Fame where we learned about many World Champion Kiwis. It did get a bit tiring in the end seeing as it was just for Kiwi sports people but we found out some very interesting things. Leaving the sports museum we headed for the University of Otago, New Zealand's oldest university, where we relived student days (Alex's more
The blue colour comes from rock flour suspended in the water.
recent than mine!) and crashed into the union for a spot of lunch. Once we had warmed up sufficiently and filled our bellies we were off down the road to the Botanic gardens. A walk around the grounds was pleasent but made much more enjoyable by a trip to the avairy. Here we saw some of our favourite NZ birds (Keas and Kakas) as well as a host of other strange and colourful birds. Our favourite were the cockatoos, especially a couple of them who enjoyed to talk to the passers by. Some of the favourite phrases of these little fellows were "Hello", 'How you doing?", "Bugger", "Fancy some tea?", and it certainly sounded like a person was heckling us as we made our way around. Leaving the gardens we made our way back into town while browsing the shops and stopped in at the Dunedin Art Gallery to lap up some more culture to while away the end of the afternoon.
We rounded the day off with a pizza in a great Italien restaurant called Etrusco and a pint in the pub after that before catching the bus back out of town.
Wednesday morning was a wash out (why do we have so much rain?!?). All was not lost though as we salvaged the afternoon by driving out onto the Otago Peninsula. It was still raining, and even hailed at one point, but we managed to make it to the end of the peninsula where Royal Albatrosses breed on Taiaroa Head. Seeing as the weather was awful though and they were charging for the privilege, we gave it a miss and just read about the birds and the penguins in the visitor information centre.
To make up for missing the Albatrosses we made our way to Sandfly Bay. The name was a bit ominous as the sand flies are great at biting but thankfully the wind and the rain scare them away so there was no chance of us being harrassed! The bay, which would be gorgeous in decent weather, had a long curving beach backed onto by lots of high sand dunes. Our aim for coming for a walk here was to reach the hide at the other end of the beach and try to spot some of the elusive, and very rare, Yellow-eyed penguins. We started off down the beach but we soon stopped in our tracks by some Hooker's laying around on the beach. Ok, they weren't ladies of the night but Hooker's sealions. Another thing, they were huge! We had to divert into the sand dunes several times to give the big, smelly animals a wide bearth but managed to get within about 10 metres of a gigantic male and two females as we spied on them from the safety of a sand dune. We managed to make it to the hide which gave us some welcome relief from the wind and rain. In the end we did manage to spot a couple of the Yellow-Eyed penguins but unfortunately it was from quite a distance as they were sat up in the hills at our end of the beach. We didn't have the patience to wait around for them to come back from feeding in the sea and it would have been getting dark anyway. We were happy with having spotted some though but couldn't make out the yellow around their eyes which connects around the back of their heads. Knowing that the Hooker's were on the beach we made our way back through the sand dunes. We were surprised then when Alex's nose detected an awful smell and we found that one or two stray sealions had made their way an impressive distance into the dunes for their size. Thankfully we made it back to the van where we could start to dry off and warm up.
The night had been freezing again and our Olive oil was solid - we were under the impression that it was summer down here but the weather doesn't appear to be taking notice. The wind felt like it was blowing up from Antartica, which it probably was. The day was to be spent heading north and we stopped on the way out of Dunedin at Baldwin street. Any other street wouldn't have been worth it but Baldwin street is in the Guinness book of records for being the steepest street in the world! With an average gradient of 1 in 3 metres and the steepest point being 1 in 2.8 it lived up to its title. Parking Max at the bottom, which was a very wise choice, we hot-footed it up to the top. Apparently they have a race every year up and down the street where people can complete the round trip in around two minutes. I'm guessing that it would be about 1.5 minutes to get up and only 30 seconds to get down, hopefully stopping in time before hitting the main road at the end. At the top we had to put up with a group of rather annoying French Canadians and a fitness freak who insisted on running up the street only to skip rather camply down it again.
Seeing as there weren't really any views of the city from where we were we decided to drive up Signal Hill. Here we had great views over the city and some of the peninsula which probably allowed us to see more of it than when we were actually on the thing!
Having left Dunedin we stopped just before lunch time in a place called Moeraki. Another walk down the beach led us to another bizzare sight. Here there were spherical boulders just lying around on the beach. Formed in the rocks, they are left sitting when the rest of the land around them is eroded by the sea to leave them sitting on the sand like huge eggs. We had a good wander around the area, getting a few stupid photos along the way as you can see. The rest of the day was spent driving to our stop for the night which was another wwoofing host - details to follow...
We spent Thursday night to Saturday morning at the home of a gentleman called Stuart, and his daughter Rose. We had read our wwoofing book and the place seemed really nice which wasn't the case at all when we got there. It turns out that Stuart is a collector of junk, and his little farm is littered with old cars, tractors, rubbish in general and even a truck that he recently bought despite not having a truck driving license. The house wasn't much better and it was clear why he wasn't married. Anyway, he seemed nice enough and we did a bit of work on the Thursday night before hitting the sack.
More work was done on Friday which involved weeding but also potato planting which was a doddle of a job. Five hours work done and the day was ours. Seeing as there wasn't much to do around the place we just relaxed and spent the evening in with Stuart. We found out quite a bit about him which seemed to all fit into place. He is very work shy, hasn't worked since Rose was born 15 years ago, and just sponges off the system! He used to help run a brothel and doesn't like the police (not the band). The reason why Rose's mum wasn't around was because she was with another man in Dunedin. Stuart, at the age of 32, got Rose's mum pregnant who was 17 at the time. Not the best basis for a family. Anyway, we got on ok with him and I even managed to beat him 3-2 at backgammon, more down to luck than skill on my part!
Stuart let us off our remaining two hours work on Saturday morning - as we said, a bit strange but nice. Before he changed his mind we escaped, with a few fresh eggs that we had been given, and set off in beautiful weather conditions. We were heading inland, back towards the west coast and stopped in the village of Twizel for lunch. Seeing as there wasn't much to look at we continued on our way to the Mount Cook National Park. We couldn't see Mount Cook when we arrived, despite it being the tallest mountain in New Zealand, due to the awful weather that had descended on us throughout the afternoon. Not wanting to go for a walk in the rain we pulled into our campsite and whiled away the rest of the day.
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