On the way down the Milford Road back to Te Anau, I stopped off at a place called the Chasm to see some seriously weird water-sculpted rock formations – water, in case you haven't guessed, plays an important part in Fiordland's ecology – and eventually arrived in Te Anau, reported my return to DOC and decided to change my plans. With an extra day in hand I thought it might be fun to complete the Southern Scenic Route from Te Anau to Invercargill, seeing as I'd already done the eastern half from Dunedin to Invercargill. Leaflet in hand, I filled up the car and set off... only to find that the weather, which had been incredibly good since I'd started the Kepler, decided to do its stuff. The Southern Scenic Route turned into the Southern Drizzle Drive, but about halfway through I found a place that didn't depend on a wonderful view, so I stopped to admire the Clifden Suspension Bridge.
And here I spent the night, right by a beautiful bridge, built in 1898 and preserved in an historic reserve. Yes, it might be pretty modern to your average Pommy, but it felt historic in the same way that Iron Bridge Gorge and the Clifden Suspension Bridge do, and as I listened to the radio, rain gently dribbling down, I felt rather lucky. A cyclone – Cyclone Dorina – had hit Auckland, ripping roofs of houses in Whangarei, gusting at 90km/h, blowing down power lines, causing floods and generally spoiling people's holidays, and here I was in supposedly the wettest area of the country – and one of the wettest places in the world, in fact – with only a light splattering of rain. It was ironic, I thought.
Unfortunately the drizzle continued the next day along with the Southern Scenic Route, so it wasn't long before I had reached Invercargill, having driven through similar coastal scenery as on the eastern arm of the Route: trees growing at desperate angles, farmland that must be a bugger to maintain, and beaches that look innocent until the rip tide carries you off into the Tasman Sea. It was rugged, but attractive, unlike Invercargill.
I know that cities aren't best viewed in the rain, but Invercargill was just as depressing in the storm as it had been in the strong sunlight. On the other hand it is a city, which means it has supermarkets, so I visited a Pack 'n' Save and stocked up with a couple of weeks' worth of food before setting off due south to Bluff. I'd not had time to visit Bluff, the southernmost town in the South Island, on my previous visit, which was a shame: in the rain the visibility was pretty crap, and although I walked round the bluff to the lookout point where the signs helpfully pointed out all the little islands to the south – such as Stewart Island, a famous tramping spot – I couldn't see a thing, and just succeeded in getting soaked. But hey! I've been to Bluff, the Kiwi equivalent to Land's End, and all I have to do now is visit Cape Reinga on the northern tip of Northland and I'll have travelled the island from tip to toe (especially as I've also been to Slope Point, the southernmost tip of the South Island). Trivia is a wonderful companion for obsessives like me...