The Back of Beyond

Day 6…. Waipohatu Falls tramping track 4 miles 3 hour return loop through typical catlins bush to two waterfalls, 6miles west of Curio Bay. Beautiful clear blue skies without the ever present howling wind for this, our first more strenuous walk.

We started from the picnic area following the designated pathway, first through dense forest, over a track bridge, out into an open grassy footpath and back into dense forest, where the real uphill  challenge would shortly start, following a stream through the thick Catlins bush.

Long-sufferings smiling face soon changed dramatically with the exertion of steep climbs, many steps, and some uneven, muddy, barely passable ground although the fern logs laid across the paths did alleviate most of the mud. Clothes were discarded left, right and centre as sweating man returned. A foot slide along a damp tree root, arms flailing, only a neighbouring tree saved him from the forest floor. Not so his muse as dodgy leg crumpled on a particularly high step, sending me down instead! In spite of these almost mishaps the ‘tramp’ was well worth the effort.

A spur track led us down to the two very different falls, the tracks to each in opposite directions but just five minutes apart. The higher fall was partly obscured by trees and vegetation…..

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Whereas the lower fall could be seen in all its spectacular glory cascading, foaming as it plunged downward.

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We viewed the fall from a boardwalk set back beyond a shallow, rushing run of water over rocks, stone and dead tree trunk.

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of course the long-suffering had to cross this for his best shot while the muse stayed put with the surplus kit!

The walk was surprisingly quiet, only one other couple did we meet along the way, giving the illusion we really were in the back of beyond!

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Waipapa Point Lighthouse, southernmost lighthouse on the South Island…. we took the short walk from the car park to the lighthouse and then down to the beach area and exposed reefs. 

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The lighthouse was built after the tragic 1881 shipwreck of the ‘Tararua’ where 131 out of 151 passengers died 1km off shore. Information panels document this tragedy, the early history of the lighthouse and its keepers. 

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We strolled the rugged reefs and beach area, there were plenty of tourists but the sea-lions were absent.

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A notice board warning we were in a Tsunami Hazard Zone gave us both a reality check. Two scuba divers emerged from the sea carrying their supper in the form of large meaty looking snails that apparently made good mince!

Last Light Lodge Tuatapere, our stop for the night…. A lovely, friendly powered site with freshly laid eggs, and wonderful baked bread to purchase amongst other seasonal delights as well as a cafe/bar to eat and relax in.

Although mid afternoon when we arrived, the still clear blue skies and warm sun meant laundry was washed and then dried on our handy rope line. We sat out in shorts and t.shirts with a couple of cold beers enjoying a perfect spring afternoon.

Later it was my turn to cook – it mostly is – today’s offering was Prawn curry with a side of mini Naan bread.

Day 7…. A head in hands moment from Long-suffering started our day as he realised the dirty water hose – his department – had been left two overnight stops 320 miles away. All the placating ‘it is not just your fault, I could have checked too’ did nothing to lift his mood. Luckily our site hosts had a level paddock and pliers for the valve and were happy to allow our wash up water to drain straight from the van.   Though fully insured against ‘grey’ moments such as these it was embarrassing having to make the call to Wilderness none the less, not helped by our next destination – one of the remotest places in New Zealand – Milford sound where we would be off grid for at least two days. In the event a replacement pick up point was arranged and we were free to continue on our way. Lesson learned, a dump station tick list was written. 

Leisurely drive to Milford Sound, beautiful and scenic as the winding roads led nearer and nearer to the snow covered mountains.

We made a brief stop first in Te Anau. In contrast to the previous day the rain and wind was back with a vengeance. We walked into town to stretch our legs, for a spot of window shopping and food supplies. We did make one purchase …an umbrella!

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D.O.C. Cascade Creek…. our freedom camp spot for the night. We arrived here with the rain still falling, but nestled as we were below snowy capped mountains it mattered not. There were brief windows of dry in between the showers, enough for Long-suffering and his lens to do battle with the ever present sandflies alongside Cascade Creek. A beautiful, peaceful location to end a day that began so stressful!

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Waterfalls!

Day 5…. After a cold night we awoke early to witness the promised sunrise. Long-suffering had set his alarm with enough time to make his muse a morning brew, allowing her to stay warm and cosy under the covers. The sunrise did not disappoint, well worth the early rising.

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Purakaunui Falls…. Twenty minute easy return walk through mature beech forest and Podocarp. The hard work of the D.O.C. To make these off the beaten places accessible to all – but not spoilt in the process – never ceases to amaze us. This particular track is also wheelchair friendly to the top viewing platform.

Walking through the dense forest vegetation transports you to another world the lichens and smaller ferns and shrubs below the canopy of trees and tree ferns reaching for the sky. Stood out from a backdrop of forest green, the beautiful Kotukutuku (New Zealand Tree Fuchsia) revealed its paler bark beneath peeling orange/red papery layers.

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As we walked over bridges and under tree arches, the rushing water was never far away. We heard the roar of the three tiered falls before we saw it from the higher viewing platform cascading and tumbling down over the tiers.

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A further track took us down to the lower viewing platform where Long-suffering proceeded to set up his tripod only to realise he had forgotten his filters. Despite this hiccup the scene was still captured, with and without his muse, just a lot quicker!

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Back out on the road we set off for our next stop, eventually ending up on another gravel road to get us there, although not before a detour to Florence Hill Lookout a stunning viewpoint over Tautuku Beach.

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Mclean Falls…. easy forty minute return walk.

Again a walk through dense forest over bridges and up steps to view the 22m high falls on the Tautuka River consisting of two falls an upper and a lower.

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Long-suffering remembered all his photography kit this time but almost lost significant parts of it over the edge into the falls…. Gathering his bag, a lens rolled out from the unfastened zip and rolled slowly to the edge, he stood still watching disbelief immobilising him before his trusty muse shouted him into action. He dived, managed to catch the lens but knocked the tripod/camera in the process, luckily the muse was ready with her inelegant stumble and stretch…. tripod saved. Between both our middle age acrobatics much distress was averted!

Tautuku Beach…. A quick detour to walk the beach on the way to our overnight stop.

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Papatowai D.O.C. Campsite….. Our freedom camp stop for the night on the catlins coast with access to the beach and estuary.

Catlin’s Coast

Day 4…. Lighthouse at Nugget Point…we took the main road to Kaka Point and from there the coastal drive up to the Lighthouse. As we drove the heavens opened, rain fell hard then intermittent, finally after an hour we reached the car park, a final shower, after which the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the day.

The short steep walk up to the lighthouse saw sweating man return as his woolly hat and jacket were quickly discarded.

The lighthouse at the point has stood since 1870 warning vessels of rocks and reef below and was manned by keepers until automation in 1989. Looking directly out from the lighthouse across the sea large rocks formed a circular shape, the largest showing a deep hole carved out by the relentless pounding of waves. The noise from the waves and the strong winds were at times deafening I could only imagine how cut off, lonely and exposed the keeper at this remote point may have felt for months at a time. Walking back, Long-suffering ever after his best shot was disappointed the pathway to the higher viewpoints were closed due to the crumbling terrain underfoot.

Cannibal Bay and Surat Bay…. We had it on good authority we may glimpse sea lions here lounging on the beach but first we had to get there! The drive once off the main road changed to gravel tracks, steep, winding, very narrow in places with sheer drops to farmland and sheep below! The few passing places just as treacherous with deep grooves to lose a wheel in, nevertheless we continued on, long-suffering calmly negotiating and his muse holding on for dear life issuing instructions causing his eyes to raise and his mouth to tut at my neurotics – a side effect from my  head on car collision! Eventually all was well and we arrived safe and unbroken, happy to see another motorhome had tried off roading too!

Cannibal Bay was a huge long expanse of flat sand backed by dunes and grassland. Compared to the other beaches we had walked on shells were few, as were the Sea-lions – they were non-existent! We walked to the end in case they were relaxing on the rocks and then through the dunes and grassy flax bordered paths to Surat Bay.

 

A Family two adults and three young children were on the beach the latter with their bright yellow and red coats looking at an upright mound which in turn was watching them….they did seem to keep the required distance of ten metres. The female sea lion was big even at a distance as we entered the beach. She seemed happy to sit even with excited children, Long-suffering immediately got behind the zoom lens, his regular muse had been replaced. 

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After maybe ten minutes her demeanour changed and it was clear we were no longer welcome as she appeared to chase the children who not understanding danger thought it funny although the parents were quick to call them much further back. How quick she moved, ungainly yes but so powerful in her lolloping gait. Moving much further away I managed to get some video footage of this lone female, at one point she had laid down and rolled in the sand, flippers waving in the air. Eventually we were all herded back to where we came in. We left, the family stayed and after it turns out she had a pup nearby. 

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Purakaunui Bay…. Our D.O.C. freedom camp for the night was again reached via a gravel road this one not quite as scary and I was driving – meaning control and less anxiety, for me anyway!

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Only one other camper was parked when we arrived, the grassy parking area had few flat spots some parts the ground dipped dramatically, care was needed with position. We were lucky, getting there early meant we had prime location, side on looking out onto the beautiful bay.

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View from my window

Steep grassy, sheep covered cliffs some vertical barrelled down to the beach on one side, a long narrow creek had carved out a ridge as it met the sea creating a sandy ledge to paddle to. The sea stopped short of coming right in while we were there leaving the sand and rocky beach exposed enabling us to walk around the corner and continue over some amazing rock formations.

Once we had explored our surroundings, long-suffering gathered his camera and kit to capture some seascapes. Meanwhile I grabbed my watercolours and sketchbook and found a suitable rock to perch and try out my first Plein Air watercolour on location! Forty minutes later……..

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Late evening sunset…..

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A Stunning Lookout!

Day 3…. Overnight our van was buffeted and rocked by continuous strong winds, making for a restless sleep – on my part at least! On waking though all was calm and the sun shone, making us eager to get out and do a loop walk along the beaches through Aramoana village before moving on.

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Back over the dunes, we took a right along the first beach toward the mole – a man made breakwater built to protect the harbour – that separated the beaches.

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The sea was calm sparkling under the suns rays. Via a lane track we reached the beach along the spit – a long strip of  land extending into the harbour. A local informed us there could be seals further along, we walked to the far end for a look but any seals had gone fishing. Retracing our steps back to the lane we walked through the village passing a real boat-house on our way back to base.

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D.O.C. Lookout Sandy Mount Track halfway along the Otago Peninsula…. a 45min drive with stunning views to the other side of the harbour with viewpoints along the way took us to this short 30min return walk to the lookout. A steep sandy track but worth the effort for the stunning panoramic views at the top.

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Back at base our packing of the fridge failed miserably, on opening, the box of eggs fell unceremoniously to the floor breaking half the contents. Long-suffering and his muse ‘scrambled’ about getting in each other’s way, making a mucky situation worse, still at least tomorrows breakfast was sorted!

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Royal Albatross Centre…. a short stop here, we did not see any Albatross they were out on the wing fishing, but the red legged seagulls were in abundance and two seals were seen basking on the rocks above crashing waves.

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Our third night we stayed at a basic powered site by the Kaitanga River, really clean with hot power showers and friendly owner. For the next two nights we would be freedom camping. Weather was set fair and supposed to be mostly dry!

Otago Peninsula

Day 2…. A bright start awake to the sound of the resident cockerel and clucking of his girls followed the heavy rain that drummed on our roof for most of the night. The bed was comfy enough to sleep – although I will update the last statement at the end of the trip! After porridge and lovely hot showers we were back out on the open road for our next stop….

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Moeraki Boulders…. are to be found on Koekohe Beach, these mostly perfect spheres, some two metres in diameter were originally formed sixty million years ago. We accessed the beach from the public carpark via the shop and cafe for a small voluntary fee. A Short walk from the boardwalk followed by a few steps took us down onto the beach, with low tide the boulders were perfectly visible in all their oddness, some spaced together others cast off alone embedded in the sand.

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The beach was busy, a popular attraction but long-suffering persevered to get his best shots, the muse took the time to explore the boulders up close and walk further along the shoreline and get her best shots!

Our next stop – the name we gave our motorhomes – Aramoana ‘Pathway to the sea’ – sits north of Dunedin. A small village without shop or streetlights our first freedom camp was situated down a quiet lane towards the beach set just back from the sea and sand dunes.

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The wind was blowing a hooli by the time we arrived late afternoon we needed as many layers as possible. After a quick hot cuppa we were away over the sand dunes to explore. We were not disappointed huge steep cliffs seem to rise up from the beach, a huge tall rock known as the keyhole due to its shaped hole at the top stood as a doorway to the beach the other side.

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Shells covered the beach some making interesting collages. Later as we walked back along the beach towards the dunes and Aramoana 2, a kite surfer was riding the rolling waves the wind whipping him along ever faster.

 

Waitaki Waters

Day 1….. An early start for breakfast meant we could be first in line to pick up Aramoana 2, we had been forewarned by our motorhome rental company ‘it was going to be a busy day of hire contracts’. Three courses later we were ready for off, a thirty minute Taxi ride and we were back at the Wilderness Motorhomes office.

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Lucky for us we were first in and first out after a brief but informative instruction and signing of terms and conditions. Aramoana 2 did not disappoint, one metre longer than her predecessor but identical in width she sported all the mod cons inside with the added luxury of a separate shower and toilet as well as a static bed with access to both sides.

First stop was the nearest supermarket, long-suffering took on the initial drive while I retrieved the shopping list made from menu plans compiled back in England ready for our basic stock cupboard essentials, we even remembered our NZ Four Square shopping bags from Road Trip 1.

Fully stocked Aramoana 2 was ready to transport us to the first of our South Island destinations. The journey south out of Christchurch was mostly flat, but soon enough the landscape changed to undulating hills reminding us of the beautiful Dorset countryside we had left behind. Our longer stay and areas visited in Road Trip 1 will hopefully allow for shorter drives to reach long-sufferings coveted destinations, making for a less rushed trip to complete ‘The Itinerary’.

We reached our first overnight stop Waitaki Waters mid afternoon, a powered site with shower/toilet and kitchen facilities, back up while we unpacked and familiarised with the technical and more mundane features of Aramoana 2.

Waitaki Beach was a short fifteen minute walk from our site along a lane bordered by a few homes and farmland the latter supporting a herd of pretty inquisitive young calves.

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The vast pebble beach stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions reminding us of Chesil Beach in Portland UK, only her larger pebbles made for easier  walking underfoot. From high above, the seascape formed a pattern of clearly defined stripes of colour. Bleached white remains of trees scattered in all directions, a plant graveyard. Waves crashed, white horses frothed , rolling as they headed in to shore. Strong cold winds whipped around us trying to penetrate our generous layers as we walked. We stayed for a while, long-suffering and his muse, capturing the mood of this deserted beach through the traditional lens and although breezy the untraditional drone made its first appearance.

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Back at at base I set to work on the first of our camper van suppers, a meatball medley with pasta spirals enough for two days worth, although Long-suffering did mention the word rations!

 

 

Here We Go Again!

New Zealand has tempted us back for a second time. It would seem that almost as soon as our return home almost three years ago from “our once in a lifetime trip” the long-suffering was secretly toying with the idea of a return.

Never one to plan by halves he has more than doubled our time touring round in a motor home….nine weeks in total. The seasons will be different, early spring to mid summer, packing this time has been challenging to say the least with the extra layers needed to keep warm. Oh and after nine weeks touring we will continue on to three more destinations……in another life he must have been a travel agent/guide

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This Road trip will start from Christchurch on the South Island to Auckland on the North Island a reverse of our previous trip. Our drive will take a different route for the most part although some previous destinations will see us revisit. Again the long- suffering has his brilliant, necessary itinerary however, the extra time factor gives me scope to take us off piste whenever the opportunity should arise!

For long-suffering my ongoing hip issues do give him some relief in our style of flight out. Not for us cramped legs, instead we upgraded to enable me on reaching New Zealand to walk off the plane relatively upright and limp free!

Singapore airlines – I can only comment from an upgraded perspective, worth the extra pennies…..for me emphatically yes. Comfort, food, service were as good as they could be grabbed as we were in the body of a huge Airbus A380-800 for hours on end!

Unfortunately my insomniac tendencies meant sleeping still evaded me for almost the whole flight. I merely tossed and turned exasperated as long-suffering slept peacefully in the intervening periods between movie-time, meals on wheels and losing his wallet…….

In his pyjamas carrying his folded up day clothes the wallet had fallen out of his jeans pocket onto the isle floor en route to the toilet. Unaware and happy back in his luxury seat, waiting for landing in Singapore, a tap on the shoulder by a member of cabin crew soon had him frowning instead.

The exchange went something like this:

‘Hello Mr Mower are you missing something?’  Big smile with his reply ‘Erm Breakfast!’ Tentative reply from cabin crew ‘Well yes…..but maybe something else?’ There followed a confused look and then his face visibly paled as it suddenly dawned on him the familiar lump of his wallet under his backside was missing!

Luckily all was well as a fellow passenger found the wallet before it was kicked beneath a seat, hidden until we had left that plane and were up the air in another to complete our flight to Christchurch NZ…our minds especially my sleep deprived one were working overtime in parallel scenarios of a more stressful ending!

After reaching Christchurch and our hotel without any further mishaps, it was time to explore the city centre. We took the hop on hop off tram to see what changes in and around Cathedral square since our last time here.

More buildings had been rebuilt, the Restart Mall was no more instead the shops there had moved across the road to a brand new mall. A huge new library next door to our hotel overlooked the old cathedral, still in part ruins, however it would seem eventually once the funding is in place this beautiful building will be functional again.

The afternoon was warm and sunny enabling us to sit outside a bar with a couple of cold refreshing local beers, before heading across the road to the Art Gallery.  Finally fatigue set in and it was back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.9478D46F-4028-4AA5-8A18-245A9F1DD08E