Dunedin to the Catlins

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October 2nd 2008
Published: October 2nd 2008
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Sunday 28th September

Great nightʼs sleep but very cold when we awoke. Judy risked it and went for a jog up the beach for an hour or so. Rags meanwhile had a couple of hot coffees whilst watching the local birdlife and scanning the beach. Sometimes having an injury has advantages!

Moeraki Boulders was our first stop, quite different but still a bit disappointing from what we had been led to believe. From here we continued to Shag Point where the road in was lined with beach huts of all descriptions. Most of them were tiny, either the families who stayed in them got on very well or else they put up tents around them. The point itself was interesting but there was no animal life around that we saw. Big patches of kelp dotted the coast here, sometimes it looked like an animal when the leaves surfaced from a swell.

We continued down to Dunedin, arriving at lunchtime. We parked outside the botanical gardens and had our lunch. Its great not having to look for somewhere to eat. The gardens themselves were interesting, showing plants from many different countries as well as Australia. Similarly their bird display had not only their own but also overseas exhibits.

Dunedin is set in the apex of Otago Harbour, an inlet which stretches inland by about 30km. After driving up a very steep road to a lookput over Dunedin we drove along the northern edge towards Port Chalmers, continuing on to the end at Aramoana, where we drove out along a spit then walked to the end. There, several substantive beach houses had been built, they only being accessible by 4wd when the tide was out. When we later drove out to the end of the groyne nearer the entrance we found a bay where there were windsurfers, and a guy kitting up in a very thick wetsuit to go diving for pau (abalone).

We then headed for the other side of the bay, about 30km away, heading for Portobello. At one stage Rags went right rather than left (as he is want to do) and we found ourselves high in the mountains along narrow roads with the edges dropping off many hundreds of metres on Judyʼs side. She was not too happy about this and quite relieved when we eventually returned to the northern shore.

Rather than continue to the end of the peninsula Rags decided to follow a “no exit” road, where we came across the district hall. This had a track down the side of it where it opened up into a large field with clumps of pine trees. Another motorhome had also found this spot and the two of us shared a very private, peaceful campsite.

Monday 29th September

Daylight saving started here yesterday and we didnʼt wake up until 0830. After breakfast we continued up the cape to the Royal Albatross Centre. This was not open for tours as there were birds nesting and they didnʼt want to disturb them. Instead we wandered through the excellent display they had there before facing a very strong, cold wind on the waterʼs edge near the cliffs. Here we saw shags and seagulls nesting as well as 4 or 5 fur seals in the distance. One of the youngsters was having a great time chasing the seagulls.

Just below the centre was a small beach, here we saw another seal asleep in the distance. The area is closed off in the evening to allow people to watch yellow-eyed penguins come up to their nests.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around Dunedin, having a good lunch at Sampan Restaurant, before joining our booked tour of the Cadburyʼs chocolate factory at 1500. The tour was ok, very sanitised and a smooth operation. They are run every 15mins with groups of about 15. A profitable little sideline!

From here we drove the 50kms or so to Balclutha, a regional centre all closed by 1730 when we got here. Jovial welcome given by the manager of the campsite and we settled in for the night after the compulsory walk into the main part of town and some photos of the bridge at the entrance.

Tuesday 30th September

Maybe daylight saving is only in the head, we woke up at 0730 just as we would usually! The first part of the day was spent doing such mundane tasks as the washing, emptying the toilet cassette, draining the grey water tank, filling the water tank, checking the gas cylinder, as well as checking the vanʼs oil and water levels.

Then on to New World supermarket to stock up on a few dayʼs provisions, followed by refuelling of the van.

By then it was nearly 1100 and we set off to our first visit of the day, Jackʼs Blowhole. This is a deep hole about 200m from the beach, requiring a solid 40min walk through paddocks following marker posts and side-stepping sheep sh.. whilst disturbing ewes and lambs (although we did find the easier, new track on the way back). Unfortunately, the tide was out and there was no swell, therefore the blowholes werenʼt.

From here we went to Owaka where we found the library/information centre where we logged onto the internet, through a very slow connection, just managing to check their was nothing of real importance in our email.

The rest of the day could be said to be the day of the “falls” as we visited the Purakaunui Falls, the Matai Falls and finally, the most spectacular, the Mcleans Falls. Some great tramping through the forest, although at times this was in the rain!

From here we headed for Curio Bay, where there is the fossilized remains of a 160 million year old forest which can be seen at low tide. After missing the turn and continuing along a track for some time, looking for a place to camp, we returned to walk on the reef, not really being able to see what is reputed to be there.

We continued around Haldane Bay, looking for a suitable spot to camp to no avail. We reached Stope Point, the most southern point of South Island, still looking. Eventually we found a road to Weir Beach, and as it was now nearly 2000 decided to camp there no matter what the signs said. No worries, at the end of the road was a field designated as Freedom Camping where we could stay for 28 days! A celebratory drink and a hot meal had us set to update our diary and photos.

Additional photos below
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2nd October 2008

Moeracki Boulers
Well how fascinating were the Moeracki Boulders and the Petrified Forest.!!! You must have been a bit disappointed ! The views of Dunedin would have made up for it though. Looks a lovely place. And I was glad you had the right jacket on Judy when you visited Cadbury's. Matched beautifully with the old van ! Love Ya

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