Donkey mum and baby, Clifden.
Left Te Anau in really thick fog which didn't really clear for much of the morning. You could hardly see off the road at Manapouri, so glad we did the Sound trip yesterday. Didn't get any view from the mountains across to Clifden, which was a pity. Stopped at the Clifden Suspension Bridge, which when it was built in 1898 was the largest in New Zealand. Next to it there's a little paddock with small ponies, donkeys and a ram. We think they are from a petting zoo because very quiet - there was even a really cute baby donkey so we gave them all a pat! Then went out to the Clifden Limestone Caves. We wondered why these were rarely mentioned in the tourist guides, but believe it's because they are not really tourist caves.
Henry the Tuatara.
They are not lit, and actually follow a path that takes about 3 hours if you do the whole thing. But you need good equipment and lights, so we only went in about 10 metres - our little torch did not cut the dark enough. Had a cuppa break at McCracken Point but once again the fog prevented us from seeing much - you can often see Stewart Island from here, apparently. We collected some nice little rocks at Gemstone Beach, but didn't make our fortune - no sapphires today! Had lunch at Riverton, a quaint little town on a harbour which also claims a giant Paua Shell, so added that to our photographic collection of "big things". We initially drove straight through Invercargill
to Bluff, which is known as the oyster capital of New Zealand.
The Big Trout at Gore, brown trout fishing capital of the world (apparently).
We didn't see an awful lot of evidence of that however, only a couple of small shops selling oysters. We thought there might be more of a fuss made of the oysters, perhaps with an info centre or something. Drove around to Stirling Point which is almost as far south as you can get on mainland New Zealand adn then headed back into town. The famous Paua Shell house in Bluff does not seem to exist anymore, and we do half recall a story when we first got here that the owners had died and their son had sold off all the shells, so that probably explains it. When we returned to Invercargill we had a look through the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, which was great value (particularly as it's free!). It is a well laid out museum and you can have a good look through without feeling museum'ed out. There is a special exhibition on at the moment about Burt Munroe (the world's fastest Indian) who hailed from Invercargill. Many of the props from the movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins were in the exhibition, which was $5pp to enter. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be very much of his original things so a little disappointing in that respect, but interesting none-the-less. There's also great exhibitions about the NZ antarctic regions and the Roaring 40's. The best bit, though, was Henry the 125-odd year old tuatara (big lizard). It took us 4 attempts to actually see him out of his log, but got there in the end! He's the biggest tuatara in the world and Invercargill's most famous resident. He's doing even better now because after 35 years of celibacy (to the extent that he bit his last mate's tail off twice - you'd think she'd have got the hint!) he seems to have settled down with a girlfriend. Considering that Juliet is 20 years old (a good 100 years younger than Henry) he's doing alright - quite the sugar daddy!! Hopefully there'll be some baby Henry's in the near future. Spending the next 3 nights with our friends Anna and Craig - Melissa and Anna met whilst working in London. Anna cooked a terrific roast lamb and it was incredibly good to have real food as opposed to travellers food!
The next day Anna took the afternoon off work and drove us over to Gore and Winton. Gore is the brown trout fishing capital of NZ, so another spot for Melissa's dad to visit (also took a photo of the Big Brown Trout!). Gore is a nice town with all the facilities you'd want. The gardens have an aviary with a couple of kea (NZ parrots) plus a peacock family. The peacock was lounging around in the corner whilst the peahen was foraging around the enclosure with two little chicks - funny little blokes, we've never seen peacock chicks before, they don't look anything like the adults, almost like little kiwis. We had a cuppa with Anna's grandparents and then headed home through Winton, stopping to look at the craft shops. Anna took Melissa to a bridal shower that evening, so a nice girls night out.
On our last day, we went back to the Museum to see the "roaring 40's" film, about the wildlife and environment of the NZ Antarctic islands - a bit disappointing, it was actually a slideshow with no commentary rather than a documentary, so not very informative. It is free though! We were also lucky enough to see a tuatara out of his enclosure - a small school group came through and the ranger hooked out one of the reptiles for all to have a closer look at. They're actually very bird-like in their behaviour and appearance, so the ranger feels there may actually be more of the avian in their background than at first thought. We also went to see the new NZ movie "Black Sheep", a comedy/horror about rogue genetically engineered sheep - quite funny, but also extremely gory so not one to take your mum to! Our last evening was spent having a look at Anna and Craig's new farm (fantastic) and enjoying a great meal at a local restaurant, Ziffs.