With our event in Riverton only the day after Balclutha we took the opportunity to get up early, drive through the Catlins and stop off at the Petrified Forest in Curio Bay. This is a forest that was submerged by a flood 180 million years ago which buried the trees. Many trunks can be seen lying horizontally in the rock and some upright stumps remain too. It’s strange to pick at them expecting a splinter only to find they’re solid rock! An amazing place well worth a look for anyone in the area but we didn’t get a chance to enjoy the drive there so much. We were contacted in the morning by Simon Wong from 3 News for our input on a story about the impact of the White Shark Cage Diving industry around Stewart Island. We agreed to be ready to receive a call at midday and saw what looked like several towns on the route through the Catlins.

Petrified wood 2 Petrified wood 1

Petrified wood 3

It turns out mobile reception is scarce to non-existant along almost the entire road including all the villages/towns. Thus ensued a manic wiggly dash along the road hoping to find some signal somewhere! In the end we stopped at the Whistling Frog Café & Bar to use their phone and were interviewed a mere 20 minutes late. That’ll teach us to leave an area of mobile reception with 40 minutes to spare assuming we’ll find another further down the road… It did however set us up for a gentler drive through the rest of the park and allowed us more time to enjoy Curio Bay and the nearby walk in the unique rain-forest. It’s a stunning area that clearly has much more to offer the slower tourist who’s not rushing to an interview! It’s also worth noting that petrol stations are even more scarce than mobile reception (or they went past so fast I didn’t see them…) so make sure you fill up before venturing in to the Catlins. Thankfully we came across one 20km or so from Invercargill. We can’t have been far from running on fumes by then…

Curio Bay woods Curio Bay woods 2

Our event in Riverton at the South Coast Environment Centre was a quiet affair, so it was conducted on sofas in front of a roaring fire with cheese and crackers. A wonderfully cosy evening where we were also given a pumpkin, a couple of avocados, pears and feijoas. We also camped outside our hosts house that night but were unfortunately denied a hot shower the next morning by their first ever power cut in the house! It was a region-wide issue though, not likely to be sorted before 11am, so we set off after a good breakfast to enjoy the local bays and beaches. We spent a couple of hours at Cosy Nook (known for it’s wind-formed rocks) where we met a man called Mark who remembers a large White Shark being brought ashore there a number of decades ago. He also mentioned the lack of fear – whist maintaining healthy respect – that many of the older fishermen and divers have for White Sharks. He suggested that it might be the younger generation who have more issue with the local cage diving controversies.

Cosy Nook 1

Cosy Nook 4 Cosy Nook 5

Jangles Windswept trees

On to Invercargill for the evening, we stopped by with family of one of our Christchurch hosts. This time a shower was available and we had a lovely evening chatting to Donna, her children and their adorable dog Willie. The next day saw us working in the morning and head in to town for the afternoon. We were delightfully surprised by Invercargill which has some of the prettiest buildings and unusual parks we’ve seen so far in New Zealand. I also found time to have a haircut where the barber took delight in playing devil’s advocate in our conversation about climate change and the impact of humanity on the oceans.

Mushroom 1 Invercargil canal

Both of our events in the city were held at Southland Museum, the first of which was open to the public. We were hoping for a good turnout due to the controversy surrounding cage diving in the region. However, there had been a busy meeting a day or so before on Stewart Island so it seemed people were a bit sharked-out. Those who attended seemed to really enjoy themselves though and we had a mix of young children and adults. Most people had questions at the end and the variety was – as we’d hoped from the area – wide ranging.

The second event was the following evening and we spent the afternoon enjoying Queens Park which has a large variety of garden types, an aviary, a stumpery (yes, that’s actually a thing!) and even a small animal reserve with rabbits, pigs, llamas, deer and more. Our presentations that evening were to two groups of Girl Guides, around 40 to 50 in total, who had an interactive tour of the museum (ghosts jumping out of the exhibits and describing some historic events) when they weren’t listening to us. Children are usually more interactive than adults and with only 35 to 40 minutes per group we were kept on our toes to try and finish our presentations on time.

Stumpery Fantail 1

We’re looking forward to our next Invercargill event on 12th May with Forest & Bird but in the meantime we’re going to pull our socks up, catch up with all Friends for Sharks related work, do some serious hiking and with any luck get the last bits of paperwork in order for our Residency Visa application!