Monday 25 March 2013


The last time I was in a restaurant next to a table of rowdy French diners (currently fussing about the temperature of their wine - what a cliché) was in, well, France. But here I am tucked away in the Catlins in south-eastern South Island and insofar as such a quiet place could be said to be swarming, it is, with French, Germans, Dutch, Japanese... And Kiwis too. Word's got around that this place is worth seeing.

I was at NZ's southernmost tip, the - of course - plainly named Slope Point, halfway between the equator and the South Pole, and happily more tropical in temperature than polar. The bathers at Curio Bay must have been glad of that, lured into the blue water by the pod of Hector's dolphins lazily cruising around the bay.

They're the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, with a cute Mickey Mouse ear fin. Then I went to see the world's rarest penguin, the yellow-eyed, hopping over a 160 million year-old fossilised forest. And while we're talking Jurassic, the day began with this tuatara - not a lizard! - that was around then. Not this guy, he's just 15. But that wrinkled hand he's sitting on could almost be dinosaur-age...

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