New Zealand March 13-14

Friday March 13

What a difference a day and a few hundred kilometers can make. Yesterday we were hiking in shorts and tanks and sweating. Today we hiked in pants and jackets and still were chilly! I went for a beautiful run this morning around the lake before we left. There were dark clouds hanging over the mountains, but as the sun rose they starting glowing pink and gold.

It was also sprinkling a bit and soon a huge rainbow formed.

After a chilly plunge into the lake after my run, we headed south from Queenstown towards Invercargill. The first half of the drive was through the Southern Alps and then we
emerged into flat prairie. We made a quick stop in Invercargill and then kept heading south as far as you can go to the little town of Bluff. This is where we needed to add a lot more layers. There is a vicious cold wind that reminds me of Antarctica, which makes sense because that is where this wind originates. We cheated a bit by driving to the top of Bluff Hill to admire the view out over Foveaux Straight. Then, we earned our afternoon treat by hiking down and out to Lookout Point, the farthest point south, and then hiking back up. It was wild on the point, with the wind almost blowing us over.

The ocean was white-capped and smashing against the rocks. We felt right at home!

Our next stop was out at Sterling Point, to see the famous sign with distances to all the major world cities.

We hiked around out there a bit, seeing the lighthouse and finding some beautiful shells on the beach. Bluff is also famous for their oysters, and lucky for us, it is oyster season! So for dinner we had a feast of oysters and chips (fries for you Americans.)

After dinner we went for a stroll down the main street. It is neat that all the towns here still have main streets. It feels like going back in time: a butcher shop, a fruit shop, a dairy, a pharmacy. 

Saturday March 14

I think today might have been my favorite day of the entire trip! It started with a beautiful sunrise run along the Land's End trail in Bluff. It looked as if the sun slid right out of the Pacific.

Then we headed to explore the Catlins, along the southern tip of the South Island. Our first stop was Waipapa Point, site of a lighthouse, a gorgeous beach, and most excitingly, potentially some sea life. It didn't disappoint! As soon as we pulled into the carpark we could see what looked like 2 sea lions way down on the beach. We sprinted down and sure enough 2 giant sea lions were basking in the sun.

We got as close as we dared (10 meters) and watched as the rolled over and waved their flippers in the air, threw sand on themselves, and even got up and playfully fought with each other.

As we were taking pictures of these, we heard commotion behind us and turned around to see another sea lion making his way down the path. We got out of his way because you don't want to stand between a sea lion and the sea. He decided right in the middle of the path would be a cozy nook for a nap.

Some people got a little too close and he let out a loud bark to tell them to back off. After we watched him for a bit we headed up the hill towards the lighthouse. As we walked, we heard sea-lionesque snorts coming from the grass way up on the top of the hill. It was a good 150 yards up from the beach, so we didn't think it was sea lions, but as we carefully climbed up through the grass, a sea lion head popped up out of the grass!

There were actually 2 of them way up there, enjoying the sun. After a bit they decided to head back towards the water and we watched them parade down to the water.

They can move when they want to! Once they reached the beach, they slid smoothly into the water and suddenly seemed like different animals. They were so sleek and quick in the ocean. What an amazing experience to get these animals in the wild!

Our next stop was Curio bay, home of a fossilized 180 million year old forest. The forest was petrified by silica rich lava and perfectly preserved in the bedrock.

All those lumps are petrified trees

We had a picnic lunch by Niagra Falls, a tiny waterfall named by a surveyor with a good sense of humor. Then we got to see a real waterfall- Purakaunui Falls. It was a lovely walk through rainforest to the 3 tiered waterfall.

Our final stop of the day was Nugget Point, which was an exciting drive along a narrow dirt road with steep drop-offs to the sea below. It was a rugged and wild landscape with many of the trees growing almost sideways. The ocean was Caribbean blue, but the wind certainly didn't feel tropical.

Then we bumped and rattled down 20k of dirt road to get our campsite in Purakauni Bay. It is a lovely remote site with a beach on one side and rolling fields with sheep on the other. We went for a walk on the beach, but I don't think we'll be swimming here. After a few minutes of wading, our feet ached from the cold! We got spoiled with all that warm water on the North Island!


  1. Gosh! It's just so gorgeous there! Those must have been some amazing runs, with that scenery!

    Ha! That is a good point about the sea lions - they are like a different animal when they get in the water! :) I love the pic of the one with his face planted against the sand!


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