Wednesday, 6 May 2020

From Bluff to Dunedin

Catch-up; November 2019- We were still in Southland but about to depart for Otago.

On a beautiful Southland spring day I packed up a lunch and we headed from our base in Winton to Bluff for the day. We've visited Bluff several times in the past, usually with the family and once to Bluff Oyster Festival (now that was an experience and a half, a weather bomb hit us) but there were a couple of places I wanted to check out that we hadn't visited before. But first things first; the mandatory drive up to Lookout Point where as expected, the 360 degree views were spectacular.

Looking west over the old Ocean Beach Freezing Works, Flat Hill Wind Farm and on to Hump Ridge & the Cameron Mountains in Fiordland National Park.

Looking south to Rakiura/Stewart Island which is just 37km away across Foveaux Strait and from there on it's just open ocean until you hit Antarctica.

North-east across Bluff Harbour is the aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point...

and directly below the lookout is Bluff township.

And after a visit to the lookout, our next stop is Stirling Point of course. And even though I already have photos, I took some more of the sign post, the anchor chain sculpture and the sign for the Start/Finish of the Te Araroa Trail, the trail that we have criss-crossed many, many times during our travels from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South. 

One of the places I wanted to visit was Omaui, a tiny seaside settlement at the entrance to the New River Estuary, the estuary that has Invercargill city at it's head. Omaui is also opposite Sandy Point Domain and is 'infamous' because they once wanted to ban cats from the settlement which is surrounded by a reserve. 

Omaui is at the top centre, in the photo above, just below the white sand of Oreti Beach. David backed the ute up to the edge of the beach and we sat on the tail gate having lunch overlooking the ocean and watching families enjoying the sun near the entrance to the estuary.

From Omaui we headed back towards Invercargill before turning right and heading off across the Awarua Plains on a dead straight piece of road that went on and on until finally crossing the Awarua Estuary. Where are we going? Have the power lines given it away?

We were heading to the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter. Sadly not to visit though, just to the gates to say we've been there, done the photo! The smelter is rarely opened to the public, the last time was back in 2011 to celebrate it's 40th birthday. Our Winton family were lucky enough to attend, taking one of the buses that toured the plant, including driving through the monster sized warehouse, the size of five rugby fields (from memory). 

And here's one last photo from Southland. They don't mince words down there, they tell it like it is (free chicken manure). Seen on the main road into Invercargill.

We said goodbye to Winton and the family in mid-November and headed east towards the coast; we had a very important event to attend in a few days. We made a pit-stop in Clinton on the way through, and across the road from where we stopped, I spied these scruffy little dogs in a window, jumping about & barking loudly. They were looking out for their owner who was seeing someone off in a nearby car. For the rest of the day the songs 'How much is that doggy in the window' did laps inside my head.

We stopped at Balclutha for the night, at the South Otago A&P Showgrounds CAP; it's $10 a night for NZMCA Members. The weather was cold and miserable.

The next day we moved onto the NZMCA park at Woodhaugh in Dunedin for the night. It was lovely to get to Dunedin early enough to be able to head out on the Otago Peninsula for a tiki-tour during the afternoon. 

Hoopers Inlet
Once again we're covering familiar ground, we headed to Portobello along the bottom road (taking double the time due to major road works) and then up and over to the south side of the peninsula, around Hoopers Inlet...

A new boat shed replaces one of the two iconic sheds that were
 destroyed in a storm a couple of years ago the end of the road and Allans Beach.  A short track crosses farmland, passing through dunes...

...lined with yellow lupins filling the air with a divine perfume. 

The track ends on a beautiful ocean beach. But we're not here for the beach today.

Allans Beach is also a well known home to a number of sea lions and if you're lucky Hoiho/Yellow Eyed Penguins. Sea lions haul themselves out onto the beach to rest and relax, they laze about on the warm sand in between feeding expeditions back at sea or, if you're a male, chasing females or other males away. Females also arrive to give birth, they usually hide well up into the dunes and away from the beach and the marauding males.

Sure enough there's a male resting right where the track exits onto the beach. On one of my previous visits to Allans Beach there was a very large agitated female blocking the track to the beach and I had to fight my way over the dunes and through the marram grass to avoid her. This guy doesn't even open his eyes as we pass. 

Further down the beach I find a female (females are usually cream in colour) resting in the warm sand.

She opens an eye, closes it and continues on snoozing. In case you're wondering, I have my telephoto lens on and I'm at least 15 metres from her.

We carry on down the beach and we think we see another sea lion at the far end but decide to leave that one alone. We turn and head back to the track. A lot of tourists visit the local beaches to check for sea lions and often leave thinking there are none about. 

Can you see the female in the photo on the left below? She looks just like a piece of driftwood, same colour too (that tiny speck centre left, up near the dunes). You can sometimes locate where they are if you see the distinctive tracks they leave in the sand as they've waddled up the beach (and not always in a straight line from water to the dunes either).

From the beach we head home along the top road to avoid the roadworks, stopping to take in the view out over Hoopers Inlet to Allans Beach in the distance.

Then there's another stop further along when the east side of the peninsula and Otago Harbour comes into view before we head back to Woodhaugh and home. 

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