Blog 164 The Catlins 1st – 4th May

Blog 164 The Catlins 1st – 4th May

After a treat of pancakes and maple syrup for brunch made by Ani’s son Dylan yummy. We say a fond farewell before we head out, we are off to an area called the Catlins on the Southern Scenic Route.

Arriving in the small township of Waikawa where we will make camp we find an interesting museum housed in three buildings, one being the old school house. It is a mish/mash of old curios, photos and a wealth of information and keeps us amused a while. The volunteers are more than helpful and show us a free camp area for the night along with telling us the best time to spot the yellow eyed penguins.

We hot foot it down to Curio bay after we have set up camp. It is the site of a large fossilized forest on the shore and the tide needs to out to reveal it. At over 160 million years old it is amazing to see the petrified stumps. The remains are so clear you can see which way the trees fell. When it gets near dusk we head back to the viewing platform as it is the time for the yellow eyed penguins to return from the sea. We are so lucky as we pass the bush one emerges to wait the return of the others Kev manages to get a picture with his zoom. Back on the platform we wait patiently, slowly they return from the sea to feed the young. There is only four or five and they are a long way off but it is still magical to watch. The only thing to spoil it all is some stupid man intent on getting his photo of the century and virtually chasing one up the beach then using a flash lighting up half the beach. All this despite signs asking people to stay off the beach after dusk to avoid disturbing them.. I have to leave before he returns as I will probably say something I shouldn’t but I’m so glad we managed to see them as they are very rare.

We leave the tent up to dry next day and explore some more, first Porpoise bay where if we’re lucky we can see Hector’s dolphins but apart from another lovely beach we see nothing today. Next is Slope point, walking the well worn track across the farmers field we arrive – well nowhere really, the edge of the field stops in a cliff to the sea and looks like any other cliff edge in the vicinity apart from the sign post which proves we are at the most southern point of the island and hence the reason for our trek here.

Continuing down the gravel road we arrive at Waipapa point, the lighthouse here was erected in 1884 after the second worst maritime disaster in NZ history in which only 20 survived out of 151 passengers and crew. It is also here we have the chance of a lifetime in photos as we get close to some sea lions. One male and three female, they are basking in the sun on the sand and obligingly flip sand over themselves, we are privileged to watch and photo at a distance for quite a while.

After lunch we make tracks back to the tent, an old boy comes out of his house and says have you seen the paper. It is the interview we did in Invercargill I follow him back in and he insists on cutting out the article and giving it to me.

The tent is as good as dry so we whip it down and head for  Balclutha and Chris and Carolyn’s the couple we met at the Kingston Flyer.
We stop briefly at Purakaunui falls before arriving in Balclutha around 6pm. We are made instantly welcome and soon settle in although it takes the dogs a little while to get used to us, they have three dogs and three cats.

Chris recommended a ride out to Tuapeka mouth to catch the ferry across the Clutha river. It is no ordinary ferry, there is no charge as it is classified as a  bridge but only operates 8.30-10am and 4-6pm. First used in 1896 it has no power source but relies on the power of the water to push it across.
We pull up and ride on the flat bed our ‘driver’ along with his enormous dog come out to greet the only vehicle with a cheery smile. He chats to us asking the usual questions but this time we have questions of our own. How long has it been running?, How does it work?.
All becomes clear there are two steel wires running across the river which ensure it doesn’t end up miles downstream. The propulsion is by rudders two either side when set up right the ferry fairly sprints across the water in a crab like motion. It is amazing and the last operating ferry of it’s kind in NZ. We thank our driver and ride off taking a meandering route to Nugget point.

Nugget point reminds us of a place at home called the Needles in the Isle of Wight where the islands seem to lead off the penisular to the very edge of the world. Here we have a lighthouse as well and when our eyes get ued to searching we can make out the basking seals on the distant rocks. The weather is heavy with a low mist and chill in the air it is good to get back on the bike and plug in the heat.

We still have Jack’s blowhole to visit and head out on the gravel ending up at an out of the way bay. Parking up we set off up the track after a steep incline we wheeze to a halt to admire the view naively thinkly we’re nearly there. Oh no, we summit another ‘mountain’ cross about three fields and seriously question what we’re doing before finally coming across the blowhole itself.
At 200m from the sea it is amazing that it is so vast, we are at high tide and you can hear and see the force and surge of water down the 55m deep hole. Found in the middle of a farmer’s field it is connected to the sea via subterranean caverns only this portion has collapsed. At least it is all downhill on the way back.

We are in the back of beyond and encounter a traffic jam NZ style a farmer herding his sheep down the road. It takes us a good ten minutes to ride through them scattering them any which way before arriving at the front. (the farmer said we could). We cross the very Japanese style bridge and take the quick way home.

We wake to drizzle that’s ok with us we need to sort our onward travel, after asking Chris and Carolyn we plan a day sorting out our shipping to Oz .
By end of play we have a confirmed booking to Australia for the bike but it has come at price. We have been cornered into keeping the original flight for us booked six months ago in Japan. This means our destination will be Sydney not Brisbane as we wanted but more importantly we were working on leaving around 24th May and the flights are booked for the 15th May so we have to move everything forward. The bike has to be in Christchurch cleaned ready for shipping by 12th May so suddenly it’s Christchurch here we come.

A few more tense days will probably follow as we have to renew the carnet in England and despite having left email messages for the last two months we still haven’t heard from them. We will probaly have to arrange a direct phone call to sort it out not to mention doing an online visa application for Australia. And just to make life slightly more complicated we are approaching a year on the road so lots of things at home need renewing!  Eeek !!!

Our slow pace of life will have to step up a gear as we head for the dockyard, next stop Dunedin and friend’s of Chris who have kindly offered to host us.

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