South Scenic Route

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September 14th 2008
Published: September 14th 2008
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After a week in Queenstown it was time to move on to TeAnau, the stop off point for Milford Sound. There was so much more we could have done in Queenstown if we had the money but unfortunately we are still travelers on a budget. We’d spoken to some other travelers and they’d recommended a place called ‘The Ranch’ in TeAnau that did roast dinners on Sunday for $12.50 so we went for our 2nd roast in 7months. To be honest we were a bit disappointed but you can’t really compare any roast to a traditional British one.
The next day, even though the weather was bad, we set off for Milford Sound which was a 2hr drive. The weather got worse and worse the closer we got and at one point the wind was so strong I seriously thought it might blow us over, Nick assured me it wouldn’t. Milford Sound is top of the list for things to see in NZ and although the weather was terrible the scenery really was worth a look. We started on flat ground but as we got closer to Milford Sound the hills/mountains gradually got bigger and bigger, by the time we’d reached the Homer Tunnel we were surrounded by huge snowy mountains. We went through the Homer Tunnel which didn’t look reinforced, it was just a tunnel dug out of the mountain. When we came out the other side the road going down the mountain was really windy and on either side there were massive mountains with snow melt coming down in hundreds of small waterfalls. There were loads of signs saying not to stop on the side of the road due to risk of avalanche being quite high! The reception was closed when we arrived at our campsite so we did some reading and had some lunch. When reception opened up later on we were told the roads would be closing at 5pm as a storm was coming and the roads might be closed for up to 4days! We really wanted to stay and explore Milford Sound but there was no guarantee the weather would get any better so we decided it would be best to drive back. On the way back we stopped off at ‘The Chasm’ which was a waterfall. The thing that was different about ‘The Chasm’ was all the soft rock had been worn away by the water leaving massive holes in the hard rock. It looked really cool and made loads of spray come up onto the wooden walkway at the top of the waterfall. A little further up the road we also stopped at the ‘Mirror Lakes’ but because of the terrible weather there wasn’t much of a mirror effect. We drove back through TeAnau and on to Manapouri a little further south. The campsite was really strange with loads of old Morris Minors parked up and a few little houses that looked like they were for dwarfs. The next morning we went down to Lake Manapouri for breakfast but were soon surrounded by sand flies so we decided to move on; as we were driving Nick got bitten by one and the bite was really itchy. The weather was really nice as we set off along the South Scenic Route. Our first stop Tuatapere is apparently the ‘sausage capital of the world’ so we bought some sausages. We then drove to a lookout over Ta WaeWae Bay and cooked some sausages sandwiches which were yummy (even though they were beef not pork). Our next stop was Riverton where we did a short 30min walk to a lookout over to Stewart Island and the surrounding bays. As we were driving along Riverton beach Nick noticed an ice-cream sign and decided to stop for one, I’m glad we did because they were amazing. It was $2 for 1 scoop (which was actually more like 3) and there was a wide variety of flavours. Nick chose strawberry choc-chip and I chose what I though was raspberry ripple but it turned out to be vanilla, cherry and marshmallow! We spent the night in Invercargill where Nick got chatting to a man who knew some of the P.E teachers from Nick’s area…small world. In the morning we set off to Bluff which wasn’t a very pretty town but had a signpost telling you distances to different places in the world, London was 18,958km away!!
The next day we reached Dunedin which kind of resembled Exeter with loads of students and churches. Whilst in Dunedin we visited the First Church, the Settlers Museum and Otago Museum but also booked onto a tour around Speights brewery. The tour was 1½hrs long but the last ½hr was spent in the bar where we were given a ¼pint glass and 6 lagers to work our way through. They weren’t up to Asian lager standards but we still tried every one of them and got a little tipsy.
After a couple of days in Dunedin we moved on towards Oamaru just up the coast. The weather was brilliant so on our way we decided to stop off at Shag Point (as we thought the name was funny). We were glad we did because the sign for the car park said you could see fur seals and penguins off the coast. We knew we wouldn’t see any penguins as they only come ashore in the late afternoon but we walked over to see if there were any seals. They blended into the rocks so well I didn’t see any at first but then Nick pointed one out to me and suddenly I could see loads. It was so cool to see our first seal in the wild, lying around on the rocks then jumping into the sea and swimming round. We walked along the cliff and must have seen about 30 dotted along the edge basking in the sun. As we were walking we noticed something in the grass ahead of us, it was a seal! Who knows how it had climbed its way up but Nick went to get a closer look and have his picture taken with it, whilst he was posing the seal growled at him and I’ve never seen him jump that much before….it was so funny!
We arrived in Oamaru and were told that at 4.30pm you could see yellow-eyed penguins at a beach nearby for free. You could also see blue-penguins coming ashore but had to pay $20 for the privilege; as we’re poor travelers we decided on the free option. So at 4.30pm we set off to Bushey Bay and were surprised at the small number of people down there, it may have had something to do with the fact it was freezing cold! We stood right at the top of the cliff and waited for the penguins to start coming ashore. After about 5mins we saw a penguin playing in the surf before catching a wave ashore and waddling across the beach to the bushes at the bottom of the cliff. Although we were quite far away it was amazing to see them in the wild. We saw a couple more do the same thing after another 10mins or so. I was really enjoying it and wanted to stay and see more but Nick was really cold and wanted to leave. Just as we were about to leave a man that worked there came over and asked if we’d seen a penguin walk by at the top of the cliff…we said we hadn’t. He then told us that when the penguins go into the bushes they then waddle up the cliff to the top to reach their nests which can be up to 1km inland! One of the penguins would have to walk right in front of where we were standing to get to his nest! We decided to wait and see if he came up and half an hour later, just as we were about to leave for the 2nd time, Nick spotted the penguin behind a bush. He started walking toward us and was less than 1m away, he didn’t seem bothered by us at all. He was beautifully coloured with a yellow stripe across his eyes which shimmered in the light. He would stand with his wings out in order to cool down after his long climb. He started squawking and that’s when we noticed other penguins dotted along the top of the cliff squawking back; it was amazing. After taking a lot of photos we ran back to the van to warm up as we were FREEZING!
Apparently Oamaru was to be the start to a run of bad luck. Firstly Nick dropped one of our plates which smashed in a few pieces, then he left our razor behind for the 2nd time in 2 weeks (both cost us to replace), then we drove away without removing our electric from the socket and ripped the lead apart (luckily Nick could fix it) and if it couldn’t get much worse Nick then locked our keys inside the van (luckily the back window is broken slightly and after 30mins of nudging it with a stick and a fork we broke in to our own van)! Hopefully nothing else will go wrong! After Oamaru we stopped off at Lake Tekapo, but again the weather wasn’t great, so instead of going for a walk we decided to relax in the hot pools down the road. There were 3 big pools to go in which were lovely and warm. The next day the weather was a lot nicer and we went for a quick walk around the lake. We also went to have a look at the historic church on the lakeside which had the first stone laid by the Duchess of Gloucester and the alter was donated by a family from Exeter. We’re currently in Kaikoura where you can go whale watching, we’re not sure if we will though as its over $100 each, we’ll probably just go on a few walks around the coast if the weather stays reasonable. We’re surprised to see we’ve only got a month left before we fly to Australia though so we’re trying to get up to the North Island by next week.


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