Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Farewell to the Catlins

During our final few days in the Catlins we did a number of short trips nearby. Just down the road from the camp is historic Tunnel Hill, the old brick railway tunnel being the southern most tunnel in New Zealand. The tunnel was built in 1891 and closed to rail traffic in 1971 after the area's decline in the sawmilling industry. It was just a short walk from the car park down to the tunnel & a torch is recommended. We were hoping to see a few glow-worms & maybe some cave wetas but were disappointed not to see one iota of life, not even any spider although I thought one had dropped on my head at one stage but all it was a big fat water drop! Other than the historic value of the tunnel we didn't rate the walk very high at all, it was a very dank, dark & cold walk through to the end of the tunnel & back the same way with nothing interesting happening.

During our week at Hillview Camp, we travelled north 24kms to the "big smoke",Balclutha ,to stock up on supplies. Balclutha, known by the locals as "Clutha"  is a farming town that straddles the mighty Clutha River. We stopped beside the imposing & equally impressive bridge to have lunch. This is SH1 so there was quite a flow of traffic with a number of large trucks including a wide load crossing. It was interesting watching the manoeuvres of the vehicles as they entered the narrow two lane bridge, it's quite intimidating when a large vehicle is approaching you from the other end. Obviously when the bridge was built vehicles weren't so wide or large as they are today. The pilot vehicle of the wide load had to race to the other end to stop any traffic entering before the truck could proceed. 

The Clutha River is massive, it's wide, deep and flows extremely fast. It swirled & whirl pooled all the way past our picnic table and small rapids formed as it hit the bridge abutments, it's quite a scary river. The 340km long Clutha River begins it's rapid journey to the sea at the outlet of Lake Wanaka but also includes water from Lakes Hawea & Whakatipu plus many smaller tributary rivers. From a sign board  "The Clutha drains a total of 2,196,000 hectares & discharges 550 cubic metres of water per second into the Pacific Ocean. It's greatness is only realised when compared to the great rivers of the world. The Nile drains 334,000,000 hectares, has a total length of 5900kms & discharges 650 cubic metres per second, only 18% more volume from an area which is more than 150 times as great"

Kaka Point is a great little beachside holiday settlement located just up the coast from Nugget Point, it's obviously a popular beach for swimming with lovely golden sand & an active Surf Life Saving Club. The community must enjoy & welcome the constant stream of holiday makers & tourists to the area. All along the roadside and over looking the rocky shoreline are well manicured rest areas and picnic spots. A lot have has added personal touches; seats, umbrellas & tables to sit at. There are obviously a lot of paua in the area too going by the amount of paua shells nailed to people's fences & in their gardens & even lining a gravel pathway to the beach.

A Kaka Point crib (bach or holiday home)   

We travelled back to Nugget Point to do the steep short walk down into Roaring Bay which was just at the beginning of the drive up to the point. Roaring Bay is very well known for it's Yellow Eyed Penguin population but we had decided not to stop there the other day when visiting the lighthouse because there were quite a number of cars  in the car park which indicated dozens of people in the hide waiting for the penguins to return from the sea. We have been very lucky with our sightings of the penguins both at Moeraki & in the Catlins so we didn't need to hang out with dozens of others waiting to glimpse from afar a tiny little penguin waddling up the beach. We have been very spoilt with our close encounters.

Roaring Bay is truly beautiful though, a tiny south facing rocky little bay with azure blue water & emerald green windswept scrub and flax, the hide sits well back up off the beach and provides good 180 degree views. As long as you have brought binoculars!

And that was it for the Catlins. Once again we are reluctant to move on & especially this time because we are leaving the coast behind us.
We've had three weeks exploring the beautiful Catlins and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we've met some wonderful people, enjoyed the long twilight evenings & sunny days, we've driven dusty gravel roads & walked many miles, we've visited isolated beaches & rugged rocky coastlines, seen beautiful rivers, hidden lakes & stunning waterfalls, viewed windswept bush, tortured trees & emerald green forests smothered in mosses & ferns. We've travelled through rolling hill country farms of sheep and cattle, small sleepy settlements with many abandoned buildings & the most thrilling of all, we have enjoyed some extraordinary wildlife encounters. The Catlins is everything it claims to be & more, a magical, mystical corner of New Zealand.

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