Friday 7 February 2014

Jack's Bay & the Blowhole

After exploring the inland river area we left "Out There" in the DOC camp for the day & headed back towards the coast to check out a few more areas. First port of call was the Purukaunui Falls, one of Otago's most iconic & photographed sights. The falls often appear on calendars & post cards & featured on a postage stamp back in 1976. Just a short 10 minute walk through bush leads you to  the falls which are known as "wedding cake" falls because of the three tiers. The falls are pretty impressive & I would imagine they'd be even more so when in full flow; we gave them a 9/10 on our waterfall scale, well worth the short walk.

Next destination was Jacks Bay, on the way I took a photo of this abandoned classic early 1900s farmhouse built from native timber & corrugated iron. The farmhouse, or homestead on bigger farms, usually had a veranda on the front (this one looks like it has been enclosed at some stage) & and a woodshed &/or washhouse (laundry) at the back. This house had a large specimen tree in what would have once been it's front yard, with old fruit trees behind. I wonder of the stories these houses could tell.

Most of the old derelict houses I've seen have overgrown macropapa hedges wrapped around two or three sides. These would have originally been planted to give the house shelter& protect it from the prevailing winds. Now the hedges have grown into huge trees that have nearly swallowed up what remains of the house. The old house below was located just down the road from our camp. It's unusual in that it's rather small with just one front room with the front door to the side. The kitchen & bathroom facilities would have been located in the 'lean-to" attached to the back. Maybe it was the farm worker's house or perhaps shearers quarters.

Talking about old buildings, we called into the Catlins Boating Club which is on the edge of the Catlins Lake, the huge estuary that we were already familiar with, Surat Bay & Newhaven where we stayed on the way to Invercargill, are located on the other side and we visited this side to check out the Royal Spoonbills while we were there too.

The boat club is also a POP, a motorhome association park over property, where members are allowed to park overnight free of charge. They still obviously use the clubhouse as the trophy boards had the year 2013 written on them. The floor is gravel, the odd assortment of chairs rickety & broken and we decided the Americas Cup could be run very well from the rust covered starter's box. At high tide only of course. We said hello to a motorhome that had pulled in ahead of us, a couple from of all places, Tauranga.

Further on towards the Heads the gravel road took a sharp right turn & after another 5-6kms of gravel we arrived at Jack's Bay, another sleepy holiday settlement in another beautiful sheltered bay.

And wouldn't you know it, the first thing we spotted was another Ultima fifth-wheeler exactly the same as ours, parked up alongside the beachfront. This area is a free camping area for self-contained vans as long as you don't block the view from the cribs, although most of the beach length is lined with cribs so I'm not too sure how that would work.

We made ourselves know to the owners of the Ultima when we later met them down on the beach checking out the sealions. They hailed from Hawkes Bay, Havelock North to be exact and this was their first major trip away. They were keen to talk to us about all the different idiosyncrasies of the Ultima and it was over an hour later that we emerged from their van. 

Just as we arrived at the beach we spotted a sealion surfing in on the waves. He gave a guy on a wet bike a bit of a fright as he surfaced right beside him at one stage, enough for the guy to speed off down the beach & haul his bike out. The sealion seemed to be sniffing the air and then not finding what he was looking for, he'd walk back out into the waves and swim further along, come in again & check the air & then move along once more until he finally spotted & obviously smelt what he was looking for, another sealion soundly sleeping in the sand right up by the dunes. It is incredible to think they can smell & spot another sealion from so far away & know exactly where to come out of the sea.

This one had a mission in mind and he quickly walked up the beach making a bee-line for the sleeping sealion. He walked very close & straight past a tourist with his camera and then broke into a run when the other sealion spotted him. They eye-balled each other for a moment before the new arrival growled & charged. The other guy was quickly out of there, heading for the sea although he did stop at a decent distance and have a good scratch. The new arrival had a good roll around in the others sand pit covering himself from head to toe, or should that be flipper, with sand. He then flopped down, stretched out and fell asleep. Meanwhile not too far away from all the going on was another smaller rust coloured sealion who slept on blissfully unaware of how close he was to trouble.

One of the reasons for visiting Jack's Bay was so we could walk to Jack's Blowhole, a sea cave with a cool 55-metre deep blowhole that is 200m from the sea. The blowhole is a popular tourist attraction in the Catlins, it was quite a strenuous 20 minute walk to the it and once again we passed people walking in inappropriate footwear & wearing little but skimpy shorts & singlets on a exposed cliff top with a cool breeze blowing.

This panoramic view is looking north east over Jack's Bay, the Catlin Heads are in the centre and Surat Bay just behind. This is the large bay that we walked around on our quest to see our very first sealions back in early December.

Along the way we spotted a yellow-eyed penguin resting on a rocky ledge way down below in a small bay; probably another fledgling chick waiting for dinner. David had his binoculars and of course every group of people that passed by wanted to know what he was looking at. And then of course they wanted to have a look too. Needless to say the walk took longer than the indicated 20 minutes, both ways!

Jack's Blowhole was formed when the roof of a large subterranean cave (similar to the Cathedral Caves) was eroded by the sea and collapsed. Waves are forced through the tunnel and expel air through the blowhole. It was named after the famed Ngai Tahu chief, Tuhawaiki, known to early European settlers as Bloody Jack - apparently he liked to use expletives. Jack's Bay & a nearby island offshore are also named after the same popular guy!

The tide was on its way in but the sea calm, so the blowhole wasn't "playing" very much at all although white water appeared on each swell, all quite amazing considering the water travels 200 metres inland before bursting out into the open. It would be spectacular in a heavy sea & quite scary, it's a long way down there & the noise quite deafening even in this benign state. The cavern was filled with bird noise too, lots of small birds were flitting about around the cliff faces.

On the way back down the track, while waiting for David to finish passing around his binoculars, I managed to capture a Redpoll Finch.  Redpolls are an introduced bird and are not that uncommon in NZ although they are more common in the South Island. A lot of people may have seen them but not realised as they do look like sparrows and you can hardly see the red when they are flocking together & flying from one grass seed patch to the next. I've found it hard to take a photo as they are very well camouflaged in the dry grass & very flighty. They spot you approaching long before you can get within range. This one stayed still long enough but I was shooting directly into bright light hence the white background. Still pretty impressive red isn't it?


  1. All your photographs are beautiful but that redpoll shot is fabulous. Can I ask what type of camera you are using? and you are obviously very talented as even the best camera in the wrong hands......
    After reading your blog, I realise you are from Tauranga - so are we - Beach Road Matua, I look forward to following your blog with interest and to think it was all from a google search of QAP!! haha

    1. Thanks you very much for your compliments Sue, I have a pretty cool Nikon D7100 & my walk-around lens is a a pretty weighty 18-300mm lens; I find it covers all bases while we're moving from one environment to another & builds arm muscles at the same time!. As you say it's not always the camera but it certainly helps. Photography is my passion, but as long as you understand the basics & follow the "rules" a click & shoot camera can give just as good results.

      What a laugh that you live in Beach Road! Our old stomping ground, have walked the boardwalk & waterfront many times. We used to live above Kulim Park (overlooking the harbour) & then shifted for a short time to Waratah Way- which completed a 25 year 360 degree circle; We lived in Waratah Way when we first came to Tauranga from Napier all those years ago. Manuwai Street was also home for a few years too.



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