Friday, January 08, 2016

Exploring the Catlins

I'm staying at Pounawea Motor Camp, just a few kilometres from Owaka, down on the banks of the estuary. It's a truly lovely camp, with lots of native bush all around, and lots of friendly people staying here, many of them Kiwi families at this time of year. (For some reason there are not so many tourists in campervans here - maybe because it is slightly off the main route.) I'm sitting writing this in view of the water, which is at low tide. I was woken up by a very noisy dawn chorus, with some bird sounds I don't think I have heard before. A tui has just flown right by my chair. This really is a piece of heaven.

Yesterday morning I took a walk through the Pounawea Scenic Reserve that is signposted from just near my tent. I took the 'long' version which is marked as suitable for low tide.

The first half was through native bush, until you emerged out on the estuary, then you walk back to camp via the estuary. This estuary is formed from the Catlins River, which has pooled into a 'lake', and just down the road the Owaka River also joins in, so it is an important estuary.

I hadn't walked far before I spotted a spoonbill fishing. I found this quite exciting since I had seen a spoonbill colony on the cliff at Nugget Point. They seem like they are too big to find a safe roosting spot on a cliff!

Next I spotted a solitary bird that seemed to me to be a migratory godwit, though I could be mistaken. If it is a godwit, it's come an extra long way from Alaska.

After my slow start I headed across to Surat Bay, just a bit further down the estuary where the rivers meet the sea. I was hoping to see a sea lion. When I first arrived there were some people gathered in the distance watching several, but they all took off for the water. I walked further along the beach, not noticing any more sea lions, though I was aware they might be in the dunes. I was at the tail end of my walk, when suddenly I could sea a sea lion come ashore in the distance. It moved a long way across the sand, periodically lying down and rolling in it, or flicking sand over itself. (And no, I was not this close: I used my zoom lens.)

Finally it reached the place it had clearly aimed for, another sea lion came out of the dunes to greet it, then they both lay down resting in the sand. There were some very informative boards about the sealions. Apparently it is nearly all males here, and at this time of year their numbers are reduced as many travel down to the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands for the breeding season. But just before I finally exited the beach there was another one- swimming around in the estuary, diving like a dolphin, then coming up again for breaths.

I had a long day planned from here. I wanted to see Curio Bay near the other end of the Catlins, but low tide this week wasn't going to coincide with my 'leaving' the area. So I planned a round trip for the day, and will now return to Balclutha to take a more inland route to Invercargill.

Next spot on my visiting list was Purakaunui Falls. And they were indeed very pretty falls.

A local who was there though said the water flow was very low at present. She said that in November you needed a raincoat on the viewing platform.

The south of the country keeps surprising me with its beautiful bays.

I drove all the way to Fortrose, where there was a big sand spit area, then took the coastal route to get to Slope Point. This is the southernmost point of the South Island. The trees that are nearby are blown sideways.

Even the tussock and flower heads on the little grasses near the point are in permanent sideways position. But I struck a day with only the slightest of breezes, and ended up taking off my jersey as it was too warm!

And here is a very rare blog photo of me, at Slope Point, the southernmost point of the South Island.

Finally, I was off to see Curio Bay, where there are petrified remains of trees from Jurassic times. Again, there were informative boards. There was a huge flood in the area, and a whole lot of volcanic ash got washed down to the coast, taking trees with it. Because of the silica content in the ash, the trees became impregnated with it, and thus were petrified very quickly, before the wood could decay.

So that was the end of a busy day of exploring. All that remained was for me to drive back to my peaceful haven of Pounawea. And today I intend yo have a camp-cation, only venturing out near the estuary, and up to Owaka...



  1. Wow you are cramming in so much Margaret These photos are extra beautiful - the Spoonbill, and yes what looks to be a godwit (so lucky!) and the sea lions - handsome brutes! lol and love the old wee house in the paddock alone - what history in there I wonder eh? the beautiful falls - what is it that we should be so fascinated by these .....dripping water! and the petrified trees - so many, many years of history all round. Wonderful trip you are having!

  2. WOW Margaret, what a stunning day! You have captured so many incredible shots and moments in the South! I really must introduce you to Anne-Louise as you two are travelling the same route virtually....