Home > New Zealand > Day 4: Some weird Jello thing

Day 4: Some weird Jello thing

03 June 2010

Today was the earliest we’ve woken up so far: 7 AM.  I know it’s not really that early, except that the sun doesn’t rise until 8 AM.  That made it pretty difficult to get up.

Kat and I took a walk down to Tunnel Beach just as the sun was rising up.  It was quite a sight!  Cliffs rose out of the water as waves crashed up against them.  A few sheep dawdled around one of the cliffs, but they scatted nervously as we walked up—just as skittish as the rest of New Zealand sheep.

Sheep Living on the Edge

Sheep near Tunnel Beach.

One of the highlights was a giant cliff/boulder that jutted out into the ocean.  The side has a giant hole carved out of it, making it a mini gateway for any boats that might be adventurous enough to try and sail through it.  And climbing to the top of this cliff gave you stunning panoramas of the surrounding areas.

Pride Rock

It looks a little like Pride Rock from the Lion King.

Through the Tunnel

A little through-cave. You'd have to be crazy to try and go through there.

And then we found out why it’s called Tunnel Beach: you have to climb through a tunnel to get down to the beach!  A small tunnel was carved out of the rock face allowing access to the breach.  Not only that, but when we actually got down to the beach, there were other, small tunnels carved naturally by waves.  (At least I assume that’s how they were made.)  One of them only went a meter in, but I climbed at least 10 meters into another one no bigger than my body.  It went a bit further, but at that point I saw some wetas and chickened out.

Tunnel to the Beach

The tunnel down to Tunnel Beach.

After spending 45 minutes exploring the beach, we went back up and started down the Catlins Coast.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to drive right along the coast as it looked like we would from the map.  Still, the winding road through the mountains was spectacular, and we occasionally got to see the coast.

We cut through quite a few small towns, and you could see the effects of recent flooding.  (The entirety of New Zealand just had 2+ weeks of torrential rain.  Much of the South Island was flooded, especially around Omaru and Dunedin.)  Many farms were completely underwater, and I even saw a farmer driving his beat-up pickup truck through the four feet of water. Not sure if he made it wherever he was going.

Flooded Farmland

The week before Kat and I went down to the South Island, they received a huge bout of rain, flooding a lot of the roads. While the roads had cleared by the time we got down there, the remnants of the flood were left on the farmlands.

There were quite a few stops along the way: 15+ sites marked on our map and probably many more that were not marked.  We chose two of these: Cannibal Bay and the Niagara Falls of New Zealand.

Cannibal Bay was at the end of an 8-km stretch of gravel road, but it was worth it.  At first glance, it was a simple, boring beach.  But by climbing over some rocks, we found tide pools teeming with life.  The pools were full of a pink plant that lit up the entire pool in a brilliant, Kool-Aide color.  Rocks were covered by hundreds of thousands of tiny baby clams and barnacles.  We even saw some mysterious, black Jello-like growth: much like a squishy barnacle or shiny black scallop meat.

Little Gooeys

Cannibal Bay, along the Catlins Coast, was not a very exciting beach at first glance. But looking deeper, it was filled with lots of sealife, including barnacles, clams, and pink algae. The most interesting were these slimy, black, Jello-like things. I have no idea what they are. If anyone has any guess, let me know!

The Niagara Falls of New Zealand was NOT what you’d expect.  Out in a tiny, nondescript town, these falls were named by a traveler who had visited the huge, North American Niagara Falls.  As a joke, he named these tiny falls Niagara.  (And it still catches a bunch of tourists, just like us, daily.)  I’m pretty sure the waterfalls in our backyard woods in Pittsburgh are bigger than this.

Niagara Falls

Kat and I drove 30 minutes out of our way to see The Niagara Falls of New Zealand. When we got there, we found out that it was actually a joke; the founder named it because it is the complete opposite of the falls in North America.

After a pretty short ride, we made it to Invercargill.  We drove down to Bluff and parked on a beach, getting some writing and phone calling out of the way.  We drove back to Invercargill and took our first shower of the trip in a YMCA for $3.

Invercargill is a dead city.  Sadly, it’s deader than even Pittsburgh, and we searched around for 25 minutes before settling on one of the only 3 restaurants in town-Speight’s Ale House.  It was decent food, but a bit overpriced.

After dinner, we filled up on gas and drove looking for a place to stay the night.  There were no DOC sites in the area, and we didn’t want to shell out the money for a holiday park (commercialized camping).  We decided to look for a free place to stay again.

That proved more difficult than we expected.

We ended up driving for 2 hours: 2/3 of the way to Te Anau, which was supposed to be our entire drive tomorrow.  We found one place before that, but it was next to a cemetery, and that’s just creepy.

So here we are again, in a small inlet on the side of the road.  Cars pass about every 15 minutes, though it’s been getting less frequent as the night progresses.  Not too much going on this part of the country.

See the full set on Flickr! (Photos will be uploaded as I go through each day.)

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