To go from Dunedin to Milford Sound (nicknamed the most beautiful fjord in the world), you have to stop somewhere in the middle, otherwise you die of fatigue. It is in the Cathlins that we chose to stop, because the corner isn’t very touristic
On the way, we notice trees so badly treated by the wind that they are completely frozen, even when there is no wind
We arrive near Slope Point around 5:00 pm and take the opportunity to visit Waipapa Point. What is for us a banal view point has turned into an unforgettable experience. While JB watches the beach closely, a sea lion (which he had already noticed before), comes out of the water to go see his cub (or his girlfriend) sleeping on the beach. She is very tall (2m at least), black, impressive, and walks quite fast
We will spend the night in a free campsite (the first one of our stay), with only one dry toilet, a sink and non-drinking water. The gratuity attracts elements not always recommended. A car arrives with 5 children, 2 huge tents, an ultra noisy generator and sound system, at full speed. Great! Before their arrival, we were looking forward to be in the quietness in the middle of nature
And while we sleep, we wake up with a start because of loud noises as if someone is shooting at us. We will learn later that it is just fireworks fired by private individuals, to celebrate a festival of November 5th, the powder festival? (to be checked)
After this difficult night, we drive south to see the Slope Point, the true southernmost point of the South Island. For tourist reasons, the “false” point that I imply, is in Bluff, more accessible, with more stores; whereas here, we are in the middle of a field with sheep droppings everywhere. It’s less glamorous
We then head to Curio Bay to see the petrified forest (170 million years old). Destroyed by the volcanoes, the trees can’t stand upright anymore, but we can see traces of long tree trunks completely fossilized. Some unscrupulous tourists even bring fossils home as souvenirs (pfff). A sign warns us with a message “this forest has been here for 170 million years, why stop now?”. It is here that we can observe penguins at nightfall, a very rare species, and less shy than in other places in New Zealand
We’re not going to wait here all day. We just go to Purpoise Bay, a huge white sand beach stretching over several km, hoping to see some Hector dolphins. They are used to follow the surfers, who confuse the sand fish (their favorite prey). With 3 surfers in the water and a lot of wind, we hope to see a few dolphins, but alas, they aren’t there. Bad luck! Since someone saw them only 2 days ago. In summer, this must be the ideal beach. Surfing with the wild dolphins, what a love!
The Catlins are full of other good plans: waterfalls, caves on the beach, forests… but considering our busy schedule, we already have to leave for Te Anau and the famous Milford Sound.