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2024 - January - Day 6 - Invercargill & the Caitlins

We are such a long way from home yet everything looks and feels a bit like good old blighty. The bed in our room was very comfortable and we both slept well. We both enjoyed our porridge for breakfast we were able to make in our room using the microwave and the inspired purchase by Karen of a plastic microwave bowl from the Countdown store.


At 8.30am I called the rental car company and asked if we could pick the car up a day early. They agreed I could but wanted to charge me an extra £180 to do so. I asked them to check that amount which they confirmed was correct. I laughed and said instead could I just hire another car for a day. Their response was the only car they had available was the one reserved for me for the next day. I said in that case I would take that one. They said they couldn’t as it reserved for the next day to which I replied ‘Yes to me’. They said their system would not let them do that. In despair I told them to forget it and that I would collect as originally booked. Instead, I booked online another car for the day through another local company for a fraction of the price. You really do have to despair at whoever designs these systems these days or the management who do not want to override processes for the good of the company and customer.


I booked a cab to take us back to the airport to pick up the car. With hindsight I should have just collected a car at the airport when we arrived but the original plan was that we didn’t need one for the first couple of days. Now our plan was to drive to the Caitlin’s for the day.


The taxi arrived early and we soon at the car rental desk at the airport. It was not a surprise that the car was not ready as I had only booked it 45 minutes earlier. After about 25 minutes later though we were on the road heading to Slope Point – the southernmost point of the South Island. The drive was fine. The scenery was a bit like the UK but with more sheep. In fact, many more sheep. All the fields looked so lush in the bright sunshine. The roads were deserted.


At Fortrose we had a coffee stop which may have included a naughty sausage roll for our lunch. Then we stopped at Waipapa Point to have a walk to the lighthouse. As we got out of the car the wind hit us followed by almost vertical rain hitting us like needles onto our bare skin all from a rogue black cloud that appeared quickly from nowhere. It was not a pleasant walk there and back but we made it.


Then we finally got to Slope Point. There was a car park and a sign saying that the point was a 20-minute walk away. It was now lovely and sunny again as we made our way following a path across some fields. By the time we reached it we were the most Southerly people in New Zealand and I reckoned that 99.9% of the world’s population were North of us. We took several pictures around the sign post marking the spot. It was very blowy and Karen was worried when I ventured near that cliff edge that I may be blown off and not found again I until I landed in Antarctica.


Next on the schedule was Curio Bay. This could have been lovely but we didn’t see any dolphins or sea lions and the penguin walk area was closed. Still, we got a good view of the petrified forest and Karen had a nice coffee.


For our final spot we headed to Niagara Falls which when we arrived had a sign saying it had been named by someone with their ‘tongue in cheek’. It took longer to find the falls than it did to stand admire and get back in the car, they were that good.


We drove back to Invercargill still admiring all the different flora and fauna as we went along. I wonder how many days before that all becomes rather blasé.


As we hadn’t had a chance to before, we thought we should at least drive round Invercargill town centre. It was bigger than we thought and had some interesting if run down in places,  art deco and earlier buildings. I still wouldn’t want to live here but it was better than we had anticipated.


Karen was now getting hungry and so to please Barry who last summer went to the Northernmost MacDonalds in the world in the Artic Circle, we went to the Southernmost MacDonalds in the world and had a burger each for our dinner. It didn’t taste any different to any other MacDonalds in the world but was still quite tasty for a change.


Incidentally if you count the most Easterly MacDonalds as the one nearest the dateline that is also in New Zealand in Gisborne. Karen is already wondering whether we should completely our route to take that in – the answer is No.


Back in our room, we had a cuppa whilst Karen did our first load of washing for the trip in the laundry which was opposite our room. Then as it was a beautiful evening with the sun not setting until after 9.50pm we headed out again, this time to Bluff to find the end of State Highway 1 (we had been to the other end at Cape Reigna on our last trip) and more interestingly the famous Bluff Signpost.


It was a long straight road drive with loads of deer farms on either side of the road. The road end and signpost were at Stirling Point. It was a marvellous view and we almost had the place to ourselves and so we patted ourselves on the back for coming here in the evening as apparently it can be very busy during the day. Again, we took lots of photos.


On the way back we diverted to Bluff Head. It was a very steep drive up followed by a very circular short pathway to the top. It was unbelievably windy at the top with seemingly nothing to shelter us from whatever seemed to blowing across from the South Pole. The views were marvellous and we seemed to be surrounded by water, but it was not particularly pleasant being buffeted so much so our time at the summit was quite short.


We headed back to our motel and as we sorted ourselves out watched some house renovation project on a safari lodge inn on the Zambesi River. It was such an obvious set up with false targets and a hippo attack on their supply boat.


Despite not going to Stewart Island as we thought we had planned; it had been a good day. I would have been annoyed if we had not been able to visit the places we had done so. In retrospect going to Stewart Island was not a sensible plan. It was far too far offshore and from what we know now, does not have much on it. We decided we had enjoyed today far more than a rough sea crossing ending with just a bus tour round a nature reserve. Still cannot believe I messed up the booking though.

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