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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Southland » Catlins
December 27th 2006
Published: December 29th 2006
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Butcher's Gulley - Table Mountain TorButcher's Gulley - Table Mountain TorButcher's Gulley - Table Mountain Tor

A really weird landscape - tussock grass, wild thyme and these ridiculous schist outcrops stretching for miles - all down the Clutha (Clyde) valley
Not the group - the weather.

It has been particularly atrocious for mid-summer I douibt if we've had 3 decent days in a row. Boxing Day started off promisingly enough - the previous night's rain had eventually stopped. We phoned home, where it was still Christmas Day and then packed up a still damp tent and left Wanaka.

We travelled South through Roxburgh, Ettrick and other very Scottish sounding names - and the sun came out with ferocious intensity and it suddenly got really hot. The scenery had changed and we were in bare brown stony hills like you get in cowboy movies and car adverts. We noticed the familiar green and gold of a DOC scenic reserve and turned off the main road for a walk around a lake. The lake turned out to be a reservoir, which had flooded Butcher's Gully, an old town from gold rush days, beneath it. It was on with the sun hat and the sun tan lotion (factor 30) for me: Willy is just turning an ever-deeper shade of brown. The photos show what it looks like, but don't convey the smell. It stank of wild thyme - it was so profuse, at first we thought the hillside was covered in heather.

Lunch was a pie in Roxburgh (Jimmy's Famous Pies, Scotland Street, Roxburgh, NZ). Then on towards the south coast and the Catlins National Park.

The south coast looks much like the Northumbrian Borders, rolling hills, some woodland and lots of sheep.

We stopped at a little shop in Fortrose to enquire about a camp site - and were offered a spot in their back garden. This came complete with barbecue, gazebo and great views out towards the Antarctic: a fairly desolate kind of view.

We went for a walk along the coast, but the rain came back on! We returned to the campsite for a dull dinner: bread cheese and salad again.

Overnight, the wind got up and the rain started lashing down in earnest. We hadn't guyed the tent - we were in a sheltered back garden, but the wind chose the direction that had least shelter. Fortunately the tent stayed up, but first time in a gale is always a little worrying for campers, so we didn't sleep particularly well (again) and were back on the road by about 7.30 am.

We drove along the coast looking for breakfast - and on the way saw a sign to Niagara Falls, which we thought worthy of investigation. It was the same shape as its more famous namesake, but there the simailarity ended - it had about a 6 inch drop and that was after a night of heavy rain.

Breakfast and coffe improved morale somewhat and we went off to see a proper waterfall, then found a motel in nearby Owaka and chilled for the afternoon. The internet cafe in Owaka had ironically decorated the interior with sheets of rusty, corrugated iron. (or was it ironic? maybe it's what passes for stylish in this area?)

Today was a bad day for photos, as one camera won't zoom at all and the other has dying batteries.

In the evening, we went to see very rare yellow eyed penguins - cute and shy little things. A minor drama on the way when a barefoot teenaged foreign girl leapt out into the middle of the road in front of us. She had skidded off the road on loose gravel and the car was balanced over a culvert, having come to a halt against a post. We suggested she ask at a nearby house and get either a breakdown truck or a tractor to tow here out. She'd gone by the time we got back, so must have found a tractor: but it does remind you how vulnerable you are to silly accidents like that on these crap unsealed roads.

Next morning we retraced our steps to see the Purakannui falls - (I fear that we've become waterfall junkies) then headed east towards Dunedin. Planned to stop in Balclutha the main local town but on getting there found it to be about as big and interesting as Broadford on Skye on a wet Sunday. Decided to head on to Dunedin and maybe go and see the albatrosses on the Otago peninsula to cheer ourselves up. We were feeling a bit down combination of lack of sleep and bad weather.

By the time we got to the Otago peninsula weather was looking doubtful so we stayed in another motel . We were by now thoroughly dispirited and didn't go out at dusk, so missed our chance to see little blue penguins. Instead we chilled... I watched star wars and brat pack on TV.
Niagra Falls NZNiagra Falls NZNiagra Falls NZ

We were accosted by yet another friendly dog. Falls were so named by early map maker with a sense of humour
The weather forecast was for more rain, with hail and snow on high ground. Summertime and the living is easy - my ass!

Another bright promising morning so set off at crack of dawn (well 7.30) to the Royal Albatross Centre. Arrived before it was open but got on the first tour off the day and saw albatrosses, Chatman Island shags, a few seals and lots of other seabirds. Unfortunately my only successful picture of the albatrosses doesn't do them justice when seen beside gulls its like seeing sparrows besides buzzards, their wing span is a phenomenal 9ft and they just cut effortlessly through the air.

The birdflife is one thing that never lets you down in this country that and the trees unlike the bloody weather.















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Pourakanoui FallsPourakanoui Falls
Pourakanoui Falls

Actually quite impressive - not surprising given the amount of rain there's been lately
View from motel over Dunedin BayView from motel over Dunedin Bay
View from motel over Dunedin Bay

Rainyday New Zealand no 24 or 25
Albatross - Otago PeninsulaAlbatross - Otago Peninsula
Albatross - Otago Peninsula

We actually got quite a decent view of them on their nests from the hide but this was the only shot I managed to get of one flying
Wendy's 2nd BreakfastWendy's 2nd Breakfast
Wendy's 2nd Breakfast

It was apple strudel, strawberries and ice cream honest


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