Boy what a brilliant weekend it has been so far in one of the southern most cities of the world – Invercargill. Could not have asked for a better solo tripping in this beautiful country of New Zealand. Having always travelled with friends or family and wondering why a lot of them come over to NZ to solo trip, I’m glad I booked myself a series of trips to travel alone and experience the “True European” way of travelling around. And to kick it all off in Invercargill, the city that was famously put on the world map due to the perseverance of Burt Munro, a man at 68yrs old set the world record for under 1000cc motorcycle travelling at 296kmph !! I mean at 68 years of age, setting such a speed record !! Goes on to show nothing is impossible if you have the desire.
Talking about one old man to another, I met a very interesting 76yr old German traveller, named Wolfgang Holmer, at my accomodation. And guess what he has been upto. He rode his bicycle all the way from Auckland to Invercargill, approx 2500kms for the last two months and was making his way to Stewart Island the day after, and a week later he would ride back all the way to Cape Reinga from Bluff !! That is nearly 3000kms. At 76yrs doing what he does is just gobsmacking just to hear. And if I thought that was Wow, he’s been doing this for the last 2 decade, cycling his way around the world. Apparently his longest ride has been about 9500kms over 6 months from Cologne to Norway via the Baltics and Russia !! Incredible was just an understatement. I mean this is what travelling’s all about. Meeting interesting people with interesting stories and backgrounds, and like Wolfgang Hollmer (now my facebook friend) some can be extremely inspirational in some ways too.
Back to Invercargill now. The city actually took me by surprise; it is way way way bigger than what I had thought and most of it is very flat. The CBD has an impressive Victorian era architecture and gives out a very English ambience. It’s a beautiful li’l city no doubt. The most impressive structures to my eyes were the water tower and the massive St.Mary’s Basilica. The tower constructed in 1889 was too good and very royal to be just a water tower. And St. Mary’s reminded me of some of the gigantic and gorgeous churches in Russia and eastern Europe.
I also drove to Bluff, probably the most famous town in the region, is just about a 25mins drive from Invercargill. As most of you know Bluff is popular for the Oysters and the Oyster Festival that usually happens in May every year. While I didn’t get to try any as such (I’m not a sea food person, specially not oysters), I spent the day just hanging around in this small town. Checked out the city from the top from the Bluff Hill Lookout and then also did the touristy thing of going to Stirling Point to get the picture of probably the most photographed signpost in the country.
Everything from Kaka Point Lighthouse, Nugget Point and Slope Point etc is all worth a stopover to admire what you see. No pictures would do any justice to whatever you can soak in with your eyes. Meanwhile Slope Point is actually the southern most point of the South Island. It’s not Bluff, as most would think. And this point is actually one of the most windiest spots in the country, a fact that is made evident by the windswept trees here. Literally all trees in the area are inclined in one direction and have made their growth that way as well. And as luck would have it though, not a hair moved when I was here. It was as calm as a sleeping baby.
Well let me end this Invercargill diary right here. The whole idea of visiting Invercargill was to actually catch the Southern Lights, Aurora Australis. But I wasn’t too lucky with the weather nor the celestial actives that need to happen in a certain way to catch the action. Apparently the last one was in May and next one is some time away. Well if you are keen to add that to your list of things to do in the Otago/Southland regions, keep a tab of the solar wind flare forecast at http://www.aurora-service.net/aurora-forecast/ and who knows, you might just get lucky when you are around in the region. A separate blogpost about Southern Lights and how to watch them will make it’s way into this site soon.
Meanwhile here’s some pics from the Catlins & Invercargill.. For more – click here
Given this one’s my actual on-the-go travelogue, please leave comments below about what you’d like to know about a place, than just hear my story. Will try to add in relevant details as I get better at this 🙂