Friday afternoon I picked up my rental car for a new experience – driving on the left. I have to admit, this was something that made me very nervous, but like most things that cause us to worry needlessly, it was not as bad as I anticipated. I found staying left to come very naturally after driving for a few minutes. The oddest thing? The fact that my blinker (indicator/turn signal) and windshield wipers were the opposite of what I am used to, so there were quite a few instances of turning on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker – but even that was remedied rather quickly.
The most interesting thing about driving in New Zealand: the maximum speed limit anywhere in NZ is 100 km/h – which is equal to 62.14 m/h (for the most part – this was not a problem, because most of my road trip was on wandery back roads in the Catlins, however, on the motorway out of Dunedin I was thankful for cruise control.)
My first stop through the Catlins was a stop to grab a bite to eat in a little town called Milton. I was lucky that I had a beautiful evening for the first leg of my road trip.
After grabbing a bite, I continued to my next stop Kaka Point. I was racing a bit against the sun at this point, as it does get dark crazy early down here this time of year.
While it was darker than I would have liked, I did enjoy the beach and a nice coffee at the surf club.
Knowing at this point it would be too dark to continue to the Nugget Point Lighthouse, I continued on the way to my overnight stop, Surat Bay Lodge near Owaka. Most of my journey after dark was on little dirt roads, and even in the dark it was clear that I was passing through some amazing pristine country.
At the hostel, it was clear I was in penguin country.
I must admit, I was thankful for the early darkness, because I was wrestling with a bit of a sinus infection, and sleep was a good thing. (You will notice in my pictures from Saturday that my poor sinuses were quite swollen, but all is well – thankful for packing a sinus rinse and some Zyrtec – not many pharmacies in this part of the world on a weekend.)
I got up early the next morning, and headed out for more adventure, starting with enjoying the beauty of Surat Bay.
My first walk/tramp/hike was Purakanui Falls – a lovely walk through the bush, leading to a beautiful waterfall.
After the falls, I stopped a few places along the road, including Florence Hill Lookout.
Next stop was the Lake Wilkie Walk:
After Lake Wilkie, I ventured to McLean Falls:
Finally I checked into the Lazy Dolphin Lodge in Curio Bay, then went up the road to the petrified forest, where I stayed until dusk to get a glimpse of the lovely penguins. The pictures of the penguins didn’t turn out, (too dark and too far away) but it was cool to watch them play in the water and on the sand.
Next up tomorrow, I have to time it just right, but I am planning to backtrack to Cathedral Caves, and hit some other cool points of interest along the way to Invercargill.