We finally finished work and with Jean and Lea we headed east back to Dunedin. We went to the Chinese Gardens which were amazingly peaceful especially since they were in the middle of Dunedin!
We also spent some time looking at flying over to Fiji for a few days, but when we found out it would cost $3000 for 4 days we decided we might just find a nice island in Asia for half the price.
From Dunedin we headed into the Catlin's which is an area on the south east coast of the south island known for its natural beauty and as we found out over the next few days, no petrol stations, ATM's, internet or phone signal. However we soon found that it was well worth the trip.
We started by going out to Kaka point, at the top of the Catlin's. It was a 3 hour drive so we stopped here for the day. There were a few bush walks around the campsite that we did and the bush was amazing. It was completely different to anything else we have seen in NZ. There were hollow trees, trees wrapped around others, some were growing horizontal and there were amazing plants and bushes that we haven't seen before. Just before dusk we went to Nugget Point and watched the yellow eyed penguins coming ashore, even though we have seen a lot of penguins in NZ it's always exciting to see another one crash up on the beach and start its long walk to its nest. The campsite was nice and we spent the night planning the next few days and watching an enormous bug make its way across the kitchen.
The next day we continued south to the Purakanui Falls which were a short walk from the main road through a chocolaty brown forest. Next up was Jacks Blowhole, we saw another blowhole at the pancake rocks and although Jack's Blowhole was much bigger the sea was calm so there wasn't much action going on but it was an amazing walk over a coastal ridge to get there. We stopped in Papatowai which was the next town, although you could be excused for missing it. There was a small place called the Lost Gypsy World which was amazing. It was an odd little corner of NZ created by one man with an obsession with all things that move, make noise and amuse. He invented a lot of it, like; a machine to dip your tea bag and sea shell instruments using water. There were automatic nose scratchers, doorbells that sprayed water, monuments games statues and all very very weird. This was a great stop and in a very unlikely place.
The Cathedral Caves were next and Jeff was very excited about this. It's a system of caves that can only be accessed at low tide; you can walk in through one entrance, all the way through the cave and out the other. There was a 1km forest walk from the car park to the beach then another half km to the caves; we used our time well by competing in a flip flop flinging contest along the beach. We got some great photos around the caves using the light to make awesome silhouette photos, jumping shots in the sea and climbing the side of the caves.
The McLean Falls was the best waterfall that we saw in the Catlin's. It was a great walk and we went past several smaller waterfalls before we got the main one. There was a viewing area but you could climb up the rocks on the side and go another 15 feet up and get a really good and close view. We stayed at a DOC campsite for the night cooking up curry and rice and San used the spare rice to make rice burgers which were surprisingly tasty!
After a good night's sleep we were woken by the bird songs which were very melodic. After waiting about an hour to boil some kettle on our gas stove for tea we headed to Lake Wilkie for a walk around the water. Although it was a good walk we came away thinking we had seen much better views.
Next stop was Curio Bay, this was where we had planned to spend a couple of days surfing. As Curio Bay came into view we stopped at the Florence lookout which had amazing views of the bay, after making some quick lunch we headed on to Curio Bay. We booked a surfing lesson and when we were walking along the beach to get started we saw 6 or 7 dolphins in the water, about 10 metres from the shore, swimming around people and jumping in and out of the water. We started the lesson and did really well, we both stood up on the board in the first half an hour which was great. At one point there were five dolphins in a wave right in front of us, coming straight at us. This happened a few times and we got so close to the dolphins it was unbelievable. People pay hundreds of dollars to swim with dolphins and we were getting it for free as we did something else. They even surfed in the same wave as Jeff. The sun was warm, the sea was beautiful, the beach was deserted and there were dolphins everywhere - a perfect day! After a nap (surfing takes it out of you) we walked a few metres out of the camp site to the next bay and watched some more yellow eyed penguins coming in. They had chicks in the nests so were coming ashore a bit more regularly; we saw two and got pretty close. We went back to the campsite and went for a walk on the beach to see if there were any more penguins, we didn't see any penguins but saw loads more dolphins playing the beach and then went walking over the rocks at the end of the bay to get a spectacular view of the sun setting for the day.
We woke up early the next day and walked to the beach t watch the sunset. We promptly went back to bed waking up just in time to get some more surf boards and spend the day on the beach again. We did really well at surfing and saw and played with more dolphins and even saw a whale offshore. What an amazing place!
We stayed one final day in Curio Bay but surfing wasn't a possibility because we all ached so much after the last few days so we had a relaxed day in the sun. We went up the road to a café and used the internet to book out trip over to Stewart Island and had a long walk on the beach one final time.
The next day we headed towards Invercargill, stopping at Slope Point which is the most southerly point on the south island and at Fortose where there's a famous lighthouse walk, we went down to the beach and saw loads of sea lions lazing about.
It's the Southland buskers festival in Invercargill so we saw a lot of street acts in the couple of days we were here. We had to buy some supplies for our upcoming trip to Stewart Island so most of the time here was taken up doing that but we did find just enough time to stop off at Waxy O'Shea's for some beer and food because it is the Irish pub that is the furthest away from Ireland!