Down South

My friend Olivia has been living in the southern city of Dunedin (old Scottish name for Edinburgh) so I added on the Deep South portion to my Stray bus pass. We left a rainy Queenstown on Thursday for a nice long drive to Milford Sound. I let Aerial talk me into the hour and a half cruise through the fjords,m and I can’t argue how spectacular the view was.

Somehow, we caught a stunningly sunny afternoon. It rains 325 days a year typically in the Fjordland region of New Zealand. The mountains were breathtaking, cut at incredibly steep angles by the glacier that now is nothing but a snow cap. Each peak looked like part of a party tent that had the side poles taken down, only the tall middle one held up the canvas of trees, bush and waterfalls. The top meter or two of seawater here is actually fresh water dripping down off the mountains. I’m sure it would be just as cold as the saltwater below.

We cruised back to Gunn’s Camp, a completely isolated spot running on a generator and lacking a telephone. The rooms were refurnished 1930s mining cottages complete with wood-burning stoves and no electric outlets. I had to find new roommates as the other girls I had been bunking with were not coming south and going straight to Christchurch. But Brenna, Adele and I had fun gaping at our surroundings. We went to bed as the sun was setting.

The next day, we woke up at an ungodly 4.30 am to get a few passengers onto the ferry to Stewart Island. Running low on cash after my glacier hike, bungy jump, and other activities, I opted for a relaxing day in Invercargill. At the wharf, we stopped by the lookout in Bluff for some photos. Twin signposts sit at Cape Reinga and at Bluff pointing to cities around the world, and I have photos at both.

After a grocery run and a toasted sandwich for lunch, several of us stayed indoors, avoiding the wind and rain Invercargill is famous for. I watched a few films including Italian award-winning World War II film ‘Life is Beautiful’ and spent all night trying to figure out why ‘Saving Silverman’ was being shown with the title ‘Evil Woman’ on TV3.

I must admit up until this point I was regretting spending the extra money on the deep south add-on to my bus pass. If I had planned a little more, I could have stayed one extra day in Queenstown to rest and recover from my bungy, hang out with my new friends, and taken a cheap express bus straight to Dunedin. I would have saved about $250, enough to bungy a second time.

The drive through the Catlins to Dunedin was quite pretty. Rolling hills dotted with sheep, cattle, and domesticated deer followed a ragged coastline constantly beaten down with harsh winds and heavy ocean waves. We stopped for photos as a beach or two, resting at Curio Bay for lunch. I opted to eat inside the bus and then played among the petrified Kauri trees resting on a cliff with waves crashing across them.

Our last activity was a hike at Florence Hill to see a huge waterfall. One of the girls on the bus fell into the creek trying to climb back from a photo spot. As we pulled into Dunedin, I grabbed some song and band names from her iPod, and said goodbye to the Stray bus. Now that I’ve survived the 18-degree hill up Pitt street to Olivia’s house, I’m happy to have a few days to relax.

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