Sunday, March 16, 2008

March 2, 2008 - Invercargill

When we woke up this morning the Southern Ocean was still dumping from the sky. On our drive from Fiordland down to the Southern Coast of New Zealand, there was only one stop we wanted to make in weather like this. We planned to explore the Clifton Caves - a 300m long labyrinth filled with stalactites, flowstone and glowworms. No guides. No entrance fee. Just us and our headlamps (or "geeklights" as our friends PJ and Rob call them). And we'd even be able to get out of the rain for a bit. It seemed like a perfect activity for a rainy day - until we got to the cave an found a river, created by flooding from all the rain we've had the past 48 hours, flowing into the mouth of the cave. So we scrapped our spelunking plans and pushed on to Invercargill.

About 30 clicks later we ran into a flooded section of road. When the Ute in front of us with the "NOWOOL" license plate spun around, we figured that there was no way we could get through the standing water with our low profile Toyota wagon. So we headed back, almost to Clifton, to pick out another route to Invercargill via the back roads.

We spent the rest of the cold, rainy afternoon at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. After a few minutes wandering through an exhibition of local art we headed upstairs to check out an extensive exhibit called "Beyond the Roaring Forties" about New Zealand's half-dozen sub-Antarctic islands, which are scattered over several thousand miles of ocean between here and Antarctica. The islands are important breeding grounds for several kinds of seals and penguins and dozens of varieties of sea birds, including most of the various varieties albatross. The exhibit covers past attempts over the years to use the islands for commercial and defensive purposes through the current attempts to conserve the remaining flora and fauna.

After that, we had to check out the bike used for the filming of the "World's Fastest Indian," a movie about a local eccentric who 'put Invercargill on the map' when he broke the land speed record for motorcycles with engines of less than 1000cc at Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1950's with his modified Indian motorcycle. The actual bike is in a local hardware store, but it being Sunday afternoon we had to make due with the replica. If you haven't seen it, check out the movie. Anthony Hopkins's portrayal of kiwi mannerisms is spot on, although his accent is a bit off.

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