Sunday, March 8th. The Catlins Coastal Route. Balclutha to Owaka 40 km
I’ve gotten rid of another book that I haven’t read. “The Shadow of the Wind.” I thought that bicycle touring was going to mostly consist of lollygagging and literary pursuits. It doesn’t. It’s hard work.
Spent the night at an old hospital in Owaka with long hallways, of doors and creaking wooden floors, with balance bars lining the sides. It has recently been converted into a hostel. The beds are still hospital beds and there are emergency buttons to call nurses that no longer respond in the bathrooms. We were the only guests. Despite the wandering ghosts at night, I was so exhausted that it was the best night’s sleep of the trip.
Monday, March 9th The Catlins. Owaka to Curio Bay. 70 km
We spend a lot of time riding by farm animals. Mostly it’s sheep, cows and the odd goat or Kiwi farmer that we encounter. I have to say, that I’m starting to worry a bit about King. I don’t think he’s reading this blog so I’ll mention it here. He’s starting to talk to the animals as we ride by. It’s rare that we pass a field of sheep or cows and he doesn’t say something, often holding seemingly extended conversations with them. Even more worrisome is that I think that he believes they can understand him. I haven’t had the heart to break it to him that these are English raised farm animals that obviously can’t understand a word that he’s saying. Whatever barnyard noises he has picked up from Borneo are unintelligible in New Zealand.
I, however, come from a long line of dairy farmers and grew up with barnyards of animals living in English speaking households. They nod in understanding when I hail them in passing. At one point King stopped, shouted out something incomprehensible and a whole flock of panicked sheep bolted to a far corner of the field. He turned to me and said “see, I have a natural instinct for herding.” I just nodded not wanting to spoil his moment.
We met a Thai woman working near the Southernmost point of New Zealand and had a long chat with her about Chiang Mai and the availability of sticky rice. She gets it from a shop in Dunedin. I quickly unloaded an extra package of Jiao Gu Lan tea on her that I had brought from Thailand to give as gifts. Don’t ask me why I brought this. It seemed like a good idea at some point. The panniers are still too full.
We camped at a beautiful site overlooking Curio Bay, full of Dolphins and alleged penguins, listening to the sound of waves crashing, the sea roaring and sea gulls screeching overhead. This went on all night, very large and loud waves, the roaring sea, and seagulls. Some things, like threesomes, are better imagined.
Tuesday, March 10th. The Catlins. Curio Bay to Invercargill. 90 km
Rural miles are longer than city miles. Or so one would believe from the mileage markers posted around rural New Zealand that have no seeming relationship to the actual distances between places. It’s as if they had them outsourced to China along with a bucket of paint and a map and instructions to go at it. That being said we had our biggest day yet with 90 km, the first 13 being gravel and a strong headwind most of the way. As always beautiful scenery and constant changes in weather.
Passed the southernmost point of New Zealand. It’s open water between here and Antarctica (this was apparent when we woke to just above freezing temps the next morning).
Wednesday, March 11th. Rest Day
Rest day in Invercargill. Spent all day going from cafe to cafe, eating. Insatiable appetite. It’s 3 pm and I’ve had dessert 3 times already. The best carrot cake yet (and food) is at The Batch Cafe.
A couple came up to us and said they had been following us since Alexandra, 7 days ago. I guess they had passed us a few times on the Catlins Coastal Route.
Despite Keith Richards calling it “the arsehole of the world,” Invercargill doesn’t feel THAT bad. It does feel like you need to keep a close eye on your stuff however.
Map of our route.