With low clouds and plenty of showers around taking the scenic road to the coast was not worth it. Instead, we took the main road and enjoyed a free night at Lumsden heritage trust, even though it meant sleeping in the car. Even more so we enjoyed a delicious venison pie in Mossburn.
When we arrived in Invercargill mid-Saturday morning, we were surprised to see everything closed; everything apart from the big shops at least. We decided to move on to Bluff further south at the tip of a big peninsula. This little town turned into a bit of a disappointment; there was hardly anything to do. There were however some nice walks along the coast and over Bluff Hill. The icy wind was blowing a gale but with plenty of clothes it was bearable. Unfortunately, we did not see any wildlife apart from some seagulls along the shore line. After a couple of kilometers, we turned inland and up towards Bluff hill. It was great to find the path sheltered from the bitter winds by bushes and shrubs. After climbing many stairs we enjoyed the hill top views from the old radar station. Many stairs later we were back at the car park just in time before the downpour started.
In Invercargill we visited a well-recommended chocolaterie, but arrived 20 minutes too late. Upset we drove to see the transport museum at the edge of Queens Park only to find out it was permanently closed down last May. Disappointed, we went for the only other café alternative to escape the rain. With nothing interesting left to do in a rainy Invercargill, we called it quits and drove to an old friend of Zoë’s, whom she had not seen for 15 years, and now lived near Edendale. They invited us to stay with them for two days to catch up. We had a great time there and after many nights in the car we enjoyed the home comforts a lot.
Together we went on a day trip along the Caitlin coastal road to visit the sea lions at Cannibal Bay. Along the way we saw pretty villages, rolling green hills and countless sheep. On the beach in Cannibal Bay we did indeed encounter four sea lions; three were lying together half asleep in the sun right in the middle of the sand. The fourth had found itself a vantage point on top of the dunes.
The Catlins are a big area at the south-eastern corner of the south island. Its main feature are big rolling hills covered with shrubs, grass and gracing sheep and beaches. This section of the coast line has many points and beaches that are home to sea lions, seals and penguins. Quite a few rivers and streams which form many waterfalls as they flow towards the sea.
Our next stop for wildlife that day was Kaka/Nugget Point. After about 700 m walk we reached the light house at the end of the peninsula. Looking over the wind swept and bare rocks battered by the waves where seals were basking in the sun light. The longer we watched, the more we spotted.
Less than a kilometre away was Roaring Bay. This little bay is home to penguins. Even though we went to the hide late afternoon, there were none of the little friends to be seen. Sadly we did not have enough time to wait for them since a roast dinner was waiting for us back at their place.
The next day we had to take a sad leave from our friends, but we had to move on and wanted to explore more of the Catlins. Our destination was Tawanui campsite at the beginning of the Catlins River Track. Following the river of the same name, we walked through dense beech forest. The path was not very well walked and much of it was going over roots of all sizes. It serene and very quiet with plenty of birds singing in the ferns and fresh spring foliage. The entire River Track is over 11km long but did not have enough time to walk it all. After an hour we took a shortcut to Catlins Road and returned to the campsite.
The next morning we went for a leisurely and scenic drive to Balclutha, where some former work colleagues of Zoë lived. Balclutha might not win any beauty contests, but it is one of the bigger towns between Invercargill and Dunedin with many services for travelers. We passed two very pleasant days with our friends and they showed us around town and took us to some more waterfalls nearby.
After this relaxing interlude we were back on the road and back in travelling mode as we headed for Dunedin and up the east coast.