I can see why this city isn’t on the tourist map. There’s nothing here, really nothing. My 2 hour bus ride from Queenstown was fun though. Shared the bus with only one other passenger who was an old lady called Mrs. Forbes. Max, the bus driver told me when he picked me up in Queenstown that Mrs. Forbes has Alzheimers and she has been taking the bus to Invercargill everyday and it’s always a new trip for her. She’s the bus company’s best customer though and the bus picks her up at her home. If she’s not going to Invercargill she’ll be going to Wanaka. Seems she has been a fixture on this route that anyone who has taken the Wanaka Connexion from Queenstown to Invercargill or Wanaka or from those towns to Queenstown would no doubt have met her on the bus. Max was great, other than meeting new people and driving them from city to city, he is also an accomplished musician with a record to his name. We had a great time chatting so the trip felt really short.
I stayed at the Living Space and rented a car in Invercargill. Called Pegasus first which was recommended by the hotel and got a guy on the line who said “I’m really busy right now, can’t help you, good bye.” I was like, WTF kind of service was that? Shocked I turned to the net and found Rent-A-Dent. Lady there was great, she was so friendly. She picked me up from the hotel and brought me to their office at the airport. The paperwork was fast and I was out of there in less than 5 minutes. She knew I wanted to catch a sunset and it was getting late. When I saw the car, it really had a lot of dents, lol. Who cares, I like the price which was half of what the international rental car companies were charging. I quickly drove south to Bluff and caught a beautiful sunset there. Bluff was another one-street (of stores) town famous for its oysters. The lady at the hotel earlier recommended I try the Anchorage Restaurant in Bluff for the oysters. Another disappointment – no more oysters even though it was oyster season. I headed back to Invercargill.
This time, the lady at the hotel recommended a restaurant in the city where I might find Bluff Oysters. A bit north of where we were was a nice little restaurant called Flanagan’s and they serve oysters in 4 different ways. This time, the lady called ahead for me to make sure they have oysters. So I went and had their natural and Kilpatrick oysters (grilled in Worcester sauce and topped with little strips of bacon). They were yummy. Very fresh too. The restaurant felt a bit eerie to me though, some might enjoy the lighting and the romantic mood it’s supposed to give but I had goose bumps when I walked into the place. I was also the only patron and a few times I felt like there were invisible diners around me. I left as soon as I was done.
My timing to Invercargill couldn’t be worse. I checked on the net and found that there will be little to no sunspot activity and thus no Aurora Australis for the duration of my stay. I wasn’t totally disappointed although my main purpose for coming this far was for the Aurora. New Zealand had been great to me so far – perfect weather and all. I guess she knew I wouldn’t be able to see the Aurora so she made everything else better.
The next day
I had a whole day to burn so I gave myself a project like an Amazing Race activity. The beach was only 15 mins away so I went and picked up some shells. Then I took the shells to a hardware store called E. Hayes & Sons Limited and told the guys there I needed to turn the shells into powder or a form close to it. They were not very creative when it comes to a challenge like this but boy were they helpful. After shaking my head at the hammers, a guy recommended I try farm supplies stores like CRT and RD1 and he pointed them out on a map for me. They don’t do it there unfortunately but the guy at RD1 suggested a stone grinder (Allied Materials) and an oyster wholesaler (Barnes – super cheap oysters too). I went to all of them and spoke to everyone. LOL. None had answers and all were curious to know why which I said was for an art project. I do know how to turn shells into dust but I was bored and wanted someone to talk to and the driving around helped me discover Invercargill and its people a little better. In between all this, I took a break for lunch at the museum and saw that 100 year old Tuatara Lizard Max was telling me about.
By the way, E. Hayes and Sons hardware store is also an old motorbike museum and proudly displays Burt Munro‘s two modified motorbikes, a Velocette and an Indian Scout which was driven by him to claim the world speed record in 1967. That record has not been broken till this day. In 2005, the life of Burt Munro was made into a movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins called The World’s Fastest Indian.