Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Wisp Road, Catlins River

After our river walk we decided the next day to drive to the other end to check it out. It was about 35kms away, up over the Morris Saddle and then back into the Catlins Conservation Forest via the Chloris Pass Rd.

This photo was taken at the top of the Morris Saddle looking back over the river valley, the river runs through the dark line of beech trees through the centre, the DOC camp & the beginning of the River Walk are located in the dark patch of trees back centre right. The walk heads off to the right, away from the pasture land here in the valley.

Whenever we explore by vehicle, especially in the more remote areas, we always have our phones handy because you never know when you're going to get a good signal & a sudden burst of whistles & tunes alerts us that texts & emails are being downloaded. Often the signal will only last a few metres, or only outside the cab, standing on one leg, pulling a face, so we have to quickly stop & not move until everything has come down.  Here we are parked just over the top of the saddle checking & responding to texts. I've even taken a walk through a paddock & stock yards to a higher point to try & receive an important text. We've also had a number of strange looks from farmers on tractors working nearby.

There are plenty of wonderful old woolsheds & abandoned buildings in the area but there are only so many times I can get David to stop so I can take some shots.

These two were on opposite sides of the junction so I was quick to take advantage. Quite out of place to see all the old whiteware graveyard on the veranda of this dilapidated old house.

Once we got to the picnic area at The Wisp we saw a forestry road leading off along the ridge above the river. We thought we'd take a drive along it to see if it ran anywhere close to the river & then come back to the picnic area to have lunch & check it out for fishing. The track was open to the public but 4WDs only, part of the sign (the part that mattered as it turned out) had been shot away so we were unable to read too much.

It was a little bumpy to begin with but then became a reasonably good gravel track that passed through pine forest & native bush. The road wound its way up and down & around closely following the course of the river but never getting within range to view it through the thick bush.

We passed a few side roads that were quite overgrown & a couple of "Walking" picture signposts but after about 30 minutes of travelling at 10-12kms (50km ha!) we were about to turn around thinking there was really nothing we would gain by travelling further & deeper into the bush when we saw this DOC sign post below & suddenly realised we were on The Wisp Road, a road that follows the river along the top of a valley and comes out right beside our DOC campground! We'd left our road atlas behind & TomTom just told us we were in a patch of green.

This sign post was above a track that led down to the river at the very point where we walked to yesterday; Franks Creek. Obviously walkers can walk the track in sections & get picked up at the three different exit points along this road. Now that we were only 5kms from home there was no point in turning around & returning to check out the other end. Next time we decide to check an area out we will stop and do that before following any tracks or roads elsewhere! And take our road map with us.

In one bright sunny spot along the road there were hundreds of thistles growing & along with the loud buzz of dozens of bees, the bright green & purple was a cheery spot of colour in the dark gloom of the thick bush. I've noticed these thistles growing in many areas around the Catlins; usually in thick patches with just a few of the more usual bigger Scottish thistle.

Back down at the camp we drove a little further on along the road and had lunch beside the river, just a couple hours late & not at the right bloody end! Afterwards I left David to fish and walked the short distance back to the van. He returned empty handed but then moved up the river a way to have another go. It wasn't long before he returned home, muttering & cursing for his net, a big one had got away. Moral of the story don't be a hero & think you won't need a net. He redeemed himself though, & returned a short time later with a nice sized brown that he split open, seasoned & lightly cooked on the BBQ for dinner. And it was delicious.

I did forget to mention in the first Catlins River blog post about the horrendous noise we heard on our first night parked at the camping ground. It's a pretty remote area & it usually takes a couple of nights for us to settle into places like this, get the lay of the land & feel reasonably comfortable with staying over. The first night was pitch black, no moonlight and deadly quite outside. It was also rather warm (yes it does get hot here in the Catlins) so we had the top vent open above the bed.

We were woken around 1am by this terrible noise that appeared to be right outside the van or to be more exact right above the van, maybe even on the roof. A deep long loud exhale of breath followed by a chit-chit-chit-chit, it went on and on. David went outside with the spotlight expecting to find a herd of deer or escaped cattle but there was nothing & any amount of waving the light around failed to stop the noise.  I called to him that I was sure it was a possum in the tree directly above the van. Eventually it got the message & moved on but David failed to find it in his light. He even suggested at one stage  it might be a yeti! :) I don't think he was convinced that it was a possum until I found him this YouTube clip.

At least it wasn't the bogey-man but it sure does unsettle you in the dead of the night.


  1. We didn't hear any possums there in the DOC camp but we had a freezing night with the top of the bus being covered in a layer of ice in the morning!

    1. Think I'll take the possum over ice. Although we had snow at Mavora, our diesel heaters are worth their weight in gold!


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