Waipapa, Invercargill and some wetlands

Trip Start Jan 25, 2008
Trip End Nov 16, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

after our run-in with the lambs, we continued on towards Waipapa Point, one of the last main points in The Catlins and known for its lighthouse. the guys went down to the beach first and i watched them disappear behind the cliffs as i took my time taking pictures of the lighthouse and the dunes. i meandered down the path and down onto the sand while i continued snapping pictures of the rocks and coastline--the light levels were great and i was having fun playing with the shadows. suddenly i heard my name called, so i looked to my left and saw Ross and Vincent waving frantically for me to come over to them. i walked down the beach towards them only to discover the reason they were trying so desperately to get my attention. there resting on the sand were four big NZ sea lions! three of them were lying together (one was really big!) and the other was about 20 feet away. just like the other sea lions we'd seen at Surat Bay, they appeared to be getting comfortable for another night's sleep. the light was much better than at Surat Bay so we took advantage of it by taking way more pictures and (daring) to get closer. it was a pleasant surprise to an already fantastic day.

when we'd had our fill of sea life and seascapes, we got back in the car and looked at our watches; it was getting late and the sun was going down. we were at the far end of The Catlins and it would be almost a four hour drive home if we were to leave from there. but then again, Invercargill was only about 20 minutes away... we were so close. none of us had to be at work until at least 2 the next day, and we did have the car until 11:30am the following morning.... we all looked at each other and said, "let's do it!" so off we went, heading west towards the sinking sun.

we were hoping to find a spot near the water on the way to town where we could watch the sun set on the ocean, so when we passed a sign for some wetlands we thought we'd take a chance and see where the road led us. of course like the rest of our trip, the "road" quickly became dirt and we drove through yet more farmland, sheep and cows. we followed the signs for these wetlands, and at every turn the sign seemed to say "just 5 km more"...."just 8 km more"....and yet we were driving further and further into what (seemed) like nowhere at all. the road got even worse. it narrowed down to one lane with potholes and these huge bushes on either side of the road, so that we couldn't see anything but straight in front of us. 15 minutes of driving and still we had seen no sign for these wetlands. the sun was about to set and it was turning the sky into a brilliant pallet of color, so we were desperate to pull over and take pictures of it. Ross decided to turn around (when we found a place large enough to let us!) and we backtracked three or four minutes to an opening in the bush we passed across from a cow pasture. we hurried out of the car just in time to catch the few minutes before the sun went down. as we scurried down the hill through the opening of bush, to our delight we discovered a beautiful lagoon just next to the beach.  the sun set and the sky burst into pinks, purples, oranges and golds over the stillness of the lagoon (complete with a shore bird delicately plucking bugs from the sands). we all kept saying how "getting lost" and finding this magical place in the middle of nowhere was completely worth it.  the pictures I got at Waituna Lagoon were by far some of the best ones i've taken since I've gotten to New Zealand.  it was a special ending to a very special trip.

we got into Invercargill just after dark and drove around trying to find a hostel for about a half hour... they couldn't find the road that the hostel was on and of course, they wouldn't stop for directions. we finally settled on another hostel, Tuatara Backpackers, named after the only native lizard to NZ.  it was a bit too big and commercial for me, but convenient nonetheless as it was right on the main street. after we checked in and dropped our bags in our room we headed next door to the Speight's Pub for some dinner where I ordered a delicious steak and potato salad... sooo good.  we headed back to the room for an early night for we had to get up early to return the car by 11:30am in Dunedin. as I closed my eyes and tried to block out the yelling in the hallway, I couldn't help but be thankful for such an incredible visit in an absolutely captivating place. I am so glad that I finally made it to The Catlins. I knew that it would be special, and that... it truly was.
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