New Zealand- Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 373 (183)

Milton

Wednesday 16th March (2005)

I missed breakfast again this morning because I was once again running around trying to deal with the camper-van problem back in Holland. I’m still desperately trying to connect with Dinie, whom I know will do everything that she can to help us with this problem. I missed her at home so had to settle with more e-mailing. The idiot lawyer that is handling everything is getting to the point of being completely useless.

The three of us, sandy, myself and our new Dutch backpacker friend, all somehow squeezed into our incredibly small car and we set off towards Invercargill and the South coast, via a brief visit to the petrol station first. The two Israelis left shortly after us but I was certain we’d see them again. Our plan was to make it as far as Invercargill, stop for lunch and then move along the coastline, taking in all the scenery and wildlife along the way. The road up to Invercargill was quite boring. The town itself boasts nothing special of interest for travellers but it served us well as a stopping point for lunch. The road sings here in New Zealand have been quite good but for some reason, trying to navigate out of Invercargill and onto the coast road was a complete nightmare. After several abrupt changes in direction and a bit of scenic driving around, we finally made it onto the road we needed. The problem of navigation was not helped by the fact that the three different maps of the area that we have in the car all disagree on what the road layout actually is.

In driving around the Southern edge of New Zealand, we very much got the feel that we were back in Europe again. The surrounding countryside was very reminiscent of either England or Holland and this alternated from one to the other a few times. So far, I had wondered where all the sheep in New Zealand were – particularly given the statistic that there are ten sheep for every person – but we seem to have found them all now here in the South. We made several stops to enjoy the views and whatnot as we drove but the first main attraction of the day was the so-called Petrified Forest. Under the right circumstances, wood can become what is known as petrified. Essentially, the wood turns into a stone hard substance that can endure for hundreds and thousands of years. This one point on the Southern New Zealand coast plays home to just one such occurrence of petrified wood and several hectares of what was once very old woodland now lays in near fossil form on the flat rocks of the coast. It was quite interesting to walk on dead logs that were actually thousands of years old but it was yet again those pesky sandflies that eventually sent us back towards the car. We met the two Israelis at the Petrified Forest and this turned out to be the first of many chance meetings we would have with them throughout the day.

Our next stop along the coast was a spot where sea lions were apparently frequently found. Any sort of wildlife such as sea lions, seals or penguins always gets us worked up into a frenzy of anticipation so we continued along the coast road until we found the spot. The main thoroughfare that runs along the South coast of the country breaks off into smaller gravel roads from time to time and traversing these stone chip riddles dirt tracks is slow going. One such track that we were following for a while eventually lead us to a huge, flat wide open expanse of a beach, which we strolled out onto to see what we could see. As we walked towards the centre of the open expanse, two large boulders caught our eye and we wandered over to them. They turned out not to be boulders after all but two absolutely huge and fly-riddled sea lions. They seemed quite docile at first but soon let us know just exactly who was boss after I got just a little too close. I jumped near clean out of my skin when one of them barked and hobbled towards me. I’m sure I would have been able to outrun the Jabber The Hut looking beast but if I’d have tripped in my haste to escape, it wouldn’t have needed to do much more than just lay on me to kill me.

The sea lions were a bonus but we were actually looking for penguins on this beach. Unfortunately, nary a penguin was to be seen and we moved on a bit farther down the coast towards a place called Nugget Point, which is the location of a lighthouse and more colonies of seals. It was a bit of a walk out across the ridge towards the lighthouse so Sandy stayed behind to let the Dutch kid, Michiel, and myself wander over there to take a look for ourselves. The footpath that runs across the ridge towards the lighthouse is fairly high up but we could still see fur seals in their dozens down below us on either side as well as on the rocks out to sea.

All the walking around that we did today was starting to take its toll and we rolled in to Milton to locate our hostel an hour or so before dark. The owner and proprietor is a rather eccentric Swiss guy. Along with the odd, bizarre mannerism, he kept insisting that nobody but he be allowed to do any washing up. He was very attentive to everybody’s needs, however, and we later learned that the hostel was actually an old, converted church.

Armed with some remaining credit on my calling card and now a regular phone in the building from which to make a phone call, I called Dinie in Holland to discuss the camper van problem in more detail. With Dinie now on the case and taking things to task, I feel much more at ease about the whole situation.

Milton is a small and out of the way little town and there was no longer any supermarket that was open so we wandered into the centre of the small town to the one and only Chinese fast food restaurant. I paid for a Chinese take-away for the three of us. By the time we got back to the hostel, the two Israeli travellers had arrived and we all enjoyed a relaxing evening around the large dining room table. I would have loved to have spent the entire evening chatting with everyone but my eyes were getting very difficult to keep open and so I excused myself off to bed. I still had yesterday’s log entry to keep and I needed to at least get the notes for today’s entry down before I slipped into unconsciousness.

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