|After enjoying the city, we again headed out to the countryside on the Southern Scenic Route. At the Visitor's Centers all over the place here, they have tons (or as they would say here 'heaps') of brochures on different destinations. The drive takes a bit longer than the regular old boring highway, and it sure didn't disappoint on beauty.
Now that we've been staying in cabins, we tend to get a bit of a later start, around 10 am right after checkout. A lot of the roads on this section are gravel, so it's fairly slow at times, but we were in no rush, so we took our time. First stop was to Nugget Point and Roaring Bay. Penguins (the very rare, yellow-eyed ones) live around this area, but because we were visiting in the late morning, they were out at sea feeding. We did take a peak through the viewing hide (penguins are really shy apparently and you don't want to scare them) and managed to see one lone little penguin for some reason hanging out on the shore. At Nugget Point, the beauty was amazing, and it was also significant because it's the only place on mainland NZ where fur seals, southern elephant seals and hooker sea lions all co-exist. They were a bit far off in the distance playing, but thankfully a fellow sight-seer let us borrow her binoculars for a bit.
Jack's Blowhole was our next destination. After a short walk through yes, more pretty landscapes, we arrived at this "hole in the middle of a hill where ocean water comes roaring through". It reminded us of thunder hole in Acadia in Maine. We made it back to the car just after the rain started, and ate another lunch in the front seat. Nothing like living out of the car, sandwiches on our laps, with yogurt on the armrest. The highlights of the afternoon were two huge waterfalls. We liked the McLean Falls the best - it was bigger and more powerful, and the walk to them was through a cool rainforest with all sorts of vegetation and lush colors. The Purakaunui Falls were impressive too- and are actually one of NZ's most photographed falls.
Before we arrived at our backpackers, we stopped at Curio Bay and took a peak at the Jurassic fossilized forest - 180 million years old. Not too shabby!! Again, the weather turned sour, so we didn't stay long, but it was a pretty unique site. We spent the night at Slope Point Backpackers, the farthest point south on the South Island, and again had the place to ourselves. We took maximum advantage of the heaters and got nice and warm. Rather startling was looking out the window as we were making dinner, and a herd of sheep came running by down the road, right past our car, followed by the sheep dogs, one with only 3 legs (to Anja's delight!!). We tried to take a picture, but we were too slow.
We're now staying dry in the city of Invercargill, getting ready to go to Te Anau and hike the Kepler Track on Sunday. Cross your fingers for nice weather for us as it's a three day trek.