Thursday, 24 March 2011


Well bang up to date for a change! Today (24/03) we decided to stay in Invercargill another day and went for a walk around with Chris the cyclist. We spent a happy couple of hours in bike and walking shops and then went up to the main park in town. This was a revelation, it was like the UK thirty years ago with a rose garden, fountains, a band stand, everything we used to have before the scumbags apparently inherited the Earth. We had a walk around the tropical house and aviary (where we saw Keas for the first but hopefully not last time). Then it was back into town and while Chris went off to service his bike we went to look for a sleeping bag liner as it's really cold at night now and then to find the Invercargill Brewery. The brewery was great, you could smell it as you approached. There was a bottle shop where you could sample the brews before buying and then there were bottles to buy or fill with your choice of brew. Loads of people came in with flagons that they had bought and refill regularly (possibly a little too often judging by some!), it was great. We bought 3 litres and are off to sample which is why this is really short!

Cycling Day Fourteen

A longer day than we've been used to today, 80km to get us to Invercargill - we had no choice, no money and nowhere to stay that would take a card payment! We left Curio Bay in good spirits, they quickly left us when we hit the 20km of gravel road that we had to travel to Tokanui, thick gravel, rain in the night and traffic meant it was hard going capped off with a lovely uphill section at the end. We used the last of our money to buy ginger beers in Tokanui! It was then just a long way to Invercargill along the Southern Scenic Route, not too hilly in this section but strangely never downhill either. We stopped at the cafe at Fortrose but they didn't take card payments either so in a starved state we carried on to Invercargill. We got there mid afternoon, a bit of a shocker to see proper traffic after being out in the Catlins for days, at the campsite we met Chris from the Geraldine campsite (cycling around the world).

We had a bit of an experience at the supermarket when we went to get tea and beers, they didn't have any beer. Apparently in Invercargill and a couple of other places some licensing law means that supermarkets can't sell alcohol. We trudged off to the bottle shop feeling like a pair of alcoholics (still went in though all the same!)


Another day at Curio Bay and its campsite, we had run out of money by now so were buying our junk food on credit card! This really is the back of beyond here, we went for a walk and saw no one, no shops, bars, ATMs, nothing. Our trip out took us to the petrified forest, this is were some natural disaster millions of years ago knocked down a forest and fossilised them very quickly, they could be seen in the rocks as long rocky log looking things, to be fair you could also see what looked like fossilised bark in places as well. We had a natural disaster of our own when a freak wave soaked our shoes and then in an effort to escape an even bigger freak wave behind Ruth legged it and fell in, oh well, middle of nowhere, soaked through, no way to get dry, same as ever really!

Gary's surfing did go better, he was the only person for the lesson so got one on one tuition and did really well, stood up every time and learnt alot. A very rewarding afternoon. The only downside was the non appearance of the Hector's Dolphins that sometimes join the lessons, we'd seen them earlier in the day but they'd disappeared at this point. No pics of his expolits as I fell asleep in the tent and missed it all!

Last task was to go and look for the Yellow Eyed Penguins coming back to the beach that evening, they are moulting so not out at sea really, we saw three. Oh well.

Cycling Day Thirteen

A strange start to the day, no camp shop so no breakfast, we would have to go back to the cafe! It didn't open until 9am so we decided on the short walk through the forest to Cathedral Caves (we got a lift part way by a couple from Doncaster, Ed and Justine, who camped near us), the caves were very impressive but we were starved so set off back pretty quickly. The short walk meant we were back at the cafe by 11am (!), we were sat waiting for our toast when we saw the Doncaster camervan come back, we thought they were coming in for braekfast but back at the bikes we found they'd left their sandfly spray for us to use, (they were heading away), we can never thank them but it was a really nice gesture, we was chuffed. Off again then up another monster hill towards the coast and surf school. We stopped briefly at Niagara Falls, not quite the same as the Canadian version, and then encountered a German couple cycling the opposite way. They were tackling things differently to us, he, Pierre, was a photographer so was carrying all his stuff on a trailer whilst she, Isabel, carried the camping stuff on hers. They were on mountain bikes so could get to places that we couldn't and were much more organsied/extreme, with a solar panel for charging stuff up and a solar shower for wild camping, we're not going down that route! After an hours chat we set off on our quick trip to Curio Bay. The campsite was different, little spaces between huge stands of Flax bushes, there was a Sealion lolling about in the way of some of the campervan spots and the showers and kitchen were quite unique, we'll try and attach photos!

Cycling Day Twelve

We couldn't delay any longer, we had to leave the YHA and get back to camping, so we left Owaka and it's central heating and hospital beds and headed over some quite large and steep hills towards McLean Falls. We nearly killed ourselves getting to the top of the first hill and paused to look at the view and eat jelly sweets, hideously in front we could see more climbs to come and the smallest of downhills possibly. With jellies giving us energy we pressed on and eventually reached the car park for Matai Falls, more for a rest than anything else we set off through the bush for a view, and well worth it it was in the end, really pretty. We got chatting as usual back at the car park until a campervan jam hurried us on our way - a bit scared of getting squashed! Next stop along the way was Papatowai and the Lost Gypsy Caravan, this was a bonkers place that loads of people had recommended to us. The guy just invents stuff out of junk, loads of automata, and also seems to collect weird things, he must have a really crackers imagination. We explored the caravan and his garden, there was cycling skeletons, metal tentacles coming out of the bushes, all sorts. Also really good coffee. We had a happy hour there apart from the voracious sandflies that were out in force. Bed for the night was at a campsite in the middle of the Catlins Forest, it was quite claustrophobic in a way, trees as far as you could see, the sea could be heard though so couldn't be far away. A quick trip to see McLean Falls themselves, an encounter with the dreaded Kiwi Bus and then back to the Whistling Frog Cafe for a very tasty meal that all the same left a couple of peckish cyclists wishing for a chippy!

Cycling Day Eleven

We had decided to stay another night at the YHA, it was raining and blowing a gale so we couldn't be bothered! The day did improve so we went on what should have been a short trip to see the sights and ended up as a six hour trip with no water and few provisions. We went first to see the Purakanui Falls, these were in full flow following all the rain so were good, we saw a long suffering girlfriend shivering whilst Mr Photographer boyfriend spent ages framing the perfect shot and showing it off, as we left he was starting the whole process again - I would have thrown the camera in the river.

Next was a trip to Purakanui Bay where the surfers and proper bodyboarders (not like us) were out in amazing waves. It was a great spot and we would have lingered but the rain started again and it was a long way back along more gravel roads so off we went.

Last trip for the day was to Jack's Blowhole (!), this was another 8km along lovely gravel tracks and then a twenty minute walk to see the hole. It was wort it in the end, the sea has eroded through the cliff to create a deep hole in the middle of a field that the sea rushes into, with the wind and a high tide it was quite good.

Back to the YHA and a warm room and a proper bed, on again tomorrow into the headwind to a campsite, joy.

Cycling Day Ten

A bit of a cheat to get to this day, we didn't fancy cycling down the highway for 80km so we hoped a bus to Balclutha where we pitched camp and got stuff dry after another soggy night in Dunedin - the tent actually started leaking this time, great.

The following day was day ten of the cycling, the start of the Catlins, as easy run at first to a place called Kaka Point on the coast, a tiny little place that had been evacuated the week previously along with a few others when the tsunami warning was in place from Tokyo. We went to check out the surfing but nothing was happening, they roll up the roads in some of these places after the Christmas hols are over. We cycled on to Nugget Point which was good, it had an all important lighthouse and the Nuggets - big lumps of rock out at sea, very picturesque and impressive, also more Fur Seals in the rock pools. The road out was OK, it was gravel and bouncy but we made good time, going back was hellish, a headwind had sprung up that blew dust in our faces and basically blew us backwards at times, no free wheeling here. We slogged it out for another 16km until we arrived at Owaka where we thankfully opted for a night in the YHA, a good plan as it turned out as the heavens opens minutes later and it didn't stop all night. The YHA is in an old hospital and is run by a guy from Manchester called Craig and his dog Jett, he said the place was just abandoned when he bought it, all the stuff in there just as if they'd walked out and not looked back. In fact we were sleeping in hospital beds, but warm and dry so bliss. Gary disappointed no bed baths offered by matron though!


We had a total of four nights, three days in Dunedin doing different tours and things. Our first day was spent just shopping and eating and getting our bearings, a city was a big change after where we'd been and this was the biggest place we'd been to since Wellington weeks ago. It's a big student town spread over loads of old volcanic hills and with a strong Scottish influence, Robbie Burns glares down at everyone from the city centre. Whilst we were there the residents were building up for St Patrick's Day and the Fringe Festival so there was quite a buzzing atmosphere. This was also the start of changeable weather, it was mad hot one day freezing and wet the next and then hot again the following.

Our second day was tour packed, we went on the Seasider train in the morning up to a middle of nowhere town, as the weather was poor we didn't get the cliff top views we should have and actually slept on the way back. A healthy afternoon involved a Cadbury's chocolate factory tour and then a Speight's Brewery tour, chocolate and beer, a perfect afternoon. It has to be said the chocolate here mostly isn't to our taste, lots of marshmallow and caramel combined, we are still trying them all though, purely in the name of cultural exchange you know. The beer tour was OK, we got to taste six brews at the end, just helping yourself, we did!

The next day was a tour to see Royal Albatross, Yellow Eyed and Blue Pengiuns and Sea Lions. We saw them all which was good. The Albatross were as huge as I expected, we only saw them flying though as the tour at this stage was quite rushed to you couldn't go and view the nest sites. The penguins were in moult so were mostly hiding feeling sorry for themselves but we did see a couple waddle in from the sea which was bizarre and fab. The Sea Lions were amazing, you could get really close to a group of six young males who were play fighting amongst themselves, they can shift as well so we had to be ready to leg it if they decided we would be good to play with. The last things to see were NZ Fur Seals, there are loads of these playing in the rock pools and just entertaining themselves and us really. A good day out.