Wednesday 8 February 2017

A River Destination- Southland


I still have a couple of blog posts from the Catlins to do but thought while I have an unexpected internet connection, I'd let you know where we've been during the last week and over Waitangi weekend.

In a huge contrast to last year's Waitangi weekend, this year we swapped people for sheep (and sandflies). This was the view out our back window. The rest of the flock weren't so keen and gave the van a wide berth, although, going by the hoof prints and poop, I suspect they checked every inch of the van out while we were sleeping. 

The river was running very high, but not as high as it had obviously been not long before we arrived. We could see evidence of where the river has flowed over the banks and across the floodplain behind us. I told you it's been raining in Southland for all of summer.

If we'd heard anything more than a few soft splatters on the roof we'd have been hitching up and pulling out of there, quick smart. 

It was quite spooky once night fell, hearing the rush of water passing by just metres from the door. You wouldn't want to go sleep walking...

The river level slowly dropped over the next couple of days revealing a badly eroded river bank and great clumps of dirt and turf laying in the shallows. 

Although still quite murky, colour returned to the water and while I spotted a couple of trout checking out the new clumps of dirt in their habitat, David had no luck fishing along the banks.

'So, where are you?', I hear you shout. Well, we're parked on the side of a river in Southland. Not just any river either, this is the mighty Mataura River....190km long and famous for it's brown trout. 

We're parked along the Mataura's middle reaches, about 25kms inland from Lumsden, at the end of the road, at a place called Cattle Flat. The farmland that surrounds our camp site is owned by Cattle Flat Station and permission must be sought from the manager to camp alongside the river. Take note of the house number (1385) on the sign so you can call in on your way past- it's about 8kms back down the gravel road if you don't. 

I had a toss up with my conscience about making this site public- one of the first times I've struggled with whether I should post it or not. It's such a great area, complete isolation (well nearly) and not too far off the beaten track. But it has in the past suffered from abuse by freedom campers, hence the reason permission to stay must now be obtained. Vehicles have to be CSC and dogs are not allowed unless they have been treated for sheep measles (please don't let me down folks, thanks kindly).

Sunset at Cattle Flat
There's a charming surprise at the end of the road- a well maintained collection of fishing huts- and the reason the road is open to the public. Well, the huts and a bush reserve on conservation land. Please also, don't camp in front of the huts.

The huts have been passed down through the generations and I believe that they can't be sold (although I think that is a moot point). Unlike many other huts we've seen on our travels these are all in good repair and look like they'll outlive their current owners many times over.

There are even a couple around the corner...

and more alongside a stream that runs through the reserve. We had a little hiccup with this stream- we were collecting lovely crystal clear water for our tank from here....that was until I went for a walk and found one very smelly & bloated sheep lying across the middle of the stream a few hundred metres upstream. Eeuw.....yuk!

David drained our tank and we refilled it with water collected 20 metres above the sheep. I guess ignorance is bliss when you don't know what's around the corner. It's just lucky we don't drink our tank water, I guess you never can be too cautious though.

We stopped to talk to the owner of this crib on our way past- actually David stopped to talk to him while I took photos of the huts. The guy was very keen to show us his mobile BBQ- great Kiwi ingenuity there, and his hot-tub with gas heating system attached. A rotationally moulded foam filled hot tub too (our old industry).

One of the Cattle Flat's attractions for me was the fact that some of our favourites places along SH6; Nokomai Station (where we did the 4WD Safari), Athol & Garston are just over the mountains behind us. The rounded mountain at the back of the valley is East Dome, one of the three Domes (the other two being West & Mid) that form a triangle around that area.

The Mataura flows past those settlements and through Nokomai before passing us here at Cattle Flat and continuing on down past Gore, eventually exiting into the vast Fortrose estuary at the bottom of the Catlins. I wondered how long it would take for water that passed us at Cattle Flat to reach the mouth; going by the speed of the 'eels' passing by, not long at all. The 'eels' were similar lengths of dark smooth driftwood caught up in the flood waters that floated by in a never ending conga line. We couldn't decide why they were all mostly of the same length, like they'd been fed through a bean slicer somewhere. I do know though, that somewhere downstream, there's a whole heap of kindling building up.

The weather was mostly fine and warm, which was a relief after all our bad weather. It cooled down and clouded over most afternoons with the threat of rain. But in the end it was the wind that got to us; we left a day earlier than planned. The prevailing westerly swept down the valley and shook and battered us about for hours on end for a couple of days. And then we had one bad night when we had to pull the slide-out in to ease the strain on the van and the constant rocking and rolling. A shame, but that weather continues to put the kibosh on our summer.

We still had a great stay and thoroughly enjoyed the solitude. The crib owner and his wife were the only other people we saw during the first three days and we only saw them the once.

Out our back window again- the extend of activity once the holiday weekend arrived, when people replaced sheep for a very short time. The cribs are lined up along the road behind the macrocarpas.

Where to next? Not too far away and onto another 'flat'.


  1. nice work young lady ,i used to fish up there years ago when i was a lad great spot

    1. Thankyou Peter, much appreciated. Glad you enjoyed the blog. I bet you were more successful than we were ;)

  2. I have links to Mataura through my birth family, I love the river, love the area.
    When I was in Southland, Otago and Central in November/December the wind didn't stop until I got to the actually Haast Pass. The the wind stopped and the rain started, all within a few meters. I seems it is still blowing :)

    1. Oh yes, it's been a very unusual summer to say the least. After all the rain we had on the West Coast we were looking for a little bit of sun but it wasn't to be. Never mind, we may just get some now that we're in Central. Please I was able to help refresh your memories of the area. Thanks for commenting.


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