Day 15 (September 22, 2012)   The Catlins


   We would start from the point we end the previous day directly to the region known as “The Catlins”: New Zealand’s wildest coast.

   There are a lot of things to see there, which are explained on this map of that area:

"The Catlins" map

   Our highlights will be:

   - The three waterfalls: McLean, Matai and Purakaunui
   - Curio Bay: A petrified forest from the Jurassic, where you can still see the trees turned into stone now.
   - Nugget Point: Cliffs, a lighthouse and wonderful views.
   - Cannibal Bay: Sea lions and seals colony.

   After that we would follow the route to Dunedin, where we could walk around looking the Scottish architecture of its main buildings.

   It would be about 270 Km for this day, which should be covered in 3 hours and 40 minutes


   We leave the Holyday Park with no rush as the timing is set by the tide for one of the main visits today. Our idea for today is driving the two hundred something kilometers of distance to Dunedin through a scenic route in a region called “The Catlins”, with multiple short stops in our way. Today could be our last chance for seeing the animals we haven’t been able of see before.

   In order of doing that, we drive across Invercangill city following the indications from the man in Holyday Park’s desk to take the scenic route, which we’re not going to leave until Dunedin.

   We‘re going to spend today in the area in the map at the beginning of this page, from left to right, and therefore our first stop is precisely the number 1 in there: Waipapa point. Here we’re expecting to see sea lions and a lighthouse. The last kilometers of the road to this point is a gravel one, which is not nice considering motorhome’s insurances use to exclude anything on this kind of roads. As our windscreens are not included anyway, we decide to spread ourselves to leave more distance between each other in order of avoiding any chance of being hit by a little stone thrown by the vehicle in front.

View of Waipapa Point

   Once in Waipapa Point, the lighthouse is obviously here, but when we’re looking at the big beach it is empty of animals. Somehow, when looking to the part with rocks, just in front of the lighthouse, we can see one lonely sea lion, lying on the beach. In our way to there we can see several of these sorts of horizontal trees I mentioned yesterday, grown like this because of the strong wind.

Lighthouse in Waipapa Point"Horizontal" tree in The Catlins

   When we arrive, the sea lion must feel like Brangelina, constantly chased by people wanting a photo with it. There are some warnings before the beach with advices about approaching to these animals as they can be feel threatened by us and attack and, as they don’t seem like they could, they’re able of running 20 Km/h fast chasing you. Another good advice is never standing between the sea lion and the sea as it always must defense its way to the water. We are posing closer and closer of it, with all the respect, until our girl seems to reach the limit, as the sea lion stands and roars strongly as per making her to run away from it.

Sea lion on Waipapa Point BeachSea lion on Waipapa Point Beach

   After a long while we come back to our motorhomes, leaving the sea lion at its business, which basically means sleep.

   We take the road to Curio Bay this time. The tide forecast points to be low enough by 11 AM for visiting the fossil Jurassic forest. We’re in map’s point 4.

   Once in Curio Bay we can check the tide going lower and has already uncover the irregular area which can look as a muddy surface but, it is wonderful in a closer look. Everything is stone, but they were trees long time ago. The mounds can be seen in the pictures are actually the stumps from those trees and you can see the rings on them. Lines at floor are the trunks and the wood grain can be seen so clear as per one need to touch to verify, again, they’re really a rock. This is unique in the world, although when reading about fossils, it is easy to think about shells or animal bones, and there is none of those here.

Curio BayCurio Bay

Curio BayCurio Bay

   We spread around the area to explore the floor looking fascinated this wonder and avoiding the sea water puddles. I’m trying to get into pictures the reality of this place, but it is very difficult.

Petrified tree in Curio Bay

   When we’re done we take the vehicles, but just for a very short ride to the highest point, marked at map as number 5, where there are stunning views of Purpose Bay and the Curio Bay we’ve just left, and even this is a place where you can see Hector dolphins, which we can really do.

Sheep all aroundPurpose Bay view

   Obviously, dolphins are not jumping showing completely and waving to the camera, instead we can only see their backs over sea surface. Hector dolphins are smaller than the common ones and are easily identified because they’re wearing two colors: a clear grey and a dark grey.

Coast at Purpose BayHector dolphin in Purpose Bay

   It seems today can finally be the animal’s day, although we can see just a single animal by specie. Next stop, once again at road, means a rest in animals as we’re going to the first of the falls: McLean Falls.

   When we reach the Holyday Park in the junction, there is still some more kilometers over a gravel road to get the parking area with toilets and the start of a path taking to the falls. It’s shocking that, as well as in Spain you cannot find paper in the toilet from a bar, in this country it is never empty even in so isolated places like this.

   A sign in the start of the path announces it is 30 minutes long, and we do it through a beautiful and dense jungle with ferns.

   We pay attention to the river at our left when we start hearing the big noise, but we find a small falls first and a short fall of water after it. These falls are finally not that spectacular. But then some of us find out there is still path going up and when they reach the end we’re called in a way it is clear for us there is still more to see.

McLean FallsPath to McLean Falls

   And there is indeed: these are extraordinary falls, with different levels with different heights. We get a deal with a group of teenagers we find here for exchanging group photos: they do to us and we do to them. When we leave, there are more visitors coming with tupperware in their hands as they’re going to lunch in front of this nature show, which seems a good idea.

McLean FallsPath to McLean Falls

   When we’re back in our motorhomes we know lunch time is around, but first we want to visit Purakaunui Falls. We drive directly to them from map’s point 7 to 18.

   We find more gravel road in our way, it seems they’re quite usual around this area. When we arrive we can see the parking is pretty full of campervans. It is just in front of where the path to the falls starts. This path is shorter than the MacLean’s one.

   When we reach the wooden platform as lookout to the falls we need some time to get some space in there as it is small and it is crowded. The falls are beautiful but getting our pictures is not easy but, when we can see there are still a big group of people coming we leave the place.

Purakaunui FallsPurakaunui Falls

   In the parking we can see a couple of coaches with teenagers which explain the incoming flow of people to the falls. We’ve been so used to the loneliness in our visits along this country we’re quite shocked by this people affluence.

   Now we’re going to Nugget Point, which is our last stop for today (points 26 and 27 at map) and we’re looking for a place to lunch in our way. We’ve got the food cooked yesterday evening for a picnic today. After discarding a couple of places because they were not sunny we stop in an idyllic picnic area just in the intersection with Nugget Point road, along the beach.

   We eat here and then go for a walk to the big beach with just a couple of persons in there: one with a dog and one riding a horse. We find a lot of shells here. Some shocking as “giant” mussel ones –black, not green -, small oysters and even some pieces of Paua, which we have already purchased some entire shells.

Beach in the Nugget Road

    Then is our time to drive along the beach and over gravel, one more time, until Nugget Point. We stop in a small parking area, just before the end of the road, where is signed as aBay with yellow eryed penguins lookout place for a yellow eyed penguin colony, a local specie. There is an observatory at the end of a path from where you can watch how these animals return home, since 3 PM, after a fish journey. It’s 4 PM now, so it seems to be a good time for being lucky enough as per seeing someone.

   At the moment I can see the beach I see a penguin just coming out the sea and we run to the observatory, where there are some other people. We’ve been lucky and we can see how it goes to the rocks, walking clumsily, as if it was carrying something heavy on the shoulders. Once in the rocks it jumps, step by step, both legs together, in a very funny way.

Yellow eyed penguin returning home

   We can finish the road now until a much bigger parking area at the top of the hill. From here, starts a path to the lighthouse one hour long and another path to the view point five minutes long. We choose this last one. There are no seals or sea lions or penguins or whales… but it isSea birds in the Nugget Point's cliff full of birds and wonderful views.

Views from Nugget Point

   This is our last stop so we drive directly to Dunedin knowing we’re going to be there early today. The chosen Holyday Park is a little before the city center. We leave the motorhomes powered when is still daylight. It is so late for going to the swimming pool today, so we are going to visit the city center for a walk and some drinks. One taxi is taking us to the center, known as “The Octagon” because is the shape of the main square, by 20$ for all 8.

   We walk around looking for the most relevant buildings of this city, as the train station, and come back to the square as we could check all the live is concentrated at that point.

Dunedin's train stationDunedin's train station

Dunedin's train station

Dunedin's train station

   I’ve read about the Scottish roots of this city and the pubs seem to point to that direction. There are a lot of them here and we just choose one of the most crowded ones for taking something in their tables outside.

The Octagon in DunedinChurch in Dunedin

   When it is time to leave, the same taxi, which was in the Octagon, returns us back to our motorhomes by the same rate. Tomorrow, at last, we don’t have to leave early. We’ve got a confirmation from the woman at des of the Holyday Park the Albatross Reserve we wanted to visit is closed, though.