Leaving Queenstown on a bit of a dreary morning, we headed south in search of some sunshine. We have revised our itinerary a little and decided not to go up the west coast after we have been to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular but to precede that with the Catlin coast to the south. As we left the mountains the weather began to show signs of brightening up and by the time we reached the south coast at Invercargill there were some decent blue patches of sky.
Invercargill is not an impressive town and looks as if it might fit in better in the mid-west USA with its wide streets and two storey buildings with facades that resemble those towns, which have not yet climbed out of the first half of the twentieth century. Not overly impressed with what we saw we passed straight through and went out to Bluff, past the decaying portside industrial area to the John O’Groats of New Zealand. Here we found an end of the world café that served up some excellent food (unlike anything I have experienced at John O’Groats).
Following lunch we took a walk along the cliff edge, affording us views of distant Stewart Island, before returning to the car and the obligatory photo at the signpost.
Heading east, the coastal area is very flat with marshy wetlands preventing you from getting too close to the shore. By the time we reached Fortrose the landscape was becoming more interesting and we took the scenic route, which although it did not hug the coastline, it gave us plenty of opportunity to take little detours to bays and headlands along the way. The first of these little detours was at Waipapa Point. On the point is a lighthouse built in 1884, three years after New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster when The Tararua was wrecked with the loss of 131 lives.
However, it was what was languishing on the beach that took my attention, a lone bull sea lion lazily scratching himself with his flippers. It seemed not to mind that I was nearby; it is only when young are about that they might become aggressive. Further along the beach I came across three more, including a lighter skinned youngster, who was still pretty large. They were quietly dozing on the beach without a care in the world.
Continuing east we called in at Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay with the dual intention of taking in the scenery and also looking for somewhere to stay for the night. Our journey along this coast so far had revealed that places to stay were few and far between and I was beginning to get a little anxious that we might have to drive much further than I intended. The coastal areas became more hilly and forested. Just by chance we came across the McLean Falls Holiday Park with its Whistling Frog café and bar. We managed to secure a very comfortable chalet for four, with all facilities. Over an excellent meal of lamb cutlets and a bottle of red wine we decided we would stay for two nights and use our chalet as a base for further exploration.
Back on the road we chatted about our trip thus far and agreed that we were having a superb time even if the promise of a New Zealand summer was eluding us.
We ate more delicious seafood at Bluff, enormous mussels (I know John has!) scallops and prawns. They have an annual Oyster Festival in May, oops missed that then, shame.
I was thrilled to see a massive bull sea-lion on the beach. He seemed stuck to the sand by his rear quarters, happy to rear up on his front fins and peer around before languidly scratching himself then flopping down to rest again.
I am happy to be ensconced in a comfortable cabin with heating AND an electric blanket. The wind has reached gale force, temperature is 12C (the same as UK apparently!) Cosily catching up with blog, reading, writing postcards and completing puzzles.