Monday, February 3, 2014

Austrian visitors learn how to swim - from a Dolphin

Monday, February 3, 2014
oldbearnews editor 
Time to leave Invercargill behind, but not before Mamabear lead us on a merry go round on a search for Petrol.  That was semi funny as we then ended up driving past 15 Churches (all of different denominations) and the buildings were grand in many cases.  I do wonder how full they are on a Sunday and how much use they get during the week and if indeed they are a millstone round their neck.  In any case - one last look at the statue and - Catlins - here we come!! Wohoooo
A rugged, sparsely populated area, the Catlins features a scenic coastal landscape and dense temperate rainforest, both of which harbour many endangered species of birds, most notably the rare yellow-eyed penguin. Journey through the rural heartland and podocarp forests, past rugged coastlines, hidden lakes and stunning waterfalls, magnificent coastal cliffs and headlands, long sweeping beaches, coves and sandy bayy. The natural landscapes are enthralling and the wildlife is extraordinary. The coast attracts numerous marine mammals, among them New Zealand fur seals and Hooker's sea lions (as well as Humans) :)   In general terms the area enjoys a maritime temperate climate. Its exposed location leads to its frequently wild weather and heavy ocean swells, which are an attraction to big-wave surfers, and have also caused numerous shipwrecks. the Catlins is a fascinating, and very much a rugged place and very very much “off the beaten track.”
The Catlins’ southern location bestows (now there is a fancy word)  upon us long summer days, perfect for exploring. Vivid sunsets and long twilight evenings lead to ideal star-gazing opportunities. Rainy days bring fresh growth to pastures and forest, while strong winds shape the forests and raise impressive waves along the coast. Come prepared to enjoy dynamic weather conditions.  ok - how am I doing as a Telemarketeer  - trying to sell our Country? ? ?

The largest township is Owaka with a population of almost 400 people.  People have lived in the area since around 1350 AD. Prior to European settlement, the region was sparsely inhabited by nomadic groups of Māori, most of whom lived close to river mouths. In the early days of European settlement the area was frequented by whalers and sealers, and saw milling became a major local industry from the mid-19th century until the 1930s. Eco-tourism has become of growing importance in the Catlins economy, which otherwise relies heavily on dairy farming and fishing.  It has one of the last large remaining natural or should be original bush standing in our South Island - if you seen this you will know what the rest of the South Island looked like originally before the farmers came and decided to have a bit of space for grazing sheep . . . . .   hmm must go and find an original picture of Awaka from before 1900 and show HOW much it has changed . . .

Of to Cuiro bay - a place where nature has preserved trees as in petrified them.  The trees are either lying flat along the ground - or are left as stumps. 
A former Rimu Tree perhaps????
It is known for its big swells (due to the southern winds) and rugged coast line's - so great for surfing - or taking pictures

Yes that's me - bravely venturing forth to take a super sized swell picture of wave action - and no - I avoided getting soaked
hmmmm a free shower awaits the unwary
Just to prove it - we had yet another blue sky!!
On the other side of the hill is porpoise bay.  There is a camping ground that is often well populated in summer, for it has a lovely beach safe for swimming and surfing and - yes some 30 resident hectors Dolphins.
This group went in the water and got looked after by the local water police - dolphins.
Not to be outdone - our Austrians decided to be brave as well - and taste the 12- 15 degree water temperature.
It may have been on the upper limit as the bay is reasonably flat and sheltered - but rest assured the water is very cold - we are after all drawing it from the southern ocean - a two step away from Antarctica.
Will this hurt? Will this dunk me? Is the wave coming yet? Will we go under?   Will it be cold? 
Amazingly we did capture a dolphin surfing the waves - the rest of the time there were just cruising forwards and backwards across the bay.
So THIS is the WATER-tower for the campsite and the mural is to stop the graffiti and the reason THIS image was taken by all accounts is:  that - we liked the 'bird'!!
It is true.  Trust me!!   :) 
Ever since we had  our two little boys and they loved water and getting wet, playing with or near it we have two towels in the car - and they came in handy AFTER the swim!!

Lunch was at an un-assuming cafe in the former school of the super sized city of - Niagara! Seems early New Zealand settlers had a bit of humour - one of the many waterfalls in the Catlins was named after Niagara.  These particular falls reached the dizzying heights of - wait for it - 20 cm!! However we are told the layout does resemble a teeny weeny bit of the major falls in North America. So the joker who discovered the NZ Niagara falls named them after the original.  The budding town nearby was named after that in same vain.  These days it has half a dozen houses and more eco-tourism holiday homes and - yes one cafe in the former school hall.  Lunch was great - especially as one of the cooks picked up on Doris being Vegan and made her a special salad something rather.  Turns out (well the medals on display along with the photograph were big clues) that she is/was a Olympic medallist in London 2012.  It is not every day you get cooked for by an Olympic. winner!!!! ^^

check this out ---->   www.niagarafallscafe

Time to move along and find more gems. Next up - Lake Wilkie. Seeing it has no natural in- or outlet - it is what is called a dis-appearing lake.  There is a short stroll on a boardwalk from the car-park and several signs up explaining HOW mother nature converts the lake back into solid forest floor.  Along the way - more of the ferns / trees / birds you are already familiar with from Westcoast.

The lake.  Go and see it because it might not be round for much longer :)
Showing the guests where moss does what and how and why . . . .
Probably the best of the koru's we saw on our trip!!!
I dunno what possessed him.
Did he turn into a tree-hugger??
Did the lunch go to his - urm - brain?
Was he thinking of taking it back to Christchurch - for Elisabeth - or even take it with him to Austria?
Or is it a practise hug for when we drop him of at the Airport?
Has he got a bet going we do know nothing about?
Come on little Bro - time to fess up and tell the truth . . . . . . .
Just on the other side of Lake Wilkie is Tautuku Bay - and a grand bay it is. Especially from the lookout point. There was this cow and she is / was a real poser - not moo-ving along but letting everyone take her picture.
Speaking of Tautuku - there used to be a politician in NZ Parliament with same name . . . and he was - well - grandiose - or at least he thought so.  Our boys seeing Bay that at the time then picked up on that . . . .  clever boys I got!!
I am sure there also was a wreck of sorts buried in the sand - or is it my imagination.  Will have to go back over old pictures.  From there it was forwards to the  next stop.  Sadly we encountered a rather oddly behaving 7-seater white minivan, who was intend on driving to 50km/hr and not one dot quicker. This involved breaking (yes breaking) UP-HILL on a straight piece of road and every time she got close to 60km/hr.   Several choice *cough* thoughts later . . .   (wasn’t allowed to swear with passengers on board :)  )
      The thing is - she should have realized what her actions are doing and pulled over.  Something not many people - and especially camper-van-tourists are not doing (pulling over and letting everyone pass safely).  When you're slow - you hold up other traffic users and they get frustrated and end up doing things that may well be lethal.  As it is, the guy in front of mamabear overtook said slow driver and coming to a blind corner - he had no idea what might be coming round. Stupid all round!!    We had done about 2500km by then and we have nearly seen it all.  The trip could have been almost fatal to start with when a driver of a big Humvee in our oncoming traffic decided to check on his cellphone and he passed Mamabear ok - but in-between her and me - his front wheel started crossing the centre line and THANKFULLY he realized his mistake and corrected. For a second or two I thought we were gonners.  I had tracked his wheel for a while and was just thinking - action required and looked at the grass berm . . . . .    I do not think our visitors in the back seat realized what has gone on - they were to busy to take in the landscape.  Pheeewwwwwww   just as well eh ^.-  
One lane bridge near Greymouth with the "give way" sign on the left. Crafty buggers combined the bridge with rail!!
As it is, later in the day I was (and I had right of way) on a one-lane bridge and was at halfway point when I saw this minivan coming in at speed and entering the bridge too.  I think this particular tourist has not paid attention to the signs either and and just assumed - backwards road and country and people - that he has got right of way.  Well this time I stood my ground and he reversed out - much to Mamabear's amusement who watched everything from behind me . . .   and later mentioned that this reminded her of the Mexican standoff.  Sod he was - it took him 2 minutes to realize his mistake!

 Anyway - we went to the fabled and much admired and probably the most scenic Water fall in the Catlins - the Purakanui Falls.  To get there you have to drive over what still is a common sight on many side roads - ordinary shingle - and of course in summertime when it is dry it is - very dusty.  So I had to follow Mamabear and - yes as the saying goes - can't she me for the dust . . .

Mind you - it was just as well that no one was behind us - I think I left more dust clouds then the old Gal' did!!
Guess who's gotta wash that car???  This from a 10 minute drive to the Falls.  Mamabear remembers a time in NZ when going to Mount Cook involved long stretches of the road on shingle and also the main highway 1 to Picton from Christchurch was un-seald until sometime after the Wahine disaster.  This is more of a reflection on the flow of traffic or lack thereof at the time - not many cars before the Wahine drove up to Picton.  The Wahine was a overnight car ferry to Wellington and she sunk just off the Wellington coast in a terrible classic Nor-west storm!  From there Picton became a major port and everyone soon drove to Picton and caught the Ferry from there, whence the need to seal and improve the road leading up there.  There is no longer a overnight boat service from Christchurch.    hmmmm I digress (and contemplate being lead car on the way back out . . . . . )
The walk in is short and nice - and cool and refreshing. Typical NZ stream site.  Hmmm If I had my tri-pod I could set up mid- stream and take a long term exposure that will lighten the colours and make the water more satin looking and - ahhhh bugger - I did leave it at home - space and weight - you know.  Hmmmm next time
The fabled falls - themselves.  Curious thing - Range Rover had a advertizing campain in the 1980's or later and they had a rover parked right across (and left looking) on the bottom terrace and we had seen this poster prior to getting there with the family earlier. The inference (and tag line) was that a Rover car will get you anywhere.  Well let me tell you - there is NO WAY that you could have driven in there.  The only way to get the rover in is either drop it in via helicopter - or do what everyone is doing - use  Photo-shop and lie!!!!

Not sure which of us three took this image and whether it was intended to be like that - but it is noticeable for its sparkle = which is only in the picture - and not seen in real life :) still makes for a good photo!!

 Most people take the images straight and front on from the very obliging platform. However - with a bit of cunning - leg gymnastics and a dash of daring along with some mountaineering skills - you can climb over a couple of mini rocks and simply step of the platform and use nature from the side and get a much better look!!  Cousin Doris did wonder why I was lying on my tummy for a good length of time.  I used the nearest rock as a makeshift Tripod - thus locking down the camera and have it nice and steady giving me the opportunity for a long time exposure.  This did not turn out half bad????  We also saw a German couple that I had briefly spoken to at the Porpoise bay beach -( they have spent 2 nights there (and saw some amazing penguins and other sights) and she - yes she - had one of those very expensive looking Canon lenses (again - making me green with envy) and we briefly discussed F-stops and so forth!!   All good
Soon it was time to go and wave good by to the Catlins - a quick loo stop at Balclutha (and a missed opportunity to look for more badges) and on to Dunedin where we checked in our urm - well unit and - back out again - met Mamabear's sister for dinner (comedy of errors that proved to be - with instructions where we meet becoming garbled).  Meeting we did and had lunch urm - ok DINNER back in town - and from there it was meant to be back to their newly bought house for afters.  Well we had two cars and the evening light was such,  I knew it was NOW or NEVER - so Bernhard and Jeff and myself trundled down to the very Gothic railway station.  It is not much used these days (certainly not for regular passenger movement) but is used for a tourist excursion up Taeri gorge and of course a bit of freight.  Bernhard pleased that he had the opportunity to snap away.  Never seen him walking so fast from location to location :D.  There was one single guy working in the building and everything was shut - but a knock knock on the window and a brief sop-story about train-buff-guy from Europe and only here for the night and gone 6 am tomorrow and - thanks to the friendly NZ attitude we were given a brief access to the interior. 

Looking good - and well maintained - it is a major tourist attraction.  Hmmm what if they bring the Kingston Flyer here ? ? ?  Now there is a thought!!!!
If you can read the fine print - you doing well!!
See the moon - luckily for us - it was a new moon and so it meant we did not see any moon while at Tekapo - and that of course made for much much better star gazing . . . . .
Admiring the Sunset - before realizing this will be the last night on the Road.  Tomorrow night - yes - I will be back in my own bed - ahhhh anticipating bliss already!!

bear print

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