Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
Trip End Mar 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Freestone Backpackers

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The next morning we ate breakfast with a British couple also staying at Surat Bay Lodge: Joy and Dave. They were retired and traveling around the country for a spell. Decades ago they'd received a gift – placements adorned with pictures of New Zealand. Year after year they’d enjoyed these beautiful images, always longing to go to those places, and now they were finally making it happen. How awesome is that? They were a very nice couple and we wished them safe travels as they departed.

Still intent on seeing the Catlins, we headed out to Purakaunui Falls. In order to reach them we had to travel 5k on an unpaved road, but we felt it was worth it and besides, good ole Scotty could handle it! I spent most of that drive with gritted teeth, squeezing the armrest hoping a pothole didn’t put us in dire straits. We survived unscathed.

The weather was cloudy but dry as we navigated the short path to the falls. The forest hung moss ridden and lovely all around us. The falls turned out to be fairly small and picturesque. Apparently it’s the most photographed waterfall in all of New Zealand. It was here that Katie experimented with our camera trying to achieve a blurred water effect. Since she’s so technically savvy she got it dialed in right away, and the technique resulted in some rather cool photos. We were excited to give it a try at our next stop, McLean Falls, but just as we embarked on the forty minute walk to reach them the rain started falling…and we didn’t have our raincoats with us. Not very smart, I know. How very un-Girl Scout of us.

Most of the track was under tree cover so we thought we could handle it, and besides it was just a drizzle. Then the rain got heavier and a huge group of school kids came tramping through. I was getting colder and wetter and now there was a roadblock of children milling about in front of us. We took careful steps through the mud and kept snapping pictures. Despite the rain, we got some very nice shots of the falls…just before our camera fell in the mud. I quickly retrieved it, now wet and dinged up, which made me anxious, to say the least. I dried and protected it from the rain as best I could as we headed back.

Katie enjoyed our little adventure out in the wet weather, but I was in a foul mood by the time we made it back to the car. The camera was damp, I was soaked, and our last day to enjoy the Catlins was turning into a monsoon. We sat in the car for a half hour to dry off and eat some snacks. The camera worked fine after it aired out, and my grumpy frown turned upside down by the end of those thirty minutes. So it was raining – what are ya gonna do? I couldn’t change the weather. Onward and upward, right?

We drove on to our next stop, Porpoise Bay, where Katie had high hopes of finally seeing dolphins. We’d been aiming to see some Hector’s dolphins at some point on our trip, and this area was known for their presence – hence the name. We wended our way through a very cool campground with tall bush growing in a labyrinthine configuration. Finally, we reached the crescent shaped Porpoise Bay. Rain was pounding on the shore and no one was around. I could imagine it being an amazing beach on a bright sunny day, but today the sand was abandoned, owned by the elements alone. We sat and waited, hoping the dolphins would pop up despite the gloomy conditions, but apparently they also didn’t appreciate the weather. Not a fin in sight. We moved on, hoping our Hector’s dolphins would be spotted later on in our travels.

Onward we went to Manapouri, our destination for the night. In order to get there we had to drive through Invercargill first. The guidebook hadn’t given this city any rave reviews and labeled it simply as a stopping point on one’s way to more exciting locales. I can’t say we disagreed. Admittedly, the dreary weather wasn’t casting the city in the most flattering light. It seemed a bit run down and didn’t have anything of interest to showcase. We looked into our guidebook and read about a hip little café where we went for lunch. Zoo Keeper’s Café was just what we were looking for. Primary colors screamed off the walls with animal prints teasing the edges. Of all the choices on the menu we settled on a venison burger. Since we were in New Zealand it seemed appropriate choose a twist on an American classic. Plus, I’d never had venison before! We ended up devouring it (we were pretty hungry) and we both really enjoyed it. Now, they’d mixed garlic and onions in with the venison meat, and there was sauce all over it, so I didn’t really feel like I understood what venison tasted like yet. In that state it had the flavor of meatloaf. But either way, I liked it and planned on having more.

From Invercargill we buzzed our way across the countryside and drove right up to our hostel, Freestone Backpackers, in Manapouri. Here we planned to stay four nights total, broken up over a week and a half. We were happy with our choice. We got our own private cabin on a hillside with a spectacular view of lake Manapouri. We had our own gas burners, sink, dishes, breakfast nook, and a wood burning stove! As luck would have it, the rain stopped just around arrival time, so we got to check in and pull our bags up the hill under dry skies…just before the drizzle commenced once more. But it was no matter, we had food, shelter, water, and a hot stove warming our feet.

An hour later the clouds had cleared. We sat back, basking in the amazing view: A deep blue lake framed by mountains and trees and rippling clouds overheard. Tomorrow we were scheduled to head out onto that lake, buss over the pass, and embark on our Doubtful Sound overnight cruise. This scenery was definitely whetting our appetites.

UPDATE! Alice and Katie are now embarking on a Round the World trip!
Visit aliceintraveland.com to follow along on their continuing

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jenngregs on

love that you are making lots of fires to keep warm :)

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