Southern Hospitality

Monday, March 10, 2014

We spent a day exploring The Catlins along the very Southern coast, chasing waterfalls and visiting unique natural creations. Just before sunset, we cruised to Curio Bay and spotted a yellow eyed penguin in the Petrified Forest along the rugged coastline. Even though he stood still for the better part of a half hour, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this incredible sight.

Upon nightfall, we realized that we had overshot our booked accommodation by 40 minutes. A 40 minute drive in New Zealand is nothing like a 40 minute drive at home. The roads here are endlessly windy, country narrow roads and pitch black at night, making speeding to shave off a few minutes of travel time a complete impossibility. Besides, it was just after 8pm and we couldn’t risk driving all that way if reception might already be closed and unable to let us in. And of course I had no cell phone reception to try and ring them. We eventually came to the conclusion that backtracking didn’t make sense. I spent so much time trying to find Mom nice, clean places to stay during her time here, and we were now facing a very valid concern that we could potentially be sleeping in the car if we didn’t find a vacant and open accommodation at this time of night. My mother made the effort to fly all this way to see me, and she might possibly be sleeping in our economy rental car tonight; a car that will undoubtedly freeze around 4am. What kind of daughter am I?!

Now that we deemed ourselves temporarily homeless, we were also hungry. Luckily, a quaint restaurant looked like they might be open after dark, and at 10 minutes past 8pm, we walked into the Niagara Falls Café. Unfortunately, I saw a sign that read “Open until late. Kitchen closes at 8pm.” Even after nearly 5 months here, I still struggle to figure out if open “late” refers to 4am or 4pm. Great. Now my mother has nothing to eat and no bed to sleep in. It’s a good thing I don’t want kids, or else I might fail in supporting them as well. I’ve definitely lost the “Daughter of the Year” award on this one.

We asked the nice lady working if there was any way we could still get something to eat, and were blown away by her welcoming Southern Hospitality. Back home, if it was even a tick past closing time, you could expect some cranky response along the lines of get lost because I’m clocking out. Even though the kitchen had already started to pack up, the chef offered us a number of simple menu items he could easily prepare. After a delicious meal and service with a smile, our waitress suggested what to do about our accommodation situation, and by sheer luck, we scored a comfortable place to stay on our first shot. Thank you so much to the warm Catlins Beach House for taking in two straggling travelers at such late notice. Tour guide confidence: restored!

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