We left Lake Te Anau behind early in the morning and then headed to Bluff, the equivalent to Lands End in the UK. The only reason for us going was to get a picture under the signs telling us how far it was to the different capitals of the world. I got my picture and I’m pretty sure it’s the furthest I’ve been away from the UK, at 18958KM.
There isn’t anything else at Bluff but it’s a pretty interesting place as it’s the oldest European settlement in New Zealand, founded in 1824, not that long ago relatively speaking. The idea was to stop over in Invercargill, the town of which Bluff is the port. However as we drove though looking for a motel, we were faced with one NO VACANCY sign after another. We found out later that there was some sort of farmers’ convention in town which is why Invercargill was so busy.
Anyway faced with this we decided to head out of town on our hunt for a room for the night. We headed east to Curio Bay where we were on the hunt for accommodation but I think everyone else who was planning to stay in Invercargill had got there before us. At Curio Bay there was a petrified forest which was only visible at low tide. Luckily for us it was low tide so we got to have a look. It’s pretty peculiar as what you see is rock formations which on closer inspection are petrified bits of wood. On closer inspection you can actually see the wood grain.
More exciting, I got to see my first penguin of this trip, a Yellow-Eyed Penguin native to New Zealand. There is supposed to be a whole colony there but it was a little early in the afternoon as they were still out fishing. The lone penguin we did see was looking out to sea like he or she was waiting. I could have watched it for ages but we still had to find somewhere to stay before it got too late. We headed on and by now we were starting to run low on diesel, stupidly we had not filled up when we had the chance.
Eventually we did find a place for the night at Mcleans Falls Holiday Park in the centre of the Catlins, a forested area. It was a little overpriced but the building we were in had an interesting history. It had originally been the top half of the Te Anau Hotel. It was a brilliant example of recycling. The good thing about staying here was we got to explore the surrounding are - we walked through podocarp forest and found McCleans Waterfall - a really lovely walk with a magical waterfall at the end of it.
We headed off early the next morning as the sun was still rising over the Pacific Ocean. One of the fun bits of travelling like we have is venturing off onto side roads. On this occasion we headed to Surat Bay which lay at the end of a dirt road. We knew that in the area there were Sea Lions so we went looking in the bay. It didn’t take long for us to find them - a couple of adolescent males playing on the beach. The adolescent males like to chase passers by so we stayed well back. Some Japanese tourists got a little too close and were chased off very quickly. Form a safe distance it was a very funny sight watching them running away.
We’d had fantastic weather up until now but it was getting worse as we headed along the east coast. Dunedin was our next stop which has strong links with Scotland and as we drove in it reminded me a little of an old UK town. I believe it was set up by Scottish settlers and the name is the Gaelic for Edinburgh.
While in Dunedin we ventured out onto the Otago Peninsula in search of Albatross. Sometimes a bit of investigation helps and on this occasion as we arrived at the hide we realised it cost $30 each to get in. We had to be content at seeing them flying past. Sandfly Bay was next on our list of things to do on the peninsula, we arrived and it was blowing a gale. A quick run to the lookout and back was all we could manage. There were great views but it was freezing. After that we decided to call it a day and head back to the city centre.
Dunedin has the steepest street in the “world” according to the Guinness Book of Records. It’s steep, especially at the top, which is also not tarmaced as it melts off and slips down the hill in the heat. When we were there it was blowing a gale and it was pretty cold so no fear of any tarmac melting. Dunedin again was ok as a city but still did not match the natural wonders New Zealand has to offer.
I didn’t like the change in weather, we’d been spoilt with glorious weather up until now on our trip to the South Island. We were headed back inland so I was hoping the good weather would return as we left the east coast.