Invercargill, Stewart Island, The Catlins

In Te Anau I caught the bus for Invercargill almost at the last moment. I hopped on and tried to relax. However, the trip was not too long. We had a stop in a small town called Gore. That place was probably bigger than Wanaka, Queenstown or Te Anau, but it looked like still like a town than a city. I changed the bus and from Gore I went directly to Invercargill. On our bus there were only two passengers, a girl and me. :) The sceneries were not that impressive like usual, so I just relaxed. The weather was changing very quickly and there was heavy raining all around. I hoped the distance to Invercargill is still long, but unfortunately we were almost there. The driver dropped me next to the Information centre, gave me a map and wished me all the best.

The weather was horrible, but I had had some experience from Mount Cook village, so it was not a complete disaster for me. The only one problem was I had my luggage with me and had to walk quite long distance. However after a long time I could experience a city atmosphere, because Invercargill is the southernmost city. According to Rough Guide, it was built in a Scottish style like Dunedin for instance. However, you can hear a lot of unpleasant nicknames about Invercargill. Auckland is a city of sails, Wellington is pretty windy (and cool), Queenstown the best place for night life or a place with a lot of attractions (or Disneyland). What about Invercargill? I am not sure if I can write down this information, because the most pleasant nickname is a hole. :) However, the first impression was not too bad. They had a very good Information Centre together with a museum and a few very nice buildings.

I found my accommodation after maybe 10 minutes later I left the bus. There was no YHA Invercargill, my place was called Tuatara Backpackers lodge and it seemed like a very nice place. When I confirmed my stay, I booked a plane ticket to Stewart Island and a very special trip around The Catlins coast, because my next stop was Dunedin and The Catlins were on the way there and you can observe a lot of beautiful sceneries. I had got a very nice room. I booked a dorm one, but I was alone there. After I left my luggage in my room, I started walking through the city. I had no plan. I was just walking and took some photos of interesting buildings. I also visited some parks. There were two big supermarkets. I bought some staff in one of them and prepared a quick lunch. After my lunch I was walking again. I visited the Information Centre. The weather was changing faster than I could imagine. Maybe the change was more often than in Auckland or Mount Cook Village and it was raining heavily again.

Invercargill is famous as a place where Burt Munro, the word fastest Indian, lived. I was interested in some technical things according to his race, so I visited a special place where was a lot of information about him. Otherwise, the rest of museum was also very nice. You can find a lot of art, historical fact and staff and many other things that are relevant to Invercargill. New Zealand has a lot of small islands around. There were some expeditions and not everyone was successful. As well as the earthquake house in Te Papa National Museum in Wellington you could have a sailing experience in Invercargill museum. Outside the museum there were some beautiful gardens. I checked the situation there and when I left the museum, the weather was finally alright.

I was still walking through the city. I visited probably the highest tower in the city, The Water Project. I paid 2 dollars for a short excursion where they allowed me to walk up the tower. Everything was quite steep, but the lookout was beautiful. I could see whole city from above. On my way back I bought some ingredient for dinner. I wanted to prepare a special variation of burger I liked in Mount Cook. The inspiration for me was I found Aioli. Quite close to my place was a cinema, the same one like in Wellington. I read the available movies, but in the result I bought a ticket for Scream 4.

When I returned back to my room, there was a big surprise for me. I had a roommate. However, the surprise for me was, there was exactly the same guy from Italy I met before. What coincidence. :) We had a nice conversation and after a while I was going to prepare my dinner. The burgers looked all right. I met a lady there who said it looks very nice. I returned back to my room and went to the cinema. The movie was not bad, but I found myself for me the horror movies are not as attractive as before, a couple years ago. When I was returning back to my hostel, it was a little bit shock for me. During the night Invercargill seemed quite depressing and strange. I was really happy I was back at my place. In my room I had again a very nice conversation with the Italian guy. He was talking about Italy and said a lot of interesting information. It was surprise because I thought everything goes fine in Italy. We also discussed about London. The conversation was really amazing. He knew some languages, but he said he uses the same Italian accent for all of them. :)

When I woke up I was really excited because of the trip on Stewart Island. I took a shower, packed my camera and went downstairs in my backpacker to wait for a shuttle bus for the airport. He was there on time, so I was in the airport quite soon. I checked-in and was waiting for my plane. Next to me sat a guy from Department of Conservation. We talked to each other about various topics. He was on Stewart Island maybe three times and he liked that place. There was a TV and some news on. Probably all New Zealanders live with the royal weeding in London and the sooner that event is, the more information you can find. The guy who checked my ticket was also the pilot and after a while he said we could enter on plane. There were two planes and maybe 12 people who wanted to go on Stewart Island. The flight was very nice. Normally I flew on board of big planes, but that one was really different. The distance was quite small and after 15-20 we were on Stewart Island.

There was a small runaway and a shuttle bus and a guy who was waiting for us. He took us to Oban what was a township on Stewart Island. The atmosphere was really nice, but the sun was shining strongly. I found a small supermarket there and some toilets. I bought a quick snack and started walking around. There were some possibilities how to explore the island with Stewart Island Experience, but I prefer doing everything on my own. I saw some nice building. It looked like I was in a paradise. After a while I was on the beach. I was observing a girl who played with her two dogs. I also found some interesting birds. There was a small river and I wanted to get on the other side, but I could not find a way. I went closer to the girl and her dogs. She was born on Stewart Island and worked like a guide, a very nice person who gave me some useful advice. There was a small bush track close to the river and after a while I was on the road on the other side of the river.

Stewart Island is famous for possibility to observe some kiwi birds. I tried to find some, but it was probably the bad daytime, because the best chances are during the night. I was walking through significant parts of Stewart Island, found a lot of imposing beaches and met some nice people. There was a quite big group, a girl from Canada, two people from the USA and a guy from Norway. We took some photos together and I continued with my walking. I had still the girl’s advice in my head and it helped me to find some beautiful places on Stewart Island. They are probably well-known, but nobody was there and I really enjoyed walking there. When I returned back to Oban, I was quite hungry and tired. I bought some things in supermarket and I was wondering what to do next. The best thing was walking, so I kept moving. I found a way to an observing stone and I decided to go there. On my way I met a guy. His name was John, he was originally from Chatham Island, but he moved on Stewart Island twenty years ago. He said if you live on Stewart Island for a long time, for people you are a local.

The observing stone was really nice as well as the other places I explored on Stewart Island. However, I was really tired, so I decided to go back to Oban to wait for my plane. I confirmed my flight and I was waiting maybe 20 minutes than the driver took us back to the local airport. In next few minutes the plane landed and we could hop on. The pilot recognized me and allowed me to sit next to him in cockpit. For me it was a really nice experience, I could observe everything from the first line. I saw my backpacker from the above. When I returned back to the airport, I left the main building and I was walking back to Invercargill. In backpacker I wanted to cook something for me. There were a lot of people all around. However, I had a very nice conversation with a girl from Canada and Germany. There was also a guy from Auckland. After the kitchen time I returned back to my room and went to bed. I was really excited for next day.

On Tuesday, in the morning I woke up quite early. I prepared everything, returned the key and was waiting for my connection to The Catlins. There was a guy from New Plymouth. He went to Stewart Island for 10 day trip. I wished him all the best and I was still waiting for the bus. In next few minutes a guy came and asked me what am I waiting for? He looked like my favourite actor Jake Gyllenhaal. His name was Josh and he was a trip guide. Not many people booked that trip and his boss allowed him to use a car instead of a bus. We had to take two girls from the Information Centre, because they left our hostel quite soon and went to wait there. Josh was born in Dunedin and had very good knowledge of The Catlins as well as many other places in New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Since the beginning our car trip was special and no boring trip from point A to B at all. We tried to decide whether go for oysters or not. We turned our car around at a crossroads because we could not decide.

We visited a small town Bluff, a very nice place with a lot of special oysters. We bought some of them. My travel mates were from Canada (Erin) and the Nederland (Isabelle). The Isabelle as well as I wanted to start eating the oyster in car. However, special packing helped us to make some mess in car. Josh stopped the car and allowed us to spill the water on sidewalk. We made that and after that we could enjoy the oysters. It was really delicious and we shared everything with Josh.

The trip through The Catlins was amazing. Josh was very good informed. He told us some nice stories about that region. We stopped on many nice places like beaches, waterfalls, lighthouses and lookouts. When we visited the first beach, there was a quite big bus group. We went close to the sea. There were a couple from England who was picking some things from bushes. Josh was quite angry about them and sent them away. Another stop was close to a waterfall. We could observe a beautiful nature masterpiece. Josh allowed us to go closer. It was quite slippery, but Josh helped us to get there. I had to take some photos despite the fact my camera was wet. I was a little bit thirsty and hungry. There were three possibilities in The Catlins where to stop for eating. The first stop was quite close. We wanted to stop there, but there was a power cut and the restaurant was closed. We kept driving a visited some other towns.

The lunch time was in Owaka, in a pretty small town. We were really excited, but some of us were a little bit disappointed. The staff was quite unpleasant over there. That was surprise, because almost everyone, especially in the hospitality area is quite friendly. I did not judge those guys, but Josh was quite uncompromising and talked to the waitress personally. After that they a little bit changed their approach, but the bad first impression still remained. On the other hand I ordered some sea food and it was quite delicious.

Another part of our trip was to visit a place called Nugget Point. There was a lighthouse and a possibility to observe yellow-eyed penguins. However, I did not feel very actually. Not because of food, but I found that I have problem with travelling by car for long distances within mountains. I needed to smell fresh air quite often, so I was happy we had a car a we could stop anywhere. When we stopped closed to the Nugget Point, we went to observe penguins. We saw only one of them, but it was such an amazing experience as well as the Nugget Point. When we left that place, we were driving straight to Dunedin. There were some plans where to stop, but we did everything on the fly. We made a friendship with Josh and I was really happy, because he was similar like some of my good friends.

Josh was also very happy and in Dunedin he prepared a small surprise. I hope his boss doesn’t read this article, because we completely changed the program. He took his very good friend at her place. Together we had a small trip through Dunedin straight to a very special place. Josh took some torches and we went observe some glow worms. It was very nice, there was a night all around and we really enjoyed walking there. Another thing was to find YHA hostel. Josh dropped me there and gave me his contact details. I said him good bye and I was really happy. For me it was another amazing day.

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