February 5, 2016
Our goal today was to venture to the bottom of the South Island and meet the Penguins. Mission accomplished but we saw only one of these magnificent creatures. He was about two feet tall and surfed onto a rocky landing about 6:30 last night at Curio Bay. We were there along with 40 or 50 camera snapping tourists from all over the world. The Mr. of the penguin family knew he was the star. He spent 20 minutes preening and flapping his little wings to the delight of on lookers. He finally hopped over the rocks and into the bush to be with the Mrs. and his family. Penguins spend the day feeding in the ocean and return to shore at dusk for the night. It was great to get a peak at the lifestyle of these tough little birds.
Curio Bay is on the Southern Sea. The next land fall is Antarctica. The winds were blowing a constant 30 to 40 mph in our faces and straight from the frozen continent. Some tourists who arrived in t-shirts did not last long. The place gets it name for the exposed petrified forest that is exposed on the shore line. Some 180 million years ago, the place was flooded and inundated and became petrified. Today you can poke around amongst the trunks. We were there to see the little guys that brave this harsh environment.
We left our cosy cabin in Te Anau and headed south along the west coast of the southern tip. We stopped for gas at a friendly station. He could not tell me why Kiwis hang their doors upside down. The handles are at 5 feet off the floor. His Labrador can jump and open them and his little kids use a string to open the doors. Just useful trivia.
We reached Gemstone Beach and managed to stay dry while finding a few interesting rocks. There was a gold prospector working on the beach sand that contains deposits of gold. He said he had his good days and then some not so good. He earned whatever he found in the gale force, freezing winds. A young German tourist showed off his collection of finds. He was camping on the beach. He too was losing his marbles.
A few miles south, we stopped at Monkey Island. The Maoris used it as a whale spotting location. We saw many hard core surfers who were also campers braving the winds and etching sands. As we reached the bottom of the South Island we drove through some size able towns like Invercargill. It was mostly settled by hardy Scots who brought with them their love of the Presbyterian Church. We failed to do not much more than admire the outsides of these articles of faith.
To reach Curio Bay we needed to cross an isolated area known as the Catlins. We accomplished this and did a recon of Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay before securing our lodgings. The Hector’s Dolphins live in this bay. With the wind and rough surf we failed to see any of these smallest of dolphins. Our “campground” cabin is very nice and we enjoyed our dinner at the camp restaurant, “The Whistling Frog”.
Enough for today.