Follow Symbol! (9/14/09)

Welcome back everyone. I left off with our arrival in Dunedin, a Scottish town on the southeastern coast of the South Island.

Lauren and I got up early on Monday, made scrambled eggs and drove to the city centre to do a tour of New Zealand’s Cadbury chocolate factory! This $17 tour brings you into the heart of the factory’s operations, giving you a bit of history of the company, the process of making chocolate and the specifics of come of Cadbury’s products. So after donning our hairnets and receiving a “trick-or-treat” bag, Lauren and I followed our tour guide throughout the factory. At times, he would ask bits of random trivia, either from earlier in the tour or life in general, with the reward of more chocolate. By the end of the tour, Lauren and I had bags bursting with Dairy Milk, Dream, Pinky, Whip, Curly Wurly and Perky Nana. However, we were not nearly as lucky as the children on our tour. Even though their tour cost a mere $8, they were rewarded with full size bars of Flake and Whip as well as plenty of other confectionaries. Lauren did manage to trade for a bag of candy covered dark chocolate, but this five year old from California did not give it up easily. Lauren and I perused the gift shop for a bit after the tour; I was looking for a HUGE Cadbury egg to send to Heather, but no such luck, as they don’t sell till Easter.

Lauren and I then headed back to the hostel to pick up Maggie and head over to the botanical gardens. There, we pretended we were children again, feeding the ducks with free food available from the visitor’s centre. This is also where we met Abi. Abi is a girl from Chicago with a stereotypical American attitude. She recognised our accents and wanted to know all about our trip that we had planned. After we discussed our plans with her, she criticised them and gave us a completely different route. Her attitude explained to me why so many foreigners dislike Americans. Needless to say, every time we did something amazing on our planned route, we all commented on how much we hated Abi. Also in the gardens was a pretty awesome aviary housing mostly Australian and New Zealand birds, but also some more exotic species. There was one cockatoo who made the most god awful noise before it began talking, saying “Hello!” (in the voice of Mrs. Doubtfire) and “Want a cup of tea?” (in the voice of an Orc). After a little bit of sightseeing in central Dunedin, we made ourselves some dinner before heading out to Speights Brewery.

For another $17, the three of us took a pretty awesome tour through one of the historic breweries of New Zealand and home to one of my favourite beers here. Like the Cadbury tour, we heard history about the brewery itself and about the process of making beer. Finally, we headed downstairs to the Speights Tasting Room, where we were able to sample six of their brews. After we all toasted each other to a glass of Speights Gold Medal Ale, our guide released the taps to us and for the next 45 minutes, we were able to sample as much as we liked. Speights Summit, a lager made from all natural ingredients, soon became my favourite. The girls and I met some pretty awesome guys from Britain at the tasting and surprisingly met them later at a pub we stumbled across that was playing the Yankees – Red Sox Game! It was a good night all around, definitely encouraging me to return to Dunedin in the future.

The next morning, we headed south, choosing to take the Southern Scenic Route rather than the main highway. However, a wrong turn took us out to the Otago Peninsula. This was a wrong turn that none of minded, and allowed us to get some pretty sweet pictures of Dunedin and the bay before actually heading south, being reminded by New Zealand road signs to “follow symbol.” After reaching Balclutha, we got a map of the route, and began planning our stops. First on the list: Nugget Point.

Nugget Point, Catlins Coast, South Island, New Zealand

If you ask me, Nugget Point is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s a chain of large rocks that sticks out into the ocean. But words cannot describe the beauty. It was just so serene and wonderful to sit and bask in the splendour of Aotearoa. We enjoyed some peanut butter and jam before following symbol once more.

Our next stop was a glorious beach on Surat Bay, which I will remember forever. The sand was rippled by the waves that had run over it during high tide hours ago. The sun was shining and the water was a beautiful blue-green. I could not have asked for more, except maybe a nice tall glass of lemonade. This beach also enabled me to see one of New Zealand’s endemic species, the New Zealand sea lion. Gabe, we named him. He was doing what most sea lions do best: sleeping. At this point in the day, we just wanted the daylight to never end.

Surat Bay, Catlins Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Our next stop was the Purakaunui Falls. These falls are about a ten minute walk from the road. Unbeknownst to us, as we were walking towards them, we were actually looking at them. You can see by the photos that the view is only appropriate from the front. From above, these falls are not very remarkable, but from straight on? Wow.

Purakaunui Falls, Catlins Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Following these falls, we headed towards Niagara Falls. That’s right, New Zealand’s own version. On the map we were using, these falls were simply described as such: J. This turned out to be a bit of a joke. Apparently the man who lives on this land visited the real Niagara Falls and thought the mini waterfall on his property looked something like them. I still don’t know if this is true, since the stream was swollen when we arrived and the “waterfall” was mostly submerged.

Niagara Falls, Catlins Coast, South Island, New Zealand

With the light growing dim, we decided to find accommodation. This is similar to trying to find somewhere to stay in the mountains of Montana. In short, our options were limited, and the fact that it was winter meant that the roads and “towns” were ghosts of their summer selves. Luckily, we found Dolphin Lodge and inside discovered we had really lost civilization. Their water supply came from rainwater, there was no internet or phone, and heating came from coal. The ocean views made up for it, especially since it cost only$23.

In the AM, we continued following symbol. We stopped first at Curio Bay, where there is a petrified forest. Here, we began to notice the roaring wind that would haunt us later that day. From the petrified forest, we drove to Slope Point. This is the southernmost point on the South Island and probably the closest to Antarctica I’ll ever be. From the road, it’s about a ten minute walk across some guy’s sheep field to the cliff. However, with the wind probably gusting at about fifty miles an hour at that point, we were struggling to walk straight. By the time we reached the cliff, I honestly think that if we had jumped in the air, the wind would have blown us into the water.I had removed my glasses for the walk, but Lauren’s were almost blown into the water by these howling winds. Maggie was luckily able to save them, minus a scratch. We all posed (painfully) for a picture with the signpost and then fought the wind back to our car.

Slope Point, Southernmost Point of the South Island, Catlins Coast, South Island, New Zealand

About a five minute drive from there, we saw a sign for coffee. Windblown, we all were in the mood for some hot chocolate (or, as I apparently say it, hawt chawclate). We discovered that the store was closed for the season, but the owner, a Welsh woman, was more than willing to make us hot chocolate in the lounge of her hostel. Definitely one of the most interesting places that I’ve purchased hot chocolate, and definitely what we all needed at that time.

From there, we drove straight through to Invercargill. Anytime we told any kiwi that we were going here, they immediately asked why. Invercargill is apparently somewhat of a joke to anyone who doesn’t live there. A former port town on the south coast, it has since become less important to New Zealand’s economy than it once was. And without a university or anything to lift it up, it has fallen upon hard times. However, it is not nearly as bad as anyone said it would be. But then again, we were only there for about an hour. Our next stop was Bluff, which is a 20 minute drive south of Invercargill and the starting point of Highway 1, which runs all the way up to Picton, crosses to Wellington and then travels all the way up to Northland. They had a pretty epic signpost here, which pointed out how far away major cities in New Zealand, Australia and the world. From here, I was 15,000 kilometres away from home. (If you click on the picture, it will show a larger version).

Bluff, Southland, South Island, New Zealand

We had an incredible lunch at the Drunken Sailor Cafe, where I sampled some of Bluff’s famous oysters alongside a piece of fish with a side of chunks. “Chunks” are basically roughly chopped potatoes that are then deep fried. They’re actually really good, just with an unappetizing name. After this delicious lunch that was complimented by full length windows of a gorgeous view, we headed north towards Te Anau, still following symbol and making brief stops at Monkey Island and an overlook that combined the coastal scenery with the most southern of the Southern Alps. Finally, we reached Te Anau, gateway to Fjordland National Park. We found a hostel and booked our beds (our first time having to share a room). After some dinner and great conversation with some Brits and a boy from Christchurch, we headed off to bed.

I’m now realising how long our trip actually was. I’ll try to get some pictures up here in the next couple days, as well as continue to update you on my trip down south.

Kia Ora America,


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