very close to Antarctica...kind of.
07/19/2009 - 07/23/2009 48 °F
What an up and down week, admittedly, there is nothing worse than the prospect of getting seriously ill while on the road. I am happy to say that my proactive approach to feeling somewhat ill has more or less saved me from getting real sick. Right now I feel fine and I question whether the local doctor in Dunedin properly diagnosed me with Shingles, but I'll keep taking the meds and resting and hope its all in the past.
In terms of the what and the where, I left Dunedin and basically traveled to the middle of nowhere, or as they call it down here, Southland. We stayed two nights in Catlins National forest which is home to more sea lions, dolphins, and penguins then people. Most of the terrain down here is relatively flat with bluffs and woodland extending out from the coast. Its more reminiscent of Britain then New Zealand. The weather has also reminded me of Britain, cold, damp, and rainy. We kept things rather tame the through the Catlins, leaving the paved road to adventure down unpaved roads and walking relatively short (20-40 min) paths to waterfalls or coastal bays.
Accomodations have been amazing in the sense that we have had mountain and waterfront lodges to ourselves. There are very few people down here, and during this season there is no one here. Several of the towns are nothing more than a gas station, a basic general store, and maybe a bar. The locals down here veer toward that backwoods, buck-toothed, horror movie vibe. I do not regret coming down here as the isolation itself is inherently cool, but it wont be the most memorable place.
Yesterday we walked through some pasture land to reach the southern most point in the entire country, Slope Point. The point is a rather wind blown, extremely rocky area with nothing but water separating you from Antarctica. From there we settled into Invercargill, the southern most city, for the night.
Today, I am in what may be one of the coolest places of the trip so far - Stewart Island. In size its a bit bigger than Martha's Vineyard, but its no where near as developed. There are about 300 full year residents on the island, and this time of year, I would guess there are about 100 people here. The town of Oban supplies the port, a bar, a grocery store, several fish n chips joints, and an amazing backpackers lodge that I am currently writing in.
Its actually warmer here as the island is a temperate rainforest. There is little to do other than hike, as my car is on the mainland and there are no roads here. We'll be here for two nights before heading to the west coast and fjordland for a week.
In terms of general timing, this is just about the end of my wandering period. I will be in fjordland and then the ski towns of queenstown and wanaka for almost all of august before flying out the first weekend of september to Australia. I am excited to finally call a region my home for the month as its been a whirlwind of driving and moving around the last 3 weeks.
Tonight Im heading to the bar for a bowl of some famous chowder, the owner of the lodge and I hung out a bit this afternoon and he gifted me a few pounds of venison to cook up for dinner tonight. Of random note, deer hunting is quite popular here, but the stranger thing is that deer farming is also an industry, seeing deer in gated herds is kinda strange.