. I took a video and some pictures of them, but because the light levels were so low, I'm afraid the quality isn't that great. but they do manage to capture the excitement of the moment and that's what I was going for.
the guys hadn't brought any food with them and needed to stop at a grocery store, so we drove to Owaka, grabbed a few items for dinner and breakfast and set out to find a place to stay for the night. the first hostel we tried looked a bit dodgy and was a tad too expensive, so we decided to drive down the road to the other hostel instead. turns out it was the right decision--it was more of an apartment than a hostel. the only other people staying there was another English couple, there was a nice big kitchen, a big living room and we had the bunk room all to ourselves... AND the beds even had heating pads!! it still gets pretty cold at night and seeing that heating pads are quite rare in hostels, we felt we had hit the jackpot.
we hit the hay early and had a good night's sleep and were rewarded by waking up to an exceptionally beautiful day. bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky and the air was fairly mild. needless to say it greatly amped the excitement for our second day of adventure, and we left the hostel in a state of exuberance, barely containing our anticipation
. we continued west on the SSR and our first stop of the day was another big attraction in The Catlins, the Purakaunui Falls. (don't worry if you can't pronounce it-- it took us all day to say it right.) a 10 minute walk through lush New Zealand forest took us to the beautiful waterfall, and we all took turns taking fun pictures in front of it. back in the car again, we hurried towards cathedral cave which was about 30 minutes west, for we read it was only accessible for two hours before and after low tide which meant we had about 50 minutes to make it. alas when we got there (with 23 minutes to spare) the gate was already closed. bummer. since we needed gas, we decided to turn around and backtrack 15 min to the (really) small town of Papatowai for gas and some snacks. I chatted a min with the nice lady behind the counter at the gas station and she told me that cathedral cave beach had been closed for weeks, due to storms washing out sand and was no longer accessible. this made us feel a little bit better about missing it, and we decided to take our time on the way to Porpoise and Curio Bays, the next "must-sees" on our list. we stopped at the local beach in Papatowai and were pleasantly surprised by the beauty and privacy of its location. we also stopped at Tautuku Beach and Florence Hill Lookout, both of which were quite amazing.
Porpoise Bay was really cool. we had a lot of laughs here
. it's named after the very rare Hector's Dolphins that supposedly frequent the bay, and (like everything else we saw) was quite beautiful. we walked down the beach and climbed the rocks for a better look of the ocean. Vincent was determined to get wet from the magnificent waves that were crashing on the rocks, so I stood there for 20 minutes trying to film him, cracking up the whole time. I posted some the best of the videos and you'll hear me roaring in laughter the whole time.
just next to Porpoise Bay is the slightly more famous Curio Bay, known for it's ~180 million year old petrified forest. we walked around on it for a little bit, taking cool pics of the old...um..."wood," and then it was back on the road once again in search of Slope Point. the guys had been talking all day about this place, for it's the southern most point of the mainland (excluding the small "third island" of Stewart Island) and were dying for some pictures with the sign that proves that you've been there. it was a bit of a hike to get there---lots of driving on gravel roads and through private land, a 20 minute trek through a pasture and some sheep and then over to the edge of the cliffs. low and behold though, there it was; a bright yellow sign that says "you are here." of course, I took a picture with it too! I came all that way, how could I not?
driving towards Waipapa Point, still on a dirt road, we stopped at the only tavern in this itsy-bitsy village named Tukanui for some pizza and a beer (and a bit of a rest)
. turns out it was the southern most pub on the mainland (ha). after our pit-stop, we were finally back on paved road and it was about 3 in the afternoon. to our surprise (but mostly to our delight!) we came around a corner and were faced with a stampede of lambs being herded down the road! of course we stopped the car but I think it was mostly to take pictures rather than for the safety of the lambs! we all laughed, saying how it was a typical kiwi moment--just like you see in the pictures of sheep drives in the NZ tourist books. it was so cool. complete with sheep dogs and atvs, it was by far one of the most memorable moments of the trip.
after leaving Cannibal Bay, we were back on the southern scenic route heading towards Owaka, one of the "biggest" villages in The Catlins. we knew Owaka had a couple hostels and since it was dusk now, we figured it would be our best option. however just before reaching the town we passed a sign for Surat Bay, and Ross was keen on going to see if there were any sea lions there. of course I didn't oppose and Vincent wanted to go as well, so we took the right-hand turn onto the dirt Surat Bay Road. a few minutes later the road ended at a small but peaceful bay, perfectly calm with the stillness of twilight. we got out and started walking down the trail towards the beach. along the trail we passed a couple on their way back and they mentioned there were two NZ sea lions towards the end of the beach. Sweet! now we were pumped! seals, penguins AND sea lions... all in one day?! this is turning out to be the best day EVER, and we all agreed. we walked another 5 min or so to the end of the beach and there they were, getting comfortable in the sand for their night's sleep