Tuesday, 4 February 2014

McLean Falls & Papatowai

Just up the road from the McLean Falls Holiday Park are the McLean Falls (funny that). It's a 40 minute return walk through native bush on a well formed track to get to the falls & they are a popular attraction in the area. Obviously all the rain & mist that the Catlins receive (although we've had mostly fine days so far) helps create this beautiful luxuriant emerald green bush full of ferns & sphagnum moss that drapes & drips off every available limb. The forest floor is thick with spongy mosses, ground cover & fungi. It's damp & cool under the canopy even when the sun is beating down outside.

The McLean Falls (named after an original landowner/settler who allowed people to cross his land to visit them) are something quite special. There are two quite separate layers to the falls, with a lovely deep pool below the top falls that would be a great spot to take a cooling dip. You can see a family that have clambered up on to the rock in the photo below.

We rated these falls 9/10 on our waterfall scale, the falls were impressive & the walk even more so.

After the falls we headed to Papatowai, a small sleepy seaside settlement just up the road. At the top of the hill is Florence Hill lookout which overlooks the beautiful Tautuku Bay & beach. You might recall we stopped here on our way south back in early December; it sure wasn't so busy back then!

And the sight was just as impressive the second time round. Now with time to explore, we took the gravel track down to the beach which was totally deserted. There are a few fishing huts & cribs around at the end of the bay & across the river, these are reached by 4WD driving along the beach at low tide.

Back along the main road are two short walks, one passes through bush down to an estuary with a boardwalk out through the rushes to the edge of the river. The same river that I mentioned above at the far end of the bay. A perfect location to spot the very shy Fernbird but today all we caught was a very powerful odour of rotting flesh! Just to the right of the viewing platform at the end of the walk was a very large & very bloated carcass of something, well, very large.

It was hard to make out what on earth it was, the rushes disguised any appendages and the mud was thick so we couldn't get close (not that we'd have wanted to)  I did catch sight of a flipper when the breeze parted the rushes at one stage & we decided that it must have been a sealion. It definitely wasn't a cattle beast which was what we first thought of as it could have been washed down the river. And it definitely wasn't a whale which is what a foreign couple told us they thought it was.

No Fernbirds were spotted but I did manage to catch these two gorgeous Tomtit fledglings on the walk back to the car.

The next walk was to Lake Wilkie, a small lake that has formed after the last ice age behind the sand dunes in Tautuku Bay. Bog lakes like Lake Wilkie are uncommon in this part of the country & Lake Wilkie is also unusual in that it is populated by a tiny introduced frog called "The Whistling Frog" hence the name of the cafĂ© just up the road. There are no natural streams entering the lake which also means there are no fish found in the lake, the water is all from the surrounding run off & seepage.

It was rather a strange walk down through the bush and then onto a very short boardwalk that crossed a corner of the lake & then promptly returned the same way. It would have been nice to have a track right around the lake.

After the walks we headed on to Papatowai in particular to visit the Lost Gypsy Gallery a unique & interesting place to spend some time. This realistic mannequin is first to grab your attention and then from the moment you pull in your don't know where to look next.

Just recently the Lost Gypsy Gallery has beaten our national museum Te Papa (Wellington) in a nationwide travel award competition, it was named the Museums and Galleries winner for 2013 in the Traveller Voted Awards run by the travel website Rankers - thanks Danelle for the article.

Artist Blair Somerville calls himself an organic mechanic & he obviously loves to tinker. His quirky creations- or automators, as he prefers to call them are everywhere. They're made from other people's throw-aways; springs, switches, tins, bottles, shells, old radios, cameras, TVs, toys, circuit boards etc. From pea size to life size his works of art are everywhere, outside & inside. Most creations are powered by gravity, solar cells, pulleys & winders & you're free to test them out. With care of course.

This guy has imagination plus! Well worth the visit & you can grab a coffee from the Coffee Caravan to drink while you explore.

Inside the bus with the artist's workshop off to the side. A bizarre wonderland of the weird & wonderful.

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