13 January 2012

The Catlins - Part 2

My second day in the Catlins was full of waterfulls. The first was this one below, called Matai falls. I have since looked all of these places up on google and it seems that all of the falls are often far more full of water and impressive than they look here. I mean, we have had a summer with barely any rain. They were still picturesque enough.

Next was Horseshoe falls, which was further up the track from the previous falls. So altogether it was a decent bushwalk but it didn't actually take very long, it just involved a fair amount of climbing. I liked this fall better, it was bigger and had a nicer pool. I will have to re-visit the Catlins one day, after lots of rain, to see how it all can look in different circumstances.

So after the bushwalk we got back to the car and the next stop along the road (because we really were just turning off at every signpost) was the Purukaunui falls. This was a slightly longer walk, with lots of interesting trees, and instead of walking up the river like the others we followed the river down until we could here the falls below.

These falls were bigger, with lots of levels, which with very little encouragement we climbed onto. I'm not sure that we would have been able to do that if there had been the usual amount of water going down the falls. As it was, the water was ankle-deep and freezing cold.

After the falls we finally made it to Jack's Bay, where there is a big blow-hole, which was one of the major attractions of the day. Now, when I think of a blowhole I imagine a hole that water rushes up out of at high speed. This, it turns out, is not neccessarily the case. First, however, here is Jack's Bay, which was very pretty with it's very blue water:

Here is the blowhole:

As you can see, it is not a hole that water rushes up through, to fly out of the top as foamy spray. Instead, this blow-hole was steep cliffs with water crashing somewhat violently at the bottom. It was very noisy. At a very high tide the water would probably be somewhat higher, and in a storm even more so, and it was very huge and impressive, and I think if you fell in it you would probably not survive. It just was not what I thought it would be. It's sort of odd though, when you think of it, that there could be a great big hole in the land like this.

We stood around watching the waves crash below for quite a long time. But eventually there is only so much of staring down a blow-hole that a person can do, so we turned back (which was actually quite a long way back and included a big, steep hole). The next stop was somewhere sheltered to eat lunch, because it was incredibly windy on this particular day. However, it was windy everywhere and nowhere looked like a good place for a picnic so we stopped in a camping ground and figured that nobody would notice. Unfortunately, it was quite crowded so when we finally found an empty area to stop the car, it turned out to be a staff-only area. So we got found out and told off. Luckily, we had finished our picnic by that point so it didn't ruin our lunch. We packed up and moved on to Surat Bay in search of more sealife. Again, the sea provided and we came across a sea-lion!

At first the sea-lion was just snoozing in the sand but I guess he got tired of me hanging around and trying to take his photo because he suddenly reared up with a grunt, which gave me a hell of a fright. I jumped and backed off because I thought that perhaps he wanted to chase me. He didn't though, he just gave me a look and then turned around and flopped back down on the sand. It might not have been me at all really, maybe he was worried about the incoming tide getting him all wet.

Surat Bay began as an estuary and was only a little windy, until we walked around a point of land to reach the ocean and were scoured by wind-blown sand. We kept on walking, however, until we reached a signpost pointing to the location of an old shipwreck, and at this point it was pretty much a mutual decision to turn back. We wussed out of going for a swim because it just seemed too cold, so the rest of the afternoon was spent trying to find somewhere more sheltered to swim, in fresh-water so that we could wash all the previous day's salt off. We drove along, slowing over every bridge to check out the rivers beneath, but none of them looked good enough to swim in. We knew that there was a lake nearby, so decided to risk it even though lakes are generally freezing cold. However, this particular lake was all marshy around the edges and full of week, and clearly a reserve, regenerating-forest area.

So instead we just took photos and rested for awhile in the sunshine before continuing our search for a swimming spot.

The lake was very still and reflective, and very pretty, not to mention how warm it was on account of it being sheltered all around by hills and forest. Speaking of which, on the walk to the lake I found yet another interesting, twisted tree.

So for lack of a swimming spot, we decided to just go ahead and look at one more waterfall, in the hope that there would be a swimming spot somewhere along the way. There was, but then we got to the top, where the waterfall was (this one was called Mclean's Falls). On account of the region being so dry, we could clamber right to the pool that the water falls into - perhaps you can always do this, I don't know, but I have seen pictures in which these falls are a huge mass of rushing water so I think on other occasions I would be more wary.

On this occasion, however, there was not too much water and there were already a couple of guys in the pool, so in we went, not only for a swim but also for a bit of a wash! It's a long-standing tradition for us (I'm not going to say for Kiwi's because perhaps other people don't do this) to take soap and shampoo along to the river and make the most of fresh, free water when staying out in the countryside. I'm not actually so sure that it can be very good for the river, but at the same time, so long as it's just us and not the entire population, I'm sure it won't do any harm. It probably gives the tourists a false impression of our way of life though! For the record, the water was absolutely freezing, I took forever to actually get in it, but then it was actually quite nice, but the waterfall itself was sort of painful.

So feeling clean and refreshed, there was one final task for the day. This was the ropes course at Tautuku, which is an obstacle-course built up in the trees in the forest, that has been there for ages and ages but I had never heard of before. Considering how dangerous it could potentially be, I'm not surprised that it's not so well known. I'd say it's probably the type of thing that youth adventure clubs and boy scouts do, and random people that live nearby or are passing through and have heard of it. Like us. I had never visited the Catlins properly before so this was my first time, and some of it was very difficult and bruise inducing, like the wooden contraption below that you have to sort of slide your body through, from one swing to the next.

One of the hardest parts was a rope net that had to be climbed up, and it being somewhat loose and soggy really didn't help. Then, once you reached the top, you had to haul yourself over the top, cling onto a thin plastic pipe and somehow slide down. I nearly fell off of that bit. The next day my arms were absolutely killing me and I reckon it was that particular obstacle that did it.

The more fun part of the course was the easier bit, which was a series of wire bridges through the tree-tops. There were some balance beams of various sorts and a tightrope that was impossible (for us at least, the only obstacle we did not complete). The course ended with a rope swing into a rope net, which looked like fun but proved to be the most painful part. The net was perhaps too close to the rope, because you didn't so much drop gracefully onto the net as hit it at high-speed and be paralysed with shock for a minute or two while you tried to figure out if you'd broken your fingers and arms and legs or not.

Finally, after the ropes course, the day was over and we really deserved our dinner and a rest. Clearly, so did this wood-pigeon that was hanging out by our camp, eating some sort of fruit or seeds.

So after a long weekend of sightseeing around the southern coast, the good weather has finally packed up and the farmer's are getting their long sought after rain. It has been raining quite steadily and I miss the sunshine, but at least it has given me time to finish my Christmas jigsaw puzzle and clean up the house.

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