Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Windy Road

Since we last checked in we have done quite a bit. After leaving Dunedin, the wind and rain continued to pick up. During the drive to the Catlins it actually started snowing and hailing on us, and the wind pushed our sail of a van all over the road. We ended up skipping quite a few of the highlights of the Catlins while heading straight for a campground to chillout and warm up. The Whistling Frog did the trick. They had a little restaurant and real bar (where we got a taste of the Invercargill Brewery Beers Stanley Green and Pitch Black - the first real microbrews since Christchurch). We parked right next to the share-kitchen and made a very late lunch, then it was 16 hours in the van staying warm and dry and reading.

In the morning we headed to the Cathedral Caves. It took quite a bit of motivation to go out adventuring in the rain and wind. The caves are on private property so a fee was in order, but it was a nice hike down a forested hill, then a trek across the beach to get to the caves. You may have already guessed it, but the wind had continued to build overnight, so it was a little hard walking on the beach. On the plus side, the torrential rains kept the sand from blowing in our eyes! The hike through the trees wasn't too bad, but once exposed on the beach, it was really windy and nasty and by the time we got back to the van, we were soaked! We tried to keep slogging through the sights, but could only manage a real stop at the fossil forest beach at Curio Bay, which was really worth a look. 

                                                Fossil Forest

There we chatted up a D.O.C. ranger who was keeping an eye on the moulting penguins. As he put it about the weather, "Well, what do you expect when you come to the far ends of the Earth? You want the weather to be appropriate, right?" Well, sure. Considering how far south we are, the next stop being Antartica, I suppose this is the weather most people would expect (though it's highly unusual this time of year). Later, we read newspaper reports saying the winds in that area had reached 180 km/hour, and the ferry to Stewart Island had stopped running for a full day. So all in all we were sort of proud of ourselves for getting out there in the weather and keeping on with our touristing!

              Very Windy at the bottom of the Earth in New Zealand! 

After too many cold nights in the van, we'd had it, and got a hotel room for the night in Invercargill. While trying to re-supply in town, we found ourselves in the twilight zone as none of the grocery stores sold beer!! After our second store we had to ask what was going on and found out that there's some weird rule about selling alcohol so you can only get it at the Super Liquor or Liquorland! Plus, the local microbrewery can't sell their beer at these places since the big breweries have the power and push the little guy out.

                                                     Ulva Island Beach

The owner of the hotel convinced us to make reservations to spend a few nights on Stewart Island, the southern most Island of New Zealand, and a bird haven. The weather finally eased, then broke into blue skies and sunshine. Ulva Island within the main harbor of Steward Island was the real sanctuary. With birding book in hand, we spent four hours cautiously walking through the forest and spotted quite a few of the birds listed, though upon returning to Steward Island, we seemed to find the elusive Tui everywhere. No real kiwis though! We also finally spotted some penguins on the boat ride over.

Our hostel was positively awful, as they catered to large group tours. The first night was of course the Rugby team with girlfriends in tow, who wouldn't even let us in their group to drink piss (beer), so then they were just annoying. Then it was the group of wayward teenagers. The day we left, it was kids camp, with twenty or so little'uns running around wreaking havoc. My my. I say, if you go to Steward Island, spring for the nice hotel room above the bar.

The highlight of our trip was definitely quiz night at the only bar in town, which though famous all over the UK and colonies, is not an American tradition. We were paired up with a random couple, and had a great time trying to answer the UK oriented questions. The husband was an American expat and web designer, and he agreed that NZ internet does suck. They are about ten years behind America, and don't know what they are missing, so don't seem to care. I mean, how do they survive without Youtube? (ha ha) He continued saying America does not have the fastest and best internet, and we don't know what we are missing either. So that's the story with why it's such a pain for us to try to upload pictures. Our trivia team didn't come in dead last so that was fun, though I suspect the 5 jugs of beer we drank probably means we lowered our teammates' usual average. They have won quite a few times and guess what you win? That's right, about $40 bar tab!! What a beautiful thing! Plus, they always pass the whisky box around to collect everyone's spare change and donate it to some local worthy cause.

We had a nice ferry ride back to Bluff and drove to see the famous end of the road sign for the bottom of NZ and to go to the Drunken Sailor bar - but those sissies were closed at 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon when the ferry landed!! Stupid tourist gimmicks!! Where are the real drunken sailors? You can bet we did our part....


Back to Invercargill, and onwards to Te Anau, with a great stop at Lake Manapouri where we did it up Lake Mead style as long as we could stand the sand fleas. They were relentless, and the lake wasn't that warm, but it was nice to put our swimming suits on after three weeks of them being dead weight.

                                                           Lake Manapouri Picnic

We've booked a kayaking tour of Milford Sound, and then will try to see Doubtful Sound. We are considering doing the three day Routeburn track when the weather clears (another front has moved in and I am typing in the rain, though no wind, so I'm pretty stoked).

Until next time, Cheers!


  1. Thanks for blogging it up ya'll! It's fun to read about your shenanigans down under. Keep up the good work and may the skies clear soon. xoxo Amanda + James

  2. No beer for sale? No bar open on Sunday? Ok, now you have my permission to complain. Rainy vacation days can only be tolerated with free access to lots of beer! It sounds like you guys might need to stash a few cases in the back under the seat and get a bottle of whiskey just in case you need something to tide you over.
    Happy St. Patrick's Day!


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