Monday, May 30, 2011

The Catlins - New Zealand

Our next adventure was to explore the Catlins region between Dunedin and Invercargill which is made up of farmland, forests and bays.  The scenery was totally epic as we drove along the unsealed roads somewhat carefully always surrounded by fields of sheep.  On the Saturday before Easter Sunday we headed on the coastal route to Nugget point where there was a glorious lighthouse lookout point.  We could see seals having lots of fun on the rocks far below the path and there were lots of islets making up the spectacular view from the lighthouse.  The journey was stunning as we headed to Pounawea where we thought it would be a good idea to charge up the battery in a campsite with the van having been parked outside Al’s for a couple of nights. 

The campsite was in a great location right on the coast with a long beach trailing round as far as you could see with the usual driftwood making up the scene.  As we carried further along just as it was getting far too dark to take a decent photo we saw a moving grey lump on the beach which would have been another sea lion.  Because it wasn’t too easy to see where to run to we decided not to get too close this time.  When using the campsite facilities that evening we met our first Maori (native New Zealand) family who were cooking away in the kitchen.  They were cooking a strange mollusk called a Paua and were making some type of stew with it.  It was slightly larger and flatter than an oyster and was black.  They mentioned that they usually mince it to eat it.

Nugget point lighthouse

The view from the lighthouse

The following day we went for another stroll along the beach before heading out.  Having left our campsite in Pounawea we stopped for lunch where we saw yet another sea lion dragging his belly back into the water from the beach.  We stopped off at Jack’s Blowhole which is an hour’s walk to a sea-carved cave which is completely open inland and forms a big hole in the landscape.  The walk was nice and the blowhole was interesting to see even if the waves weren’t too impressive today.  We only stopped for a little bit before we turned around and headed back to the van.  

Kate on the beach with not another person in sight
The sea lion (circled) making his way back to the ocean

Sheep saying hello

The windswept trees during the hour long coastal walk to Jack's Blowhole

The sea rushing into the inland cave

We had originally planned on staying in our first DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite.  These are publicly owned sites which are much cheaper than private ones but with limited facilities such as a smelly long drop toilet and perhaps a BBQ but generally don’t offer an opportunity to charge the battery.  Unfortunately, the bridge that we needed to get there was no longer in existence so we opted to stay at a well-priced campsite in Curio Bay with basic facilities.  The area is a hotspot for penguin watching and even as the sky quickly turned grey and the rain came down there were still people shivering and pointing away in their anoraks.  We couldn’t stand too much of this, so after seeing a couple of distant penguins we headed back to our campsite.  The next day was a great opportunity to see the area in all of its glory.  There was a convenient lookout point where the waves were crashing heavily against the rocks sculpted by the sea.  Even in the hot sun the immense wind made it bitterly cold so we absorbed the view over breakfast from the comfort of our campervan after taking a few pictures.

Waves crashing high against the coast

The coastline at Curio Bay

Waves crashing at Curio Bay

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