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Published: August 15th 2016
I continued my descent down the South Island as their were two spots I wanted to get to. Slope Point which is the southern most point on the South Island (I figured since I made it to the northern most point of the North Island, might as well do opposite for the South Island) and also the famed district of Fiordland in the southwest portion of the country. I would fight two battles during this leg of my journey: 1.) The weather and 2.) Trying to process and comprehend the beauty that stood before me and understand the power of nature that sculpted it.
My first stop on this segment was a little town called Oamaru of which I had read has a colony of pudgy nightly visitors that live in the hillsides outside of town. Waiting for dusk to arrive and trying to be as quiet as possible I was rewarded with seeing the rare Yellow Eyed Penguin in its native habitat. I was very excited. Curious little creatures these are and I was completely amused watching the little birds wash in from the ocean and then waddle up to their hillside nests for the night. The penguins here
leave each day before sunrise and swim out 40km or so into the sea searching for food. After they have had their fill they return home just about sunset to rest for the night and then repeat the cycle the next day. A special encounter indeed and the first time I have ever seen a penguin. A sign of how far down on the planet I really am.
Continuing south towards the university town of Dunedin I saw a sign on the road for the old Seacliff Lunatic Asylum grounds and reserve. Curious I detoured and went to the grounds and read about how this was the spot where lobotomies, electro-shock therapy and all manner of terrible atrocities were imposed upon the mentally ill from the late 1800's to 1959. It really is insane (pardon the pun) of what people can inflict on their fellow man. I had a weird and strange walk through the grounds - which were beautiful - but I could not get the history out of my mind. I cannot imagine what people went through here. A random stroll for sure.
Moving onwards I made it to Dunedin. This is home to New Zealand's
oldest and largest university the Univeristy of Otago. I only briefly stayed here for lunch and a walk around the city centre. From my time here though it seemed like a cool town and it definitely had a youthful and lively vibe about it. But I'm not here to tour cities so I continued on to an area known as The Catlins on the southern shores of New Zealand.
Driving through The Catlins was another pleasant trip. The southern coast is rugged and empty. No one really lives down here and their was a real frontier like feeling about. I cruised the coastline exploring little hidden coves and beaches until I reached Slope Point - the southern most point on the South Island. This is as far south on this planet as I had ever been in my life, and the farthest south I am most likely to ever be. Unless I somehow someday make it to the shores of Antarctica which are a hop skip and a jump from this shore. This thought consumed my mind as I sat on the point. I'm not sure if I am OK with this or not. It made me think about
my own mortality. I cannot go everywhere and see everything in one lifetime. Terrible shame really. But I'll do the best I can and see where the chips lay in the end.
Another few hours and I had made it to Fiordland on the south western edge of the country to the lakeside township of Te Anau. I was really excited to be here as I have read and seen travels shows about this regions' beauty. I've always wanted to go into a fiord and I booked a cruise into Milford Sound straight away. A quick dinner in town and then I found a field to camp in for the night. When I awoke I was greeted by this.
Needless to say their would be no cruise for me today to the fiord of Milford Sound. I also would not be going anywhere. I could think of worse places to be stuck in than Te Anau as the township is situated on a pristine lake with mountain peaks all around. I hunkered down and had an administrative day washing the clothes I have been in for the past three weeks and having a hot shower. Two things that
Southern Most Point on the South Island
were desperately needed and may not have been accomplished had I not been snowed in. I also got to watch Monday Night Football live on a Tuesday afternoon which was a nice treat. The next day was gorgeous but my cruise had again been canceled due to avalanches on the road to Milford Sound. Not to be defeated (which in the end I was, sort of) I set out to drive as far as the road would allow and man was I glad I did. Massive snow capped peaks, imposing glacial valleys, and crystal clear lakes were around every turn. The landscape here was awe inspiring and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Even though I was denied going to the fiords I still had an incredible journey to this region I've always dreamed about. Someday I'll be back. Next time in the summer and not living in my car.
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