We slept in the next morning until 10. Woke up and couldn’t find any towels… I went to the grocery store and bought 2 towels for $20. They left little bits of blue towel fuzz on us. We went to the Catlins Cafe for breakfast. I ordered the quiche and had wanted the one with eggs and ham, but got the vegetarian one (I should have realized this when he said the “vegetarian quiche,” and Marc got the pancakes with bacon and eggs. My quiche was okay, the pancakes and canadian bacon were good but the eggs tasted like they were powdered. I got a cappu and Marc got a Chai and b-fast came to around $30. The guy at the cafe was very friendly and said he was glad we were staying in Owaka for 3 nights and he said that most people stay in Invercargill. We left him a tip for his extra friendly service.
Next we went to the i-site in Owaka. It was a very nice little info center/store with very helpful and informative volunteers. We realized we wouldn’t be able to go to Cathedral Caves since low tide that day was at 9:00 and it was already 11:00.
Then we went to the grocery store and got sandwiches ($6) to eat for later. The plan for the day was just to wander. Marc noticed he had no cell phone reception; I wanted to eat at the recommended Niagra Falls restaurant for dinner, and the guidebook said reservations were essential. We also wanted to be back at Nugget Point at 6:00 pm to watch for yellow-eyed penguins, and we guessed that the time between both places was an hour. We decided to stop at the restaurant and make the reservation for later that night and go to the point the next day.
The first stop on our wandering was the multi-tiered Purakaunui falls. The falls were nice since it had been raining (according to the I-Site volunteer) and they were very full. It was a nice 30 min walk through forest with lots of birdsong. Next we continued up the road looking for the beach, and ended up driving 45 min on an unpaved road that lead us back to the falls parking lot. Oops.
Next we went to Jack’s Blowhole, which wasn’t high on my priority list but Marc was interested. We had to travel another 1/2 hour down an unpaved road, and when we got there found out it was an hour long walk. I was a bit irritated at how the day was panning out, and Marc did the hike on his own while I ate lunch and waited in the car, admiring the pretty beach by the parking lot. Marc returned and said it had been quite a hike.
By now it was 2:00 pm and we hadn’t done much. We continued up the scenic route and saw a metal sign in the street with a cow on it. We thought we might come across some cows being herded in the street. A little later we went to turn left and saw a car just sitting on the side of the road, and when we looked to the left we saw it. A cavalcade of sheep being herded by sheep dogs taking up the entire road!!! We turned left and pulled up behind another car on the side of the road. The mass of sheep was about 30 yards ahead of us, and we thought that they would be herded into a field up to the left. But no, they came down the road RIGHT BY OUR CAR!! We were suddenly being passed on our right by a massive herd of sheep. I took a video and it was by far the most awesome thing to happen to us on the trip… They should advertise these things and make a gajillion dollars off of sheep-loving freaks like me. For the next 1/2 hour we exclaimed how awesome that had been.
Check out our video of the sheep stampede:
And part II:
Next we came to the town of Papotawai where we refueled the car. While looking for the bathroom, I went by their tidy motel units behind the store, which looked vacant and nice. They also had a friendly tuxedo kitty. I wish we’d stayed there! Next we went to the Lost Gypsy Gallery, also called the Curios Museum. Our guidebook recommended it as being “worth the trip to the Catlins.” It consists of a bus that is filled with all sorts of oddities created from “found objects” by the resident genius… Things that you wind and twist and press together and things happen. For example, a Charlie Brown doll where you press his hands together and a light bulb attached to his head flashes. It also has huge sculptures that you wind and various parts of them move. Beyond the van is the “museum” ($5 admission and worth it) that has more wondrous creations. My favorite was an old piano where the keys are hooked up to all sorts of different things. Press one key and a record player starts, or a bell rings, or a baby doll cries or a speaker hisses. It even had foot pedals that worked. It was way cool and was one of our favorite places of the trip.
The best way to experience its quirkiness is via video. This first one is the interior of the bus:
The “Train of Thought.”
The coolest piano EVER. Each key is hooked up to a different item that makes a different sound.
Next we stopped at the Whistling Frog Cafe for coffee and snack. I had a cappuccino, Marc had a soda and we split a date scone with butter and jam. It came to $13. I got the impression that the service was top-notch. And they had a friendly pup!
It was 6:00 pm when we finally made it to Niagra Falls Restaurant, and their only reservation was for 7:00 pm, and we wanted to go to Curio Bay and didn’t know if we’d be back in time. We decided we’d try for lunch the next day. Next was Curio Bay. The tide was in but we were still able to see some of the petrified wood. As we were sitting on the rocks, someone spotted a penguin coming up on the rocks, about 30 yards down. We borrowed some binoculars and were able to get a good look. As we were leaving, some people were creeping closer but kept their distance and the penguin just sat there the entire time.
By then it was 7:00 and it seemed like we’d been driving all day… We didn’t know how long it would take to get back to Owaka. I guessed an hour, but Marc thought it would take 1.5 hours and that the 2 restaurants would be closed by then. We decided to stop at the Frog Cafe for dinner. There were only 2 other couples dining. Marc had the blue cod in a curry coconut sauce with jasmine rice and a salad ($32). I was feeling overwhelmingly tired and although I was craving something light, I ended up ordering the seafood chowder ($20). It wasn’t a heavy chowder though, it was a fairly light, creamy broth, and it had corn, mussels, scallops, fish and potatoes in it. It was quite good and so was Marc’s main. He had chardonnay with his and it came to $64.
We had to drive back in the dark. We decided to time how long it would take to get back to Owaka from Cathedral Caves, since we didn’t believe it would take the 20 min. the volunteer in Owaka had said. It took me 40 min to drive, but because it was dark I drove under the speed limit. We decided to get up at 8:00 the next day to leave at 9:00 for the caves.
Go on the next part of the journey!