Onto the Southland

I left Queenstown and travelled over to the East coast to the second largest city in the South Island- Dunedin. There is a lot of Scottish history here- the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland founded Dunedin at Otago Harbour in 1848 as the main town of its Scottish settlement. The name Dunedin is the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh (Dun Eideann) and as such some of the street names, like Princes Street, and buildings are the same or similar to the ones in Edinburgh.

dunedin

I was spending the next few days on my own which I didn’t mind so much as I had spent the previous two weeks with people-sometimes it’s nice to have alone time. I decided I was going to hire a car and do a little road trip of my own down to Invercargill and the Caitlins coast.

But before I went on my road trip I went on a wildlife tour with Elms Wildlife Tours. Throughout the day we visited the beautiful Otago Peninsula including Taiaroa Head where we could watch Royal Albatross flying to and from the ocean- Royal Albatross are huge birds and their massiveness cannot really be appreciated when you see them in the air. We also got the opportunity to see Hookers Sea Lions, Yellow-Eyed Penguins and a New Zealand Fur Seal colony. These animals were located a short walk away over hilly farm land and sandy beaches but it is worth the effort because you get up close and personal to the New Zealand fur seals. We were literally about 10 metres away from them and you get to see just how big they are. Our guide told us that they don’t bother about humans unless you get too close or in between them and the sea (because that is their escape route). We also saw the Yellow-Eyed Penguins coming in to nest for the night which was amusing because one would arrive onto the beach and then realise that its mates were not there, so abruptly turned back into the water. This went on for a while until a few of them arrived at the same time and then they knew it was safe to continue up the beach to their nests.

For my road trip I had acquired a passenger called Jasper, who I had met in Nelson. He wanted to go to Invercargill and after telling him I wasn’t going straight there, I was going to stop and see different places, I reluctantly agreed that he could come. In the end we had a great time together. Leaving Dunedin we travelled down to Invercargill, stopping off on the way at various places to walk and to take photographs. We stayed in Invercargill for one night and then, in the morning, we said our goodbyes and I carried onwards to Bluff.

I parked the car at the top of Bluff Hill and following the Millennium track, I made my way along the Foveaux walkway to Stirling Point- the pathways are well maintained and you get brilliant views of Stewart Island and the Foveaux strait. After being treated to a couple of seals playing in the surf I headed inland and upward towards the summit of Bluff Hill. The tracks are quite steep but the scenery is wonderful as you make your way through the wind worn forest. The Glory Track has steps lined with gravel in the steeper parts and this track ends at the gun pits which are what remains of the WWII coastal defence system.

After leaving Bluff I spent a very cold night in a little cottage in a small farming village called Owaka- it was so small that when I went to the pub to get dinner the whole place stopped what they were doing and looked up to watch me take my seat and order a beer! (Tumbleweed moment!).  When I got back to my cottage it was so cold I had to dress in trousers, t-shirt, hoody, AND fleece, furry boots, and hat all under a blanket- I had to warm myself up with a bottle of wine!

owaka 3It’s so nice to take yourself off for a few days and get off the beaten track and away from the crowds and I think it was in New Zealand that I acquired a love of walking and seeing stuff.

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