We are currently down near the very bottom of the S. Island in a town called Owaka on the Catlins Coast. The area is known for sea lions, dolphins, seals and (rare) penguins. It also has some really FABULOUS gravel road detours and of course, a waterfall or two. In addition to all these highlights, there are some sea caves and a blowhole to round it out. We’re staying in a converted hospital to hostel that still feels a lot like a hospital so I feel at home. Some hospital relics:
Let’s backtrack to a few days ago, when we were still in Queenstown. We had a very relaxed 3 nights there and entertained ourselves by eating, drinking, looking at boats (Andy) and practicing some pole moves on a tire swing (me). We also did a 2 hour ‘free’ walking tour in Queenstown which was amazing and the guide, Mark, was really excited to share some info with everyone. We also got free beer and cookies on this tour so I would recommend it to all of you. Queenstown:
After Queenstown and the extremely cozy airbnb hosted by Kristi & Ollie, we set off to Manapouri to take a cruise-coach-cruise to doubtful sound. Doubtful Sound is a bit closer than Milford and I can’t compare them further as we didn’t do both. Located in Fiordland in a somewhat remote area and a ‘must do’ in NZ. The tour was great, but we were worried the captain on the cruise would fall asleep as he was quite droll with his commentary and didn’t know a lot of facts. Also, it rains 75 percent of the time there and the marketing says ‘this is when waterfalls are made’. We had beautiful blue skies on the day we went and only saw a few small waterfalls, but a pod of dolphins swam along with the boat so that was the highlight.
After Doubtful sound, which I doubt is the highlight of my life, we wandered on to Lumsden, central south. Lumsden was a transport hub for the railway and had 4 rail lines running through it. Currently, it has about 50 backpackers camping in the park which I think is really nice of the town to provide dishwashing sinks and toilets open 24 hours for ‘freedom camping’. At least no one is pooping in the middle of the town square under a tree that way.
We had the most amazing smoked chicken, brie and cranberry pizza at the Lumsden hotel and it is now refurbished and provides really comfortable, budget accomodation. We were glad we stopped and even tossed up the idea of buying a piece of property in Lumsden for all the campervans to park on with $5 showers….we would be millionaires.
We continued south and passed through Invercargill long enough to get incredibly fresh oysters which are wild and dredged from the Southern pacific ocean in the Foveaux strait between Bluff and Stewart Island. We also got incredible seafood chowder from Barnes Wild Bluff Oyster shop while we were getting our hands on a dozen of these tasty mollusks. They were sold, out of the shell, in a small tub of saltwater and they were delicious. In Queenstown, the restaurants were offering them at $60/doz, but at the shop they were only $24/doz…good thing we’re not on a budget. We also stopped in at E. Hayes hardware store in Invercargill so Andy could look at all the motorbikes, old engines and also pay tribute to the fastest indian…Andy loved it, I felt like we were in a wal mart with old motorbikes.
We picked up a couple of hitchikers from the UK then proceeded to go see sea lions and a light house at Waipapa point…thankfully the map was correct and we actually saw some sea lions, although we were doubtful on the way there.
I was really thankful that the sea lions showed up while we were there, then we went to see a petrified forest which was not that interesting in comparison. We switched the UK hitchhikers for a couple of Isreali ones then we continued our journey along the catlin coast. We dropped them on the main highway so they could hopefully get a ride in the other direction then we went to an unexpectedly awesome curio shop. If ever you find yourself in Papatowai, stop off at the lost gypsy gallery.
A bush-in a box-in a bush and a moa with unhatched egg!!
Everything there is handmade and interactive, these photos don’t begin to describe it.
We were nearing our destination of the ex hospital in Owaka after traveling about 20km on another gravel road and we were looking forward to getting out of the car. Silver Bullet really likes gravel, more than it likes mountains and I’m continually surprised that the car is still in one piece. We missed out on the Cathedral Caves as it wasn’t low tide and Jack’s blowhole wasn’t performing too excitingly today as the ocean was calm, but here are some photos to entice you anyway.
After the blowhole we went to explore the most photographed waterfall in all of NZ and then onto an old rail tunnel, hand dug over 1891-1892 to allow the timber milled in Owaka and surrounds to get out and on to Dunedin for shipping.
Purakaunui falls: same falls guess which photo is from the tourism website?
The tunnel at “Tunnel hill”:
After a big day of waking up at 10AM and seeing the sights this area has to offer, it is time to call it a night. Thankfully, someone pulled a fire alarm here at the hospital aka hostel so we all got to stand outside in the cold and slight drizzle while the volunteer fire squad came to investigate. They were actually extremely quick in their response time and allowed us back inside. Good thing I was prepared, updating the blog with glass of wine in hand when all of that transpired. I’m sure you’re all probably falling asleep right along with me…
Good night and good luck,
Bre & Andy