CAMPERVAN NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand | Te Anau to Invercargill

July 13, 2011

Invercargill is the southernmost and westernmost city in NZ, located in what is known as “Southland.” From what I read/gathered, it sounded as if people from the “Southland” were equivalant to Southerners in the U.S. – the whole Southern hospitality thing. I’m not sure if that’s true or if it was something the guidebook made up because we found Kiwis to be friendly and hospitable regardless of location.

We didn’t have any real motivation to head to such a remote area – there was nothing “to see” per se – but maybe it was just that remoteness that drew us there.South NZ (and for that matter, most of NZ from what we could tell on a map) is all farmland. We saw deer farms and of course, lots and lots of sheep and lamb. The resulting plush green rolling hills, peppered with little lambs was so idyllic and “natural”, that it was hard to believe that everything used to be woods and trees. We read that something like 75% of the natural environment – trees, forests, etc – was stripped and made into farmland during the peak of European colonization. It was also crazy to us to read that the only native animals to NZ are birds…pretty much everything else was imported.

One such “invasive species” brought by the Euros was the possum. We heard differing stories about why they were brought to NZ (fur trade, or used by farmers as a way of natural pest control), however, since there were no natural predators of the possum in NZ, their population ran rampant. The debate over possums could be found everywhere we went in NZ – from the poisons used to kill the possums seeping into the water stream to the commercially driven approach to possum control (selling ‘possum merino’ products). To me, it seemed a bit hypocritical to argue possums being “bad” because they eat bird eggs and strip forests…when humans and farming has pretty much done the same thing, if not worse. Not taking a side, but just pointing out the obvious.Debates aside, in this quiet part of the South Island, we saw hardly any tourists or tour buses.In fact, it’s quite likely that sheep outnumbered the human population.

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After hundreds of miles of this, we finally hit Invercargill – a town with a Scottish heritage. The nicer parts of town had beautiful English parks and gardens, which seemed so out of place for a town so remote. We drove around the town about 100 times trying to find a holiday park (the directions in our book sucked and almost positive it was outdated), so we settled on a holiday park outside of town which we saw on the way in. Sometimes, unplanned detours are the best thing that can happen on a trip — instead of a typical holiday park, we stayed on some nice lady’s farm, and got to feed the little lambs! The lady who ran the park rescued the lambs and goats  – some that were orphaned after surviving a crazy record-breaking blizzard.But did I mention I got to feed the lambs?! These guys definitely understood when feeding time was. Around 6pm, they bleeted like crazy, until the poor lady came out with bottles of milk and treats. Loved these little guys.

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The groundskeeper’s doggie. When the groundskeeper drove by in his little car, Doggy jumped out and ran towards me, waiting to be pet. Such a sweetie.

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Savage lambs! The big nose on the top center of the photo is one of the older ewes who also wanted some milk! Baddy.

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cute as a lamb!

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The remainder of the evening went something like this: drove to the oldest (and most deserted & busted) fishing town of Bluff, hiked around the beach at Stirling point, watched the sunset with a couple cold ones, drove back into town, tried to find a place that sold “Bluff oysters,” realized that nothing was open past 6pm except a chinese restaurant, bought Chinese take-out, talked to Chinese girl working at restaurant, took food back to the farm/holiday park where we ate greasy chinese food in our camper van.

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