Jon and I started the second part of the road trip heading towards the Catlins.
we decided to go this way because apparently the weather was going to turn bad and the Catlins is a place you want to visit with shiny sun in order to see all the beautiful places it has… FYI the Catlins is sort of a national reserve where few people leave and is mainly composed by farms, but it’s got different spots to visit such as waterfalls, beaches, the slope point (southern most point of the South Island), the petrified forest, penguins, seals, shipwrecks, etc.
so we drove from the hostel to Balclutha taking as many scenic roads as possible… I was driving, and after Balclutha we started seeing signposts of towns we had already passed… something was not right… when I told this to my “copilot” he just said “feels like we are going in circles, doesn’t it?” haha and since Jon has proved to be lousy reading maps, it was certainly a fact that we were lost… again… we had to U-ey… again… but no harm done, we just lost like an hour with this detour (maybe less) and got back on track.
I think we were both tired, or just not really in the mood for doing any touristic stuff, because we did not stop in all the spots the Catlins has.
we got there and drove through all the exits and just detoured to see the Purakaunui Falls.
then we drove again stopping maybe a couple of times to take pictures of the landscape, but not really caring what was out there.
we got to a village called Papatowai where we stopped for some petrol (just in case) and where we searched for a gypsy caravan that Architect Tim Heath (from Dunedin) recommended we stop to take a look at what this guy creates… but unfortunately it was closed… for winter (though it was still Autumn).
back in the car again… we now started looking for a place to stay. it was getting dark and we were getting tired.
we stopped at a place called Penguin Paradise Holiday Lodge at a village called Waikawa.
it was a small place with a kitchen, dining room, lounge area, and two bedrooms in what seemed to be a house once upon a time; one washroom, laundry, toilet, and another bedroom in what seemed to be a renovated/new area of the original house; and another little cottage outside with four beds; a quite big but forgotten garden; and a big parking lot.
there was a French couple staying in one of the rooms, but I think we were all minding our own businesses so we didn’t interact much with them.
there was a phone inside the house that we had to use to call the owner and tell her we were staying there for the night. she doesn’t live in that house, but she obviously lives near by because when we called her she said she would come later in the night to charge us.
the house was very complete, the kitchen had almost every appliance and tool to cook with, a fireplace with logs, games and books, she had pictures of the places in the Catlins, and maps, and pamphlets of different attractions in New Zealand… the whole thing (the small house in the Catlins) made me realise how much I would like to have something like this!
the owner came. she is a beautiful Japanese girl with awesome greenish eyes. she told us what was around to visit, and made us feel at home. when I told her about her eyes (that I’ve never seen a Japanese with that eye colour) she said that it IS very strange, and that when she was a kid her friends in Japan would tease her saying that she ate more bread than rice… so cute!
that night we just cooked dinner and went off to bed.
next morning we set off to explore the Catlins (this time for real).
first we went down to Curio Bay where the petrified forest is. I had no idea what to expect, I was imagining all petrifaction possibilities: on a cliff, on the floor, standing, laying… it’s funny to get there, see it from above and see logs lying on the rocks, get closer, touch the brown log and find that it is in fact, petrified… the colour and texture are of real wood, and when you touch it it’s another sensation than the one your mind originally had for you.
then we drove to Slope Point, or the southernmost point of the South Island. it is right inside a sheep farm, so you need to be careful not to step on sheepshit and also take in consideration that due to farming stuff this area is closed all September and all October.
on the way (in or out) you can see some windswept trees and get an idea of how hard wind blows there.
and then we drove out of the Catlins into Invercargill.
we stopped at a McDonalds to have some of its free wifi, and why not, have a hamburger too… but, well, money is not your best friend while you travel, you need to spend as less as possible and get as much as you can… and that’s what we did, by ordering this:
we didn’t tour around Invercargill. after eating we went to the supermarket and off towards Te Anau.
we stopped at several places to take pictures and admire the landscape.
we reached Manapouri, and since it was getting dark, we decided to stay there at a hostel that seemed really nice: Freestone Backpackers.
the place is brilliant! it’s a whole piece of land on a mountain. there’s the main house at the top, where the owners live. they have the office there too and a computer with internet, also, that’s the wifi area.
this guys built several huts all around their land, and they have all kinds of rooms (for couples, for groups of friends, and dorms). every room has a little stove and sink. there’s a common hut on the bottom of the hill with showers, toilets, laundry and a fridge… that was a little bit inconvenient… if we fancied a cup of tea with milk, or a piece of bread with cheese, we had to walk all the way down to get the milk, or to get the cheese… if only they had mini fridges inside the huts, the place would be perfect!
being there and seeing the family that owned the place just fed my idea of having my own backpackers someday.
we shared our room with two other French guys that were leaving very early to do the Milford Sound tour. we cooked dinner, had a little chat with the French, and then off to bed.
next morning we toured a little bit around Manapouri, then drove to Te Anau where we stopped to ask for information in the iSite.
we decided to do halfway to Milford Sound just to get to the mirror lakes to make it quick and drive during daylight back to Queenstown.
and Queenstown greeted us like this:
overall we made a big loop from Queenstown to Queenstown.