The Southern Scenic Route
At this point in our trip, I started to worry, could things really keep getting better? How many more types of beauty and awe could this country produce? The answer was so very many more.
In Te Anau Andrew and I stayed on a deer farm, in a rugged little backpackers hostel outside of town. It was nice, fairly bare bones, but it had an electric heater, and that was a nice perk. Over night the second night it snowed for the first time! And by that I mean the mountains were now snow capped. It looked picturesque! But now, and my city might start to show here, though I have to say it, waking up on a farm was the loudest morning of my life! Seriously, between the sheep baa-ing and the cow’s moo-ing and the deer… I don’t even know what that awful sound was. Whoever said the city was a loud place clearly never lived on an animal farm. My oh my. In honor of the loud ruckus these animals were making, Andrew and I stopped at a cafe in town to enjoy a meaty venison pie for breakfast, thank you very much, and my unofficial alarm clocks were very tasty.
From Te Anau, Andrew and I went further south. Unbeknownst to us, when we were in Queenstown we’d gotten on the start of the “Southern Scenic Route”. We picked it back up in Te Anau and headed south to Invercargill. The route takes a bit longer than a straighter (though the road was anything but) road that is less scenic. Along the way there were many places to stop and
stretch our legs. We stopped at Mccrackens Rest, a beautiful vista where we ran into some fellow New Englanders who graciously took our photo and in Gemstone Beach where we hunted for some jade stones, and aren’t sure if we found any (we might just have a bag of green tinged rocks…). In Tuatapere, also the Sausage Capital of New Zealand, we were sadly too full from our meat pies to eat any more, but instead stopped at an extremely quaint little old-fashioned shop where we split a “quintessentially Kiwi” milkshake (more like a blended chocolate milk than an American thick shake) and bought some homemade 100% raspberry jam to share with a family friend we were meeting up with later that day.
After a couple of hours driving we landed in Invercargill. Andrew’s god-parent’s son, who happens to have a healthy sense of adventure, recently moved to Invercargill to work there for a year. While Andrew and he had met when they were both younger, I had never met him before and it was a blast getting to know him! And did I mention he had a healthy a sense of adventure? Over lunch, breakfast and a few days later dinner, we learned that our new friend had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and also ran with the bulls in Pamplona! Talk about some fantastic stories, now that’s a blog to which I’d love to subscribe! Although he had to work the evening we spent in Invercargill, he let us borrow his Subaru to adventure to Oreti Beach and take it for a spin on the sand. Talk about a bumpy ride! The sun came out in bursts but didn’t look like it was clearing up anytime soon. While the original plan was to take off to Stewart Island, we had to cut it out of our trip because of my interview. I had called the recruiter, but not being able to get a hold of him, had to assume the interview was still on. We had driven down to the Bluff when it looked like the sun might come out, only a ten minute drive from Invercargill, but it started to rain on the way there. It looked painfully like thunderstorms to the left, while still sunny on the right during the drive down, but those thunderclouds met us in the port town and we called Bluff off as our good luck left us for an afternoon. Andrew and I spent the rest of the afternoon getting my camera checked out and resting a bit.
Since our new friend kindly hosted us, Andrew and I decided we’d make breakfast for our host, and it was nice to eat in when we could. But there was a problem, the grocery stores in Invercargill, a large city by New Zealand standards, were devoid of many ingredients to which I am so used to having access. Only seasonal fruit and vegetables were available and at that there were some basic ingredients that were unobtainable. It took three stores to find any basil and there were no blueberries in sight. Chocolate chip pancakes would have to suffice, with a side of sausage and grapes of course.
Moving along the Southern Scenic Route after a hearty breakfast, Andrew and I headed towards the Catlins, a region of farmland, native forest and plenty of beaches, bays and wildlife. Our first stop was Waipapa Point, where our family friend and guidebook promised us a glimpse of some sea lions. Did we see sea lions?
Very cool! We trekked along a ways and at this point we started to have repetitive back and forth that went something like this: “Oh my gosh!” “What’s wrong?” “Nothing, just, do you see that view?”. How many times did we ask each other if something was wrong, only to find their exclamation was simply an utterance of awe? Too many to count.
A while later, Andrew and I took another pit stop at Curio Bay. While there, nearly at the bottom of the south island, Andrew and I saw a couple of people in the water. Crazy! But looking closer, there were dolphins swimming about with them. I asked Andrew if he wanted to go in. At this point, we were bundled up in our thermals and he wasn’t keen on the idea of it. We headed out to the Petrified forest, which was cool from afar, but you couldn’t quite see the fossils of the forest up close. While neat, I couldn’t quite get into the 180 million year old tree fossils as I still wanted to turn around and jump in the water back at the bay. Andrew started to come around to the idea of it so, before he could change his mind, we drove back to Porpoise Bay, in Curio Bay, and despite no one else in the water and only a short glimpse of dolphins far away, we changed down into our swim suits, and ran into the water like crazy people trying to catch hypothermia. After getting in a couple of yards or so in, I began to twirl in the water and splash about as Andrew slowly joined me in the frigid surf. As Andrew caught up to me, acting a fool, we didn’t see the dolphins anywhere. And then, about ten feet from us, a dolphin fin, and then another! They swam towards us as I continued to spin and twirl like an idiot. They hung around for a short while then deemed us uninteresting, at just about the same time my core temperature was probably dropping dangerously. We got out of the water and danced our way up the hill to a car park, where I paid $2 for the most glorious hot shower of my life and couldn’t believe dolphins would find us boring! And more importantly, I couldn’t believe we swam with wild dolphins, the rare Hector dolphin at that! Just unbelievably incredible!
How could this day get any better? That’s a silly question to ask in this country! We made it to Dunedin, the end of the Southern Scenic route by the afternoon and after our swim, basically drove straight there. We saw much more wildlife that evening, but I wont tell you what just yet, you’ll have to check in to find out in my post about the Otago Peninsula. But if you fast forward ahead, we found ourselves swinging back south a few days later, and had another opportunity to catch a few more sights along the route. We basically cut back to Curio Bay, and shortly after took the short detour to the Purakaunui Falls. One of the most photographed falls in the world, we thoroughly enjoyed this pit stop! Stunning, just simply stunning.
But wait, I feel as though I’m forgetting something? Oh right, we also saw lots of sheep. LOTS OF SHEEP. And cows. And some horses. And occasional deer.
This is New Zealand, after all. I’ll leave you with one final thought: