From Dunedin we continues South and headed slightly west, inland, on State Highway 8 toward the town of Beaumont. Jeff had stayed there the year prior when he was finished with his season on the ice. He wrangled up the coordinates for the exact location of what was lovingly and appropriately called the "Dope Camp Site," aptly named by he and his two fellow cohorts on their freedom camping adventures together.
Freedom camping, be it in a tent or camper van, is when you camp in un-designated camp areas. It use to be quite the norm in NZ, unfortunately due to the rise in the numbers of freedom campers and the unfortunate negative effect it has had on the green movement within the country, due to litter and improper disposal of human waste, freedom camping is now very sternly frowned upon. Which isn't to say it doesn't still happen on a fairly regular basis, the campers have just increased their stealth and hopefully have also increased their conservation efforts.
We drove for a couple hours, still astonished every day at how far we seem to travel across the map in such a short time, and familiarizing ourselves with just how small the country really is. Jeff's excitement grew by the kilometer, his smile sneaking into a permanent fixture across his face. He talked of the place as if it were paradise on earth. The closer we got to the campsite the further forward he sat in his seat, as if sitting closer to the dash would help us arrive sooner. Like watching a child approach an ice-cream parlor, his body wiggling with the excitement of things to come.
We drove down toward the river, to the "Dope Camp Site" and strategically hid the van as best we could underneath a riverside tree. It turns out it's fairly difficult to hide a full size van. Now imagine trying to hide a van with the paint job ours had. We decided to face the bright pink side toward the river, and the more subdued image of the pimp toward the direction of the road.
Jeff was right, this place was gorgeous! The turquoise and emerald hues of the river were breathtaking against the forested limestone hills, and Jeff couldn't resist immediately jumping into the swimming hole. Nightfall was fast approaching so we began the preparation of dinner before we ended up muddling around for food in the dark.
As I mentioned earlier, freedom camping has been handled poorly by many travelers, giving a bad name to those who remember that we are guests on this earth. Previous freedom campers had obviously forgotten every aspect of outdoor etiquette and had made a trash bin of the area. When I was a small child, any time my mother took us camping she would give us each a grocery bag to fill with litter to later properly dispose of. She would always say "Leave it cleaner than you found it." I keep those sentiments and gestures with me to this day. So Jeff and I went to work cleaning the area. Three unfortunate trash bags later we had made a decent dent in the damage that had been left behind and were feeling karmically cleansed and ready to enjoy a lovely dinner.
I couldn't help but think of Idaho. What a beautiful place!
I spent the following morning skipping about the jutting river rocks, watching the water rush past with force, until it was time to move onward. South toward the Catlins. To Purakaunui Bay.
This beach was stunning and a big hit for surfers. Sandwiched between dramatically tall cliffs and amazingly textured, pitted beach rocks.
We enjoyed the spot so much we stayed a second night and took a day to enjoy not having to drive somewhere. A vacation day :) We walked on the beach and around to edges of the bay in a slow meandering exploration of the area.
A couple underwater shots of the ecosystem living in a puddle atop the pitted rocks.
The second night a storm rolled in.
It rained most of the night and into the morning. It was time for us to move on with the show, but we had a difficult start. We had parked the van down a grassy hill. Add several hours of rain and you have yourself a stuck van. Jeff valiantly pushed while I tried to drive it out of the predicament we had found ourselves stuck in. Keep in mind, this so far, is my only time driving in NZ. Pedals where they should be, gears where they should be, but the shifter was on the left. Slightly tricky, but not too bad. We eventually recruited the help of two men to help push us out and over tire-spinning fun times we were free. I must say though I did feel awful when I hopped over to the passenger seat and Jeff resumed his job as driver, covered from mid-stomach down to his toes in grass. I wish I had gotten a photo! The very image of valiance. And he didn't complain once!!
We drove a couple hours to a place we both were anxious to get to. Invercargill, and Bluff. Invercargill is a city on the southern tip of the South Island and a place of interest for Jeff because he is an avid motorcycle enthusiast. So what do motorcycles have to do with Invercargill? It's the home of the world's fastest Indian. For those unfamiliar, I will explain.
Herbert James "Burt" Monro (1899-1978) was New Zealand motorcycle racer. Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle. He set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. He travelled to the US to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to set world land speed records. During his 10 visits, he set three speed records. Munro was 68 and was riding a 47 year old machine when he set his last record. The land speed record for under 1000cc, which he set at Bonneville August 26, 1967 still stands today.
So, if you are into motorcycles, it's kind of a big deal.
|The original World's Fastest Indian on display in Invercargill|
|And a very happy man|
Just outside the city of Invercargill is Bluff, the cities port. The main reason people frequent Bluff is to catch a ferry to Stewart Island It's also where the Te Araroa trail ends. It's where I should have ended my trek. I had to go see it.
This giant chain link sculpture symbolizes the Maori legend where the South Island is the canoe of Maui, and Stewart Island is the boat's anchor. The chain disappears into the ocean and has a companion sculpture on Stewart Island.
|Jeff standing beneath the arrow pointing toward the South Pole, from where he had just come.|
... and me, a mixed bag of emotions, because this was not the way I had imagined getting here. But I was glad to have gotten here just the same.