Friday, June 30, 2017

Jack's Blow Hole in The Catlins

Just a quick comment on our previous post about the giant weka, which is being protected. In fact there are no human predators in NZ (unless other humans count). No snakes or bears. No spiders or killer insects. So the giant weka is about as scary as it gets, and all this makes hiking extremely relaxing.

By the way, on our drive today we passed an insect theme park that's closed but I would have been all over this side trip.
We drove 20 minutes from our campground to the Tunnel Rocks Scenic Reserve to see Jack's Blow Hole. The view of the bay was worth it alone...even in currently cloudy conditions.

Jack's Blowhole is named after the famed Ngāi Tahu Maori chief, Tuhawaiki, known to early European settlers as Bloody Jack - apparently he was fond of using the expletive.

Oh what a gorgeous little beach, though the sea lions weren't out when we stopped in.

Lots of sea lion education, however.

We started up the farm-field path, animals safely corralled by wire fencing. T'was a good uphill challenge. I paused to look back.

Ready to climb over the stile that keeps any loose cattle in their own space.

 Up and over and oh, what a view.

Spoiler alert: we never did see the actual blow hole because the path was rife with greasy, loose mud. But here we're making an attempt. Also, since the tide wasn't in, the blow hole show wouldn't have been on, since it requires a high tide to rush into a subterranean cavern and explode out the top.

The drive to the blow hole, much of it on gravel, was itself pleasing.

Art on Jack's Bay

A most happy adventure.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Saving the "god of ugly things": New Zealand battles to bring back its rodent-sized insects

...weta, which means "god of ugly things" in the language of the indigenous Maori, likely played key roles in New Zealand's original ecosystem. The mahogany-colored, fist-sized Mahoenui giant weta, for example, spends its nights foraging on leaves and hides from predators during the day, much like a mouse. More here.

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?