Having been as far North as it’s possible to go in mainland New Zealand, it seemed only fair that we go as far South as we could too. The south coast of the country is known for dramatic scenery and its wet and windy weather, which batters the rolling green plains.
Our first stop was the Bluff, a small fishing village near Invercargill, where we found the southern counterpart of the AA sign that we’d found at Cape Reinga in the North.
A heavy shower of rain encouraged us to keep on travelling south until we found Slope Point – the most southerly place in mainland New Zealand. It was cold, wet and very windy. Luckily there was a break in the downpours just after we arrived and we jumped on the opportunity to get a quick photo before the rain began again in earnest.
Unfortunately, we didn’t realise that the carpark was a good 10 minute walk from Slope Point. After jogging passed several bewildered sheep in a very sodden and muddy field, we managed to reach it just as we could feel the first small drops of the next cloudburst.
After having a brief look around and posing for our photographs as quickly as possible, we started back towards the van just as the heavens opened. Suddenly, two unassuming tourists that had just arrived at the scene called out “Hallo! Vud you mind takeeng a picture?”. Not wanting to be rude, I graciously took their camera (a big posh one with lots of bells and whistles) and waited patiently for them to pose while the cold rain started coming down hard.
Having taken the picture, I passed the camera back and (more out of politeness than anything) said, “Is that ok?” To my horror, he replied “Err… It eez too dark. Take anuzer” and, after fiddling around with the settings, handed it back to me. A little dumfounded, I took back the camera, which was now slippery with rain and waited (again) for him to walk back to position.
Starting to feel water soaking into my shoes, I wiped off the drops from my face and resolved to take the best possible picture I could. This time, as soon as the shutter had closed, I ran over, thrust the camera into his hands and made a hasty retreat calling “alright, bye!” over my shoulder. I needn’t have bothered rushing. By the time we had reached the van we were both soaked through to the skin – despite wearing waterproofs!
Luckily for us, as soon as we got back to our home on wheels we were able to draw the curtains, mop ourselves up with towels, change into something dry and make two warming mugs of hot chocolate. From the comfort of our van, we watched as other tourists turned up one by one and either turned their cars right back around or gallantly disappeared into the rain for ten minutes before giving up and returning to their cars for a soggy drive to somewhere warm.
While we were in the area we decided to drive east and check out Curio Bay, where fossilized trees more than 180 million years old lay embedded in the coastal bedrock. The fact that they are so old and remain there to this day is astounding, but we could only really see one obvious ‘tree’ within the rocky shore.
Next was Porpoise Bay – a cove that’s known for spotting Hectors Dolphins, which is a species that is found only in New Zealand. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any dolphins and the sea was fairly rough, although we noticed that the different currents made the sea an interesting array of blues and greens.
We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Southland, and the weather wasn’t fantastic for us either, so I don’t think we made the most of this part of New Zealand. If we make it here again, a visit to Stewart Island to see Kiwis in their natural habitat and a good old tramp along the famous Catlins River Walk would definitely be on the cards.