Day 12 – Te Anau to Curio Bay

Yesterday I didn’t have it in me to post after a gruelling drive from Te Anau, down through Manapouri, and Tuatapere, to Riverton and Invercargill. We had a bit of lunch there, and decided to go straight down to Bluff to see the bottom of the South Island and the port to Stewart Island. After that it was a drive east along the edge to get to the very bottom right corner and Curio Bay. This map does a good job of showing the route, if you take it from just above Manapouri and finish it at Curio Bay. Today (Day 13) we completed it and arrived at Dunedin.

Yesterday I posted all the pics on Facebook, but I’ll add a few here to keep the blog ‘true’. Manapouri was spectacular. We got out of the vehicles a few times just because the sight of mountains behind the lake was breathtaking. Stopped for a coffee and sausage roll at the wee cafe, and found out where ‘The Bookseller at the End of the World’ lived. See this link: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/128145725/the-bookseller-at-the-end-of-the-world

Ruth Shaw has the cutest little bookstores in Manapouri – a children’s one and a small general one, and Helen had been reading her book on our travels. Jemma, her daughter, manages McLeods Booksellers in Rotorua and recommended it. We knocked boldly on the house door, despite the sign on the shop saying ‘closed’. No one answered but a handy pad and pen sat there, so we wrote a quick note.

We carried on south, loving the mountains still with us in all their glory, with snow capped peaks and rich colouration on their slopes. Added to that was the reflections and glistening of the lake below. As we continued along toward Tuatapere, we were surrounded by pastoral scenes of young lambs frollicking on green fields all around. At one stage we pulled off to photograph them, and a farmer pulled in and spoke to us. He agreed with us that it was a pretty idyllic spot to live.

It was with growing sadness we saw the mountains recede behind us, but the line of dark shapes to our right which was Fiordland, stayed with us until we reached the sea. We found a swing bridge which was closed off to traffic at Otautau, and a sharp sweet scent caught our interest – a yellow wattle by the first girder. So lovely to smell. I took a small twig of it back with me. At Tuatapere we stopped for a ‘Deep South’ ice cream – a brand sold in Auckland but it felt very appropriate to have it in its place of manufacture. This little town had broad streets and a few significant concrete/plaster buildings which dated back some time. In a blink we were out and rattling south once more. (Rattling is what best describes life on the road in a camper van).

I was surprised to find that the mountains of Fiordland were still a significant presence when we reached the lowest reaches of land and saw the chilly waters of Foveaux Strait before us. It is about 130km long, and separates the South Island from Stewart Island. And there, before our excited eyes, was the first glimpse either of us had had of that third large island of New Zealand in the flesh, so to speak. For quite some distance we revelled in the wild ocean, the distant island, and Fiordland, all visible together.

Soon, with sinking heart, we put Fiordland into the rear vision mirror and pointed along some straight roads for Riverton, which is a large town that precedes Invercargill. My workmate, Julie, came from here, and recommended it to us. At this point we decided we wanted to push on to past Invercargill to stay the night, because we needed to get to Dunedin by Monday night, so we merely stopped and took pics. Half an hour later we began the drive into the suburbs on the outskirts of Invercargill, which is the largest city in Southland, and one I’ve always wanted to see. We came in on a broad avenue which went on and on, with a picturesque garden entrance on the right hand side, and many blossom trees and flowers on each side. The sun shone down and added a certain summery holiday feeling to the place and we both had a very favourable impression of the city. Closer in, we found the old buildings and town centre, all pretty buzzy for a Sunday afternoon, and parked on one of the main streets and set off to find dinner, or lunch, at 4pm. This felt like Auckland back in 1960s, when you all came in to town for food or drink and the old buildings were still there.

We found a cafe that was popular and filled with a crowd, and sat down to an odd plate of waffles, covered in a couple of poached eggs, two deep fried chicken nibbles, some soft cheese, and maple syrup. I don’t think it quite ticked our boxes, but I ate all mine. The thing I’ve noticed about being on the road, is how difficult it is to find healthy food to eat – hardly any salads, except the coleslaw you can buy in packets at a supermarket. Anyway, it was nice to sit down and stop driving.

After replenishing ourselves we drove to Bluff, a half an hour away, and enjoyed the view of the bottom most port in NZ. It is the oyster town as well, as evidenced by all the shells underfoot by the large signage at the entrance.

We were both getting pretty tired by now, but determined to get to Curio Bay in time to get settled for the evening. It was dusk, and the road was pretty good in a wandering kind of a way, and long after I thought we would get there, we came upon the metal road over an estuary, and pulled in to a large information centre and office. It was closed of course, being now about 6pm. However, we booked online and called, and received confirmation and given the choice of places to park within a certain range, and soon had backed into a couple of bays near the ablution block.

To our mutual delight we discovered this was a visiting point for seals, penguins, and occasional whales. Naturally we spent a bit of time in the dusk staring hard at the rocky beach and hoping to see something move. We were disappointed but still enthusiastic. The next morning Helen was up early and out there with the dawn, but saw nothing. When I took over the ‘shift’, I also spent time staring at the sea hoping for a sleek wet head to appear, but failed to see anything. Sigh. So I had to do something to mark the moment.

I have already started telling you about the next day’s activities so I’ll stop now and begin again soon, with Day 13! I know you’ll be on tenterhooks. . .

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