Thankfully after dancing the night away with my wife at the Worlds End bar we had a late start on the Deep South Bottom bus.
That being an extra loop of the Southern tip of the South Island. Most people we’d met on the bus weren’t doing this portion of the trip and had five glorious days in Queenstown instead. I had my doubts after speaking to Niamh the night before and she explained (having just done it) that we will spend the next two days solidly on the bus and get to each town after 6pm so there wasn’t anything to do when we made it. I hoped it would be worth it.
Our new driver Josh seemed like an affable chap, but had an air of someone who had lost control a few too many times and wanted to make sure we knew the score. By the time we got to Dunedin it transpired that he was a ball-breaker, moaning at people for being 3 minutes late and half promising we’ll get to the Cadbury’s World tour (that’s right) if we hurry up and get in the van. We didn’t get there in time and no one ever had on this bus tour we were then told.
In Dunedin we learned that this town was founded by immigrating Scots and modelled on Edinburgh. Albeit without mapping the topography. Therefore in an effort to not hold up the building work, the city ploughed on and set the map over the landscape regardless creating the world’s steepest street.
The town is quiet and boring, having the familiar look of a Scottish / British town with similar buildings and layout but not actually having many people.
The one thing we could do was a tour of Speights Brewery, which compared to Monteith’s tour is excellent (the exact opposite can be said of the two breweries beer though). We had a strange but entertaining guide who clearly partook too much of the product, or as he kept comparing hops to marijuana, potentially another substance. He took us through the history and process via real equipment and bottling facilities. Once the tour was complete we had half an hour to sample the breweries finest and watch their excellent adverts from over the years.
So we retired back to our hostel to play pool and get up early for the Caitlin’s drive, which we were told would be a fantastic day.
Out new driver Dominic has a great knowledge of the area, he picked us up and immediately started spouting facts and history, how it was formed etc. Fascinating stuff that painted a picture of NZ pre-civilisation.
We got to to cliffs to see our first animals of the day, some fur seals from far away on a walk to a lighthouse. It was very rainy and I only have a poncho to protect me from the elements for our entire trip.
Our next drive took us to Cannibal Bay, where centuries ago two massive tribes of Maori fought a vicious battle. It’s not uncommon to still find human bones in the sand so we had to be on the lookout in case we trod on something sacred.
We were briefed about seals here, don’t get too close and if you do, be prepared to run. Within a few minutes we saw what looks like a dead one by the end of the beach. Sad we think, but before we get too close we wake him up, and scatter.
Onwards down the beach toward a massive seal at the other end. This one doesn’t seem too bothered by visitors to begin with, so we formed a half moon around him giving an easy escape route to the sea should he want it, and kept a good distance of course. Not far enough, as our chattering ate into his peaceful day, so being more in a huff than scared or he arose and barked. We lingered amused by this before he gathers steam and charges a metre or so at us. This time everyone fears for there life in one split second and ran screaming. The seal fat and lazy, stops, satisfied like the grumpy old man at number 8 who likes nothing more than to scare the kids on the block, and slumps back down making a sand Angel to claim his spot again.
After our gauntlet with the seal we head up to the Petrified Forest where we see a yellow eyed penguin – one of only six! The Ranger guarding this area says he loves the Penguins more than his wife. Otters maybe I thought, although it was a lovely penguin.
We get to Invercargill for 6:30pm which is the most southern part of NZ we’ll ever get to. Mo, our chief from Tamaki is staying on and heading to Stewart Island, even further south but requires an extra few nights that we just don’t have.
That night we learn about the 100 Guinness club in Invercargill where as you break centuries of the dark liquid you get to pay less and less!
Our final day on the bottom bus would take us to Milford Sounds and hook us back up with driver Kyle, plus Steph, Alfie, Imogen, Laura and Ella.
Our route takes us through the mountain. Carved by hand over 20 years. As we battle the Kia birds surfing our buses and go into the tunnel Kyle begins playing mission impossible music before Jurassic park where we see the immense scenery on the other side. Trust me the music and the timing were perfect.
Milford Sound is not actually a sound, which is an area carved into a mountain with ice. It’s actually a fjord or that carved out of water erosion. Or vice versa I forget, where’s a Swede when you need one?
Either way it’s beautiful, and deep, and has hundreds of small waterfalls trickling off its edges. The weather the previous two days were poncho weather, but today the sun came out so it was wonderful.
Before we leave the sounds the ships captain dips those brave enough (hand up) to stand on the stern as we cruise into a waterfall. Cool.
We head back to Queenstown and Kyle sticks on 22 Jump Street for us to watch. I’ve seen it, but Kelly laughs all the way through like a mad person. “Something Cool” is the final line they shout as they chuck a hand grenade (watch the movie), and we both mentally mark this down as our battle cry for when we do the Bungy.
Back to Queenstown and we meet all the people who bungied, Lauren cried before she went and the others are still buzzing.
There’s too much adrenaline in the bar so we retire to get a famous Ferg burger and head to bed.
I wake up early uploading photos, but Kelly sleeps in. When she wakes we have an awkward morning where she projects her fears on me, moaning about not going to the pharmacy to get her some cough mixture. Like I knew that.
The Bungy time finally comes and we drive up to the canyon. Up top we strap in and I setup my chest harness GoPro. Do I want to film this? I’m not sure.
A very rickety cable car takes us to the carriage suspended above the canyon. There’s no last minute view like the Canyon swing here. It takes its time for you to get properly scared.
Once in the carriage there’s a glass bottom, which I avoid, and we’re told that we’ll be jumping in heaviest to least weight order. Me before Kelly (she had wanted to go first).
A couple of guys go first and my brain tells me “look they didn’t die, this’ll be fine” and I chill. I’m in a seat getting strapped up, and I’m fine. My biggest worry is about not going feet first – diving head first is more enjoyable you see.
Before I know it I’ve waddled to the edge and my knees go weak. Again I’m quickly counted down and I jump… Feet first.
I scream but my head is shouting “this is amazing”, and I bounce. 8 seconds all told.
Up top its Kelly’s go. I’m buzzing and can’t wait for her to feel that too. She does, but not enough to go again, and we’re off. Box ticked, get us out of here.
Back to QT, we head to the Kiwi Ex office and book all our East Coat Oz stuff before heading to the hostel bar to say bye to everyone who is staying in QT like Austrian Stef.
With the Bungy and QT over it felt like we were leaving New Zealand. Only a few days left and a few stops to go.