We left Curio Bay with a heavy heart. That place was quite magical to us; we felt we connected with nature and have some wonderful memories of the penguins and the dolphins, but we have a lot of New Zealand left to see. The next part of our journey would take us from the Catlins into Southlands towards Invercargill further along the Southern Scenic Route up towards Te Anau.
But first we had heard of Sea Lion spotting opportunities at Waipapa Point from some Dutch fellow penguin spotters, who sat with us for half an hour and let us share their binoculars. They’d been working on the vinyards in Oz. We made Waipapa our first stop, but after a 40 minute walk down a deserted and slightly breezy beach we turned around and made our way back, a little disappointed that our beach hike had not delivered a single sea-lion.
About half way back I spotted a log on the beach and was certain that something moved behind it. I approached slowly and sure enough nestled in behind was a single sea lion using its flipper to throw sand on its back in its half sleepy state. I kept the requisite 10 metres distance from it and bagged a few pics of the lazing beast.
We clambered back into Bertha happy at another wildlife experience and then headed on to Invercargill.
This was our first city for quite a while and it was a shock re-entering a town after spending time without internet, phone signal or very many people for the last few days. But the internet gave us chance to catch up with family and see what had been going on with the rest of the world.
Invercargill is a cute little town with the now familiar mixture of deco and Victorian architecture, a big port and some of the friendliest New Zealanders you will meet. It also has Bluff to the south and that’s where we headed as we hit town.
This promised a hill top lookout giving you views up the coast on the journey we had just made here and out towards the many . As the sun has popped out and we had beautiful blue skies dotted with just a few clouds this gave us a spectacular view. Getting Bertha us there was a struggle as the road was steep and careful choice of gears was in order both on the way up and the way down. Then it was round to Stirling Point the second most southerly part of the South Island(the first is at Slope Point near to Waipapa Beach) for the requisite tourist shot in front of the signpost there. It is measured at 18958 kilometres from London apparently.
It was then back to Invercargill to sample the local museum and while the art was nothing much to write home about, they did have some interesting creatures on show. The Tuatara live over 100 years and look like little mini dinosaurs with their spines on the backs and are the last living creatures of the Sphendontida line apparently. John was gutted that the world famous Bluff oysters are not in season, it being peak summer here, so begrudgingly stettled for a crab salad.
We stayed at a very friendly campsite at Sandy Point so we could plug Bertha in and do a recharge of everything that could not be kept alive. There are few permanent residents there who we tapped for some local knowledge; especially as one had lived in the Wanaka and gave us some great tips for our next port of call in the Fjiordlands.
As there is a dearth of DOC campsites in this part of New Zealand we had decided our next stop would have to be a bit of freedom camping. This is where you camp in a pinic area or stopping point for free with no charge. Some areas of New Zealand are more friendly about this than others and Southlands is one of them. Asking where we could camp in this way at Invercargill i-site produced a printed map and guides of how to get there. The condition is that your camper van has to be self contained (it stores all the waste water and toilets within it). Bertha has the badges to prove it so off we headed to Colac Bay via Riverton.
Beauty and Freedom
Riverton is lovely sleepy village about 50 minutes from Ivercargill. First stop was a hill in the village overlooking the bay, a steep 10 minute walk and you reach a fantastic lookout with 360 views. You will also be befreinded by hundreds of ladybirds which for whatever reason have overtaken this place.
Down from the hill you enter Riverton proper over a little bridge then take the beach road and wind your way down the to some beautiful small cove beaches. We went virtually to the end and then chose this as our lunch spot. As we were packing up ready to go John spotted some dolphins in the water. I tried in vain to catch a photo – they move bloody quick. We gave chase along the coast road in the camper to another lookout further up the coast. They were feeding and had cornered a school of fish and above them there were hundreds of sea birds feeding off the road sea kill. We watched for about half an hour, but the feeding birds and the dolphins headed out to sea and not inland so we didn’t get any better snaps. Never mind, maybe next time.
Then it was onto our freedom camping site at Colac Bay. I thought that the DOC sites had great views, but when we arrived at the site for this evening we couldn’t believe our luck, there was only one other van there and we had a beautiful isolated spot overlooking the whole bay. We pitched up, put Bertha into overnight mode and had a most magical evening there watching the sunset and wandering up the pebbled beach looking for Paua and then next morning were awoken to the treat of a beautiful sunrise too. Not bad for free and the views in the images to your left underline the point.
On the Road Maintenance Part 2
Sydney. I have had the screwdrivers out again.
I have loved my little Panasonic DZ10, but there is a known problem with them in that they get dust trapped on the sensor meaning every picture you take into the sky or clear background has black blobs over them. Mine had been developing these over the last few weeks. Take a look at some of my recent uploads and you will see.
I was not going to suffer these blobs for the rest of my trip pictures so we hot-tailed it back to Invarcargill and purchased a new camera and, because I will not give up on my Panasonic, some tools to see if I could take it to bits and repair it.
The good news is I am now the proud owner of a new Canon SX40 HS and a Panasonic DZ10 that no longer has dust on the sensor after an hour in the Bertha Photographic Repair centre. I had to buy the new camera just in case my repair went a bit wrong, honest.