A Travellerspoint blog

Around the South Island Coast

Looks a lot like home!

semi-overcast 18 °C

We drove south from Christchurch and picked up the Southern Scenic Route at Dunedin. From Dunedin, you can access the 15-mile long Otago Peninsula where we visited the Royal Albatross Centre, ‘home to the World’s only mainland colony’. To say the wind was ferocious when we arrived would be an understatement. When we attempted to exit the vehicle, it practically ripped the door of the RV right off. I wish I was kidding. The resulting dent from the door bending back beyond its hinge means that our $250 excess insurance fee is now but a distant memory.

At least the albatrosses compensated us for our trouble with some good quality fly-bys. These birds are HUGE, with a wing span well over three metres! To fly, these giant flying machines simply spread their wings and allow themselves to be lifted up by the wind. They come to Otago Peninsula to mate and spend up to a year with their new chicks before heading back out to a life at sea.

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To give you an idea of scale, we took the following picture of Lloyd and a lifesize model of an albatross when we visited the Otago Museum the next morning. Can’t say too much more about the museum: it was far too extensive for us really to put our arms around in the very limited time we had. It would be fabulous to live close enough to pop in a digest a slice from time to time, but the sensory overload we experienced meant we saw a lot, but learned too little from the experience. Come here if you have three or more hours to spend.

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Leaving Dunedin, we started our drive around the southern coast of the south island and into the Catlins. We were reminded very much of California’s Pacific Coast Highway, which – like our New Zealand route – is also named Highway 1. The main difference is the volume of sheep which seem to occupy every second inch of New Zealand – indeed there are ten for every one of the country’s five million human inhabitants.

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We enjoyed very much our hike out to a lighthouse on Nugget Point, a little under half way between Dunedin and Invercargill. On our way out to the Point, we noticed a pair of returning trekkers trying to discourage an elderly gentlemen from pushing his wheelchair-bound companion to the lighthouse. And indeed it was a notorious route, with extremely steep paths working their way to an impressive vista. We were probably five hundred feet or so above the ocean allowing a perfect vantage from which to admire the fur seals frolicking in the green-blue, clear waters below as the waves crashed against the massive gold nugget-shaped rocks from which the Point derives its name.

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Views from our visit to Nugget Point Lighthouse. It could have easily been on California's Pacific Coast Highway!

Overwhelmingly, the experience reminded us of home and many happy memories of weekends spent scuba diving or running along the Santa Cruz and Monterey coastlines. We are blessed indeed. We smiled broadly and tipped our hats when - as we made our return journey to the van - we came across the same determined gentleman and his friend-on-wheels making steady progress towards the lighthouse. We’ll never know if they got there, but I sincerely hope they did.

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Yellow lupins are everywhere here! That's Nugget Point Lighthouse in the distance.

We lunched beachside and then made a small detour to visit Slope Point, the southernmost point of the southern island in New Zealand. This was significant for us as it marks the southernmost point for our world trip, so we made the trek across a couple of large sheep-filled fields, and fought our way to the Slope Point marker. Gusts of wind endeavoured to restrict our progress and whipped up sea foam from the crashing waves around us. Even the sheep seemed perturbed, huddling together in small groups to escape the ferocity of the blasts. We were happy to make our return to the RV and escape to calmer paths, back on the road to Invercargill.

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Posted by jacquiedro 12:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world

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