The Southern Scenic Route is just that, very far South and very Scenic. This weekend I had the opportunity to follow the road from Dunedin to Invercargill (basically, the southernmost town in Nz) and was treated to a taste of the majesty Nz has to offer. Not far from Dunedin (a 15 minute drive from my house), but nevertheless along the Southern Scenic Route, is Tunnel Beach. This is a wonderful beach which is not a secret to the locals. Going there on a Saturday nearing peak summer time there were crowds of people, which for a Nz beach means there were about 9 people on the beach. To reach Tunnel Beach you park your car in a parking lot about 1km away and 400 feet above the actual beach and then follow a steep path down to the beach. The cliffs are limestone, and covered with beautiful green grass. Then, you take a tunnel down through the limestone (about 75 stairs), and then your at beach level.
That’s me, with the tunnel in the background. It’s a great beach, completely surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Very cool.
In this photo you can see people walking along the top of the one the limestone cliffs (just about where the tunnel entrance is), and then if you can see through the masses of people on the beach, you see the gentle waves lapping up to the shoreline.
About an hour outside Dunedin is Nugget Point, with its brilliant white lighthouse. About a km walk along the crest of a mountain, the point juts out into ocean. You get the sense many a boat didn’t fair well against these rocks.
Heading southwest along the highway less than two hours from Dunedin is the Catlins Forest Park. I’ve only seen a small amount of the Park, but the parts I saw were amazing. Purukaunui Falls is in the Catlins, and it is spectalular. The walk to the falls meanders along a well groomed pathway through the forest. It’s almost like a tropical rain forest, with ferns, moss, and a huge variety of trees. A great place to film a movie, I thought (don’t tell Peter Jackson).
Another half hour down the road is Cathedral Caves. This is the only park which had an entrance fee ($5 per person), and I think that’s because the track down to the Caves is on private land. Cathedral Caves are on a beach…..just another massively empty beautiful white sand beach in Nz. If you are lucky enough to be there at low tide (and luck was with me this weekend) you can enter the caves without getting very wet. Cathedral Caves is really just one huge “U” shaped cave. It is, truly, just like entering a cathedral.
The cave goes back about 100 feet, and bends to the right in a U turn, and heads back towards the ocean. The above picture is the drier entrance; the other entrance looked like this:
If you timed it right you would only get wet up to your knees, but if a large wave was coming in, you would get very wet. And that’s at low tide. Although I ended up in Invercargill, I didn’t get any pictures of the city as it was raining and near dark. Which is too bad, since it is a very picturesque city. It also has one of the most beautiful parks I’ve even been in (Queen’s Park). The park is 80 hectares (about 160 acres) and perfectly manicured with a wide variety of flowering plants, trees and animals. You could spend an entire day there (and I plan to some day…with my camera).
It was very tough to go back to work Monday. By today, however, I was back in my normal routine, and went to work out at the hospital gym. I lifted some weights, and then jumped on the elliptical trainer for some cardio. I often listen to my iPod, with its myriad of songs on it courtesy of whatever songs my boys have purchased from iTunes. I was working hard, getting that heart rate up at about the 30 minute mark of the workout, and The Who, “We won’t get fooled again” came on. Great workout song. I was jammin…in the zone. The next song was The Village People, “YMCA”. I don’t know, maybe it was the moment, or the beat of the song, but I was really hitting my stride now. My eyes were closed, my pace on the machine quickened…I was on another planet. And I just couldn’t help myself when the Village People started singing, “YMCA”. My arms went up with each letter, forming the perfect “Y”, then “M”, then “C” and “A”. Young man… The song ended, and on came Taylor Swift. Oh God, I thought. I opened my eyes. Several people, who were not there when the song started, were standing in front me…watching. It took just a minute to realize they had been quite entertained my “cardio” fitness workout. Even now, I cannot convince myself I hadn’t broken out into song in the middle of YMCA. Imagine that; me, singing and pantomiming YMCA on an elliptical trainer. Better yet, don’t.
Tomorrow I’m off to California for a quick Thanksgiving reunion with my family. It will be indescribably wonderful to see them. So, until I return, enjoy the rest of your week, and remember, it’s fun to stay at the YMCA.