Thursday, June 29, 2017

Catlins Crazed

It's both challenging and easy to take in The Catlins, assuming you have enough internal space to hold the glory of it all. The challenge? It's not compact. This is a wide-ranging region and you definitely need wheels to drive to all the beaches and waterfalls and through the exquisite countryside. We do have wheels, though, so let's start where we left off. Remember this arc of beach?

Well it turns out you can not only drive to it (walking from the lookout not an option), but you can drive right onto it!

The southern ocean tosses up some interesting characters 

The backdrop is nearly as compelling as the ocean view. Art thought the white substance was some sort of lichen.

He went in close on some of the rock.

The circular depression holds water, possibly laden with rock dust.

Location of Tautuku Beach (click here if reading in email to see map). This is one vast area of shoreline. If you look at the top photo again you can almost see all of it.

We took a little trip around it in the Rover, just because we could.

A bit more driving through this extravagantly beautiful region--why not? (I hope you know we dropped the caravan and aren't towing anything. When we are, it's pretty much straight to our destination.)

We traveled a short distance to the Tautuku Estuary, with its dreamy boardwalk. Every time we encounter a boardwalk I put on my best English accent and repeat what an older English woman said in Abel Tasman National Park when her group, given the choice between taking a wooded path or taking the boardwalk, said: Oh, but I do love a nice boardwalk!

So do I

A brief pause while I assure you we're still eating very well. Here's an award-winning sheep's milk haloumi with flecks of mint in it. Inspired.

Served atop a bowl of raw veggies tossed in a bleu cheese dressing loosely made according to David Lebovitz's perfect recipe.

The beauty of the Catlins leaves me breathless.

The next day we sought out Purakaunui Falls via a 15-km gravel road that pulled us higher with every turn.

Because it's the end of June and winter, every place we visit is deserted. High summer here is December (we still have occasional difficulty grasping what month it is). A little trek through a very dense green wood, the Purakaunui Falls Scenic Reserve, to our destination.

The innocuous stream to our left started to pick up a little steam along the way as it tumbled downward.

And suddenly the falls were in sight. We definitely heard them before we saw them. A hidden treasure.

60-foot drop over three main tiers. Not Niagara, but quite pleasing.

Catlins palate-cleanser

Next on our hope-to-do second day in Papatowai is to park at the estuary and walk the Old Coach Road to the beach.
Tahakope River mouth/estuary at low tide

The track follows the original route that horse-drawn coaches took after coming off the beach in Tahakopa Bay. After the track's start, when it forks, go right. It's flat going, alongside the tidal river and a very pleasant walk for all ages and abilities. In parts the original coach road formation can be seen as it passes beneath a canopy of tree fern, silver beech and young totara. Near the track's end, where there's a host of regenerating totara is an important moa hunter archaeological site.
The run of clear days here has been a gift.

Off the Old Coach Road, heading for the beach.

The lengthening shadows remind us of the almost imperceptible shift in light now after the Winter Solstice, a wee bit longer every day.

Today we drove eastward a bit to a campground in Pounawea. We're not done exploring yet...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tautuku Beach, The Catlins

Low on wi-fi, campers, even though I was assured the house we're staying in had it. Instead, I'm some distance up the road at a different house, sitting outside in the waning light, sending you this one glorious picture of Tautuku Beach.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

McClean Falls in the Catlins

McClean Falls are named for an original settler who allowed people to walk across his land to see them. The falls drop 66 feet over two distinct levels on the Tautuku River in Catlins Conservation Park.

We had a lovely 20-minute walk through rainforest to reach them. I think falls are best experienced first-hand, and speaking of hands I seem to like to get my fingers into these videos, so with that introduction, enjoy (click here if viewing in email to see/hear the vid).

To The Catlins

Pastoral and idyllic, the Catlins is one area of NZ we made multiple attempts to visit in 2015. Beat back by snow and ice to our campsite in Balclutha to the north, we never did get in to explore it.

People have lived in the area since around 1350 AD. Prior to European settlement, the region was sparsely inhabited by nomadic groups of Māori, most of whom lived close to river mouths. In the early days of European settlement the area was frequented by whalers and sealers, and saw milling became a major local industry from the mid-19th century until the 1930s. Ecotourism has become of growing importance in the Catlins economy, which otherwise relies heavily on dairy farming and fishing.
Mouth of the Mataura River

A rugged, sparsely populated area, the Catlins features a scenic coastal landscape and dense temperate rainforest, both of which harbour many endangered species of birds, most notably the rare yellow-eyed penguin. The coast attracts numerous marine mammals, among them New Zealand fur seals and Hooker's sea lions. In general terms the area enjoys a maritime temperate climate. Its exposed location leads to its frequently wild weather and heavy ocean swells, which are an attraction to big-wave surfers, and have also caused numerous shipwrecks.

Map by James Dignan

The Catlins covers roughly 730 square miles and is home to just 1200 people. It's a safe guess there are more sheep than humans.

Today we drove partway from Invercargill, stopping in Chaslands, where work will arrive in the morning and then we'll do some exploring. Note the ocean to the south is the South Pacific (if reading in email, click here to view map).
Its rolling hills give it the sense of a storybook land. We felt lucky to be driving on a vivid sunny day.

A tumbledown house, the brick chimney all that remains. Wouldn't you love to know the stories told around that fire?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

It Happens Every 12 Years: Long-Awaited Rugby Series Set to Begin

Via the NYT, here's a story about the rugby everyone in NZ seems obsessed with. Happily, good friend Jane sent me the link below so I didn't have to do too much research on exactly how it all works. Or how rugby itself is played.

Most great sports events come around once each year; others, like the Olympics and World Cup, a bit less often. But those who enjoy one of the classic rugby matchups must wait 12 years. Good news: This is the year. The British and Irish Lions face off against New Zealand beginning Saturday.

The Lions were first formed in 1888, a superteam consisting of the best players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Every few years, the team would take the long journey to the Southern Hemisphere to take on Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.
More here

Next, turn up your audio and check out the NZ haka, always a dramatic opening to rugby--and my favorite part--this one from 2011 (click here to view video if reading in email).

The haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. Haka are a fierce display of a tribe's pride, strength and unity. Actions include violent foot-stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant. The words of a haka often poetically describe ancestors and events in the tribe's history.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NZ Second Most Peaceful Nation in 2017 + Albatross Cam

I could write something snarky like discovering the president of your country is a pathological liar might easily disturb the peace.

The U.S. declined the most in an annual study of global peace that cites political turbulence, deteriorating press freedom, a public perception of increasing crime and corruption, and less acceptance of minorities.

...“Contrary to what it may appear, there has been an increase in peace,” Killelea said. “There are some truly disturbing pockets, but the outlook is not all negative.”

I suppose that depends on where you're living.

More here...
We drove to Invercargill today to set ourselves up for future travel, camping in what we call a Harold and Maude campground right in the middle of the city. The sun is setting, and it seems...pretty peaceful.

Here's a NZ baby albatross cam (adults have a nine-foot wingspan)...
Welcome to Royal cam - streaming live from our northern royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin. A young albatross is currently on the nest, with its parents returning every so often to feed the chick. Look for the parents colour bands - the male bird has blue-black (BK) colour bands and the female has red-blue-black (RBK).

A Walk Along Lake Manapouri

A couple of days ago we walked the local shoreline of this deep blue lake, starting the trek in a magical forest on the edge of our campground.

Called Roto-au (the rainy lake) by early Maori and then Moturau (many islands), Lake Manapouri is the second deepest in NZ at 1456 feet. It has 33 small islands within its meandering shores.

Frasiers Beach is a sandy, rock-strewn expanse, most pleasant on that near-60F day.

Just a powdered-sugar touch of snow up there.

After the beach we turned onto a grassy track toward what we thought was the road, but instead we slogged through mud and ultimately into a well-fenced farm with a lot of friendly goats. (See Art down there checking his phone for location assistance?)

Reminds me of the Bucky Fuller quote: How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. Luckily, I had an orange in my pocket, and this guy got the peels.

Look at that face

We made our way back to the road and the tiny Manapouri township, home to 300 souls.

There are two cafes, this one connected to a pub, and we're more than ready for our flat whites. 

I heard this man in the cafe speaking and couldn't quite place his accent. In NZ you meet people from all over the world--working, living, and traveling. The register at our campground here listed Paris, Germany, Eastern Europe, China, India, and the US, among others. Campgrounds are a regular United Nations.

I asked where he'd been born and he said North Carolina (his soft lilt now more apparent), but that he'd married a woman from Ireland, they'd moved to Dublin, and now they're here on work visas, hoping to stay longer than the year they've already spent. Much longer, if I understood. 

"Do they really dye the river green there for St Paddy's?" he asked.

The cafe looks right out onto the lake and the light is sublime.

Boo hoo. The Queen of Flat Whites could drink another.

In the deep blue mid-afternoon, we walked back to camp.