New Zealand February 1999  
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 Catlins 10 February
In the morning we were picked up by Bottombus. Our driver was Chris. We had a small bus and a small group of about eight people. Chris was driving fast, so it didn't take us long to arrived at Nugget Point. The weather was great, sunshine and blue skies. At Nugget Point, where we enjoyed a nice view, Chris brought some cups, hot water, tea bags, coffee and some cookies and we all enjoyed the view while having a cup of tea or coffee. It was a great place to hang out and do that! As we made our way along the coast towards Invercargill we stopped at several places. One nameless beach in Surat Bay, where we went through private farmland, was a famous spot for sea lions and we saw a couple of them laying on the beach. They didn't care about us, so we could went right up to them and saw them very close. In Owaka we stopped for lunch at a small cafe. Another spot was beautiful Tautuku Bay. We stopped at an outlook and everybody wished they were down on that wonderful beach. Back in the bus, Chris asked if we want to take a walk along the beach and everybody was keen on going! Chris dropped us off at a nature walk. We had to walk through the forest for 5 to 10 Minutes to get to the beach. On the beach I took my shoes off and walked into the water. It was freezing cold but very nice. The sand was soft, fine and golden - wonderful. We went to the other end of the beach where Chris picked us up and we got back into the bus. The best spot to go in the Catlins was Porpoise Bay, which is very close to Curio Bay. In Porpoise Bay there are Hectors Dolphins surfing in the waves and when you go swimming there (for free, or you can hire a wetsuit for 5NZ$) the Dolphins may come to you to check you out -- and some of them came! They came with the waves. It's exhilarating when they surf in the waves coming directly towards you .. :)
Some of them were swiming very close to us, just one or two meters away. At one time I saw a dolphin jumping away from us "on" the water, flapping with it's flippers to jump over the waves - it looks really funny. A truly great experience.
After that we had another cup of tea, which was very nice after swimming in the cold water. From there it was just a minute's drive to Curio Bay (which was not really worth the drive.) First, we had a look from above and saw a Yellow Eyed Penguin sitting on the rock face. Second, we went down the stairs to explore the petrified forest. Chris showed us some good examples of petrified trees but he watched to make sure nobody went too close to that penguin.
That was it, thats the Catlins Coast - a great area, and we had a great day there.
We just stopped in Invercargill to pick up some people and we ended up in Riverton, a little fishing village. There is the largest Paua shell in the world but I'm not sure if it is a real shell or just man-made. The beach in Riverton is not bad either, we had a little walk there in the evening. Most people from the Bottombus stayed the night in "The Globe".
We were the only two people who stayed in the Rock. That is definitely a good place to stay! Our Room was so nice and the showers are great, as well as the kitchen. Also, the staff is very friendly and helpful and they organised this great Stewart Island Trip for us - another highlight of our tour ...

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