Apologies for the lack of progress – we have been adventuring through the technological void that is Milford Sound. We survived the Darrans, but for now let me explain how we got there…
From Dunedin, it was down around the bottom of the South Island through the Catlins. This was the only area where we had no climbing planned and plenty of time to pass, so it was a relaxing few days exploring the lesser beaten sections of the New Zealand tourist trail.
We began by heading to Nugget Point, a well known beach for a spot of seal and penguin hunting. The seals were out in force, and there was a lone Yellow Eyed Penguin wandering the beach. The lower East coast of the South Island is littered with wildlife viewpoints, and even if nothing shows up the beaches are a beautiful place to spend an evening. We stopped at so many picturesque beaches they have all turned into a blur to me, but were all great sights to see. We did get a few chances to see yellow eyed penguins, and after mobs of seals at most of the beaches I am all sealed out for the rest of the trip!
We then headed through to Owaka, and after a quick stop to check out the museum were intrigued by a teapot house on the side of the road. I must admit I’ve never been an avid teapot enthusiast, but this place was intriguing. With hundreds if not thousands of teapots arranged in a garden, not to mention the piles that were in the house, you had to wonder the motivation for such a collection. Clearly someone had too much time and a great passion for tea.
It was then on to the famous waterfalls of the region, with short walks and stunning views we couldn’t pass the opportunity, so checked out Pūrākaunui Falls and Maclean Falls. Both were only short walks from the road through beautiful bush, and both were definitely worth the walk. Take the signposted times with a grain of salt, as the walks are much shorter than they claim. The evening was drawing near, so it was time to find a spot to park up for the night and cook up dinner.
Luckily as we continued further along the coast we found plenty of free camp sites. The Catlins really accomodate freedom camping well. We spent a night at Monkey Island and relaxed at the beach for a day, and crossed paths with an eccentric local, Mark. Mark lived at a bay around the corner – Cosy Nook, population 2. An undocumented freedom camping spot, Cosy Nook was a beautiful little inlet with a truly cosy feel. Mark invited us in and spent the evening sharing tales from his extremely colourful life with us.
As we continued our journey we came across an interesting wee ‘shop’ in Papatowai – a bus parked up full of gizmos and gadgets. A wander through the crowded bus left you squeezing through all sorts of wind up contraptions, from simple toys with waving arms to complex constructions linking all around the van. For only $5 the weirdness continued, an entire garden with the greatest creations was open to explore and really eccentuate the eccentricities of the creator. After spending an hour or so venturing through the various constructions, it was time to head up to Te Anau and through to the Darrans.