I left Dunedin after buying a new sleeping bag. Finally! I drove south towards Nugget Point, the first thing I wanted to see, and what a sight that was! A great little walk ending up at a lighthouse set on a dramatic dropoff into the ocean. All along the coast, fur-seals, sea-lions, and elephant seals lay basking on the beach or frolicking around in the waves.
I found out I can use my binoculars as a zoom lens. The results are less than stellar though.
The next destination for the day was Cannibal Bay, but on the way there I passed a sign saying "Tunnel Hill Road", which I thought sounded interesting. The road was gravel, and I was going too fast for the turn I attempted, which resulted in the back wheel skidding out from under the bike and me and the bike ending up in the vegetation on the side of the road.
I went on to Cannibal Bay where the only interesting feature was this dying seal in the carpark
Not long after, I arrived in Owaka, thinking I might carry on into the Catlins if I could find accomodation there. The information booth was closed when I arrived however, so I stayed in Owaka for the night. Owaka is really... REALLY small. Much smaller and it wouldn't even qualify as a town. There was one gas station and two pubs. The school serving all the children in the Catlins area is located in Owaka as well. That's about it.
At the backpackers I stayed I met a great guy from Wales named Colin. We instantly clicked and had some good laughs that evening.
We decided to go see Jacks Blowhole. We went in Colin's car, and when we got out we followed the only road we could see. Not long after we came upon this sign:
We had a good laugh about how blunt the kiwis are, and we both thought it was brilliant. None of us thought the sign was meant for us. After all, this was the only road to Jack's Blowhole! As we went further up we came to a house, and the path ended in a field. We were very confused. Had we missed a turn? For a moment I thought this was it, so I took a picture.
On the way down we spotted another path. Only problem was that we'd have to cut across a field to get to it. We had a go at it, and to our surprise we ended up at Jack's Blowhole. On the way down, we were discussing how we could possibly have missed that road and we thought it was very weird that no signs were posted. When we got back down however, we found a huge sign saying 'Jack's Blowhole this way', and another by the road we entered saying 'Private road, keep off!' I still don't know how we missed both those signs, went up the wrong road, and thought nothing of the 'piss off!' sign! We're the saddest sods on the south island.
Thursday I took off for the Catlins. They'd promised light rain, but I thought I'd brave it. There's a lot of sights there, including a couple of waterfalls (some of which are shown in the video below), and the Cathedral Caves which are only reachable at low tide. Since I've never really been in caves before, this was quite something for me. When I arrived there, I felt a primal fear crawl into my spine. In front of me it was pitch black, and I started wondering what kinds of abominations might live in there. Sure, the guidebook said there's no monsters in New Zealand, but what if that's only because no one's ever returned to tell the tale? I steeled myself and ventured inside.
Yup. City-folk are afraid of the dark.
Two british ladies came in behind me. They were joking and laughing loudly, not caring what they'd wake up. Go ahead! Get yourself eaten!
I arrived in Invercargill and found Sarah's place without too much trouble. Sarah was a really pleasant host and made me feel at home instantly. She is very active in the couchsurfing community, and already had another couchsurfer staying with her (Tina from the US. Make sure to visit her blog! ). I stayed there for three nights waiting for the weather to clear up a bit. There's not much to see in Invercargill, but I took the opportunity to catch up on some blogging, among other things (I know, I'm very bad at keeping up). Sarah studies music, and both friday and saturday we went out on the town, listening to bands she knew. In the end, Sarah ended up being my guardian angel, as you'll see very soon.
Sunday afternoon I was in a hurry to leave invercargill since the rain had stopped. I was thinking that a little wind shouldn't stop me.
Once I got out of the city, the wind turned really vicious, and I was fighting to keep to my lane. What had I gotten myself into! I felt like such a fool for putting myself in so much danger, and I was seriously thinking about pulling up to a house asking for shelter for the night. Problem was, there wasn't any houses around!
Suddently, I heard a loud clatter from the engine and the bike went dead. I pulled over and tried to start it. No use. Obviously something had gone wrong inside it.
Sarah came and picked me up, and that afternoon her aunt's husband (John) took me in his pick-up to pick up the bike. After a bit of fidgeting we thought the problem was solved and the next morning I set off again. after ten kilometers, it made the same noise and died. This time the gears were stuck as well. John came and picked me up again, and we took the bike to a mechanic. He said he'd have a look at it and let me know the condition in the morning. The next day Sarah and I went back to the shop and he showed me the disassembled engine. It was carnage. The piston, as I'd guessed, was broken. The piston chamber was cracked. The gearbox was screwed. The valves were bent. Unsalvagable. My only option was to buy a new engine or sell it to the mechanic for use as spare parts. I soon found out that engines for XR250's are very hard to come by. The mechanic payed me 400$.
The next day Sarah was kind enough to drive me to Te Anau. She and her family have been extremely kind and helpful, and I really don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for them. Thanks guys!
The broken piston. I kept it as a souvenir
the cracked cylinder.
This is Sarah with the remains of the bike.
A closer look.
I was quite frustrated for a couple of days about not having a bike. It seems like I'll be hitchhiking for a while. There are a few options for new bikes available, but 3000$ up in smoke was a huge cut in my budget, so I'm hesitant about buying a new one. I guess I'll just see what happens. At least people tell me that bikes in Australia are pretty cheap, so I'll probably get one there.
Who knows, maybe this might go down in history as the longest motorcycle trip without a motorcycle! One thing's for certain; I won't let it get me down anymore. I'm on an adventure here, bike or no, and I'm gonna enjoy every bit of it!
I can plan all I want, but when the planning breaks down, that's when the real adventure starts.
I don't know what the future will bring, but I'm sure the best is yet to come.