Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Catlins: Wet, but Wonderful

This past weekend I hitched a ride with my flatmate Julia and her friends as we made our way down to The Catlins region on the southeast coast for a one-night camping extravaganza.  (Though New Zealand definitely has me missing the convenience of having my own car, I’m enjoying being the tag-along for once.  Much less stress!)  Honestly I hadn’t heard of the Catlins before Julia mentioned the open van seat, but a quick web search left me drooling over pictures of beautiful coastline, waterfalls, and penguins.  How could I say no?  I got my gas money ready.  And even though this last excursion left me sneezing, coughing and bed-ridden for a day, I’m sure you’ll soon agree the sites were well worth it.

Stop I - Roaring Bay
After driving for nearly two hours and getting a little antsy while watching the amazing scenery roll by the van windows, we made our first stop at Roaring Bay.  It promoted penguin viewing, but alas!  Thwarted again.  I guess the Bay itself kinda made up for it...

[Cheesy pose?  Maybe... or maybe I was just trying to hugging myself against the freezing ocean breeze.
Photo by Alicia M.] 

[Picture of Roaring Bay when we first rolled up]

[After following a steep gravel path, we were able to get a bit closer.  There was a smaller, even steeper muddy path that led to the water’s edge, but since it was ‘penguin time’ (after 4 pm) we weren’t allowed to get too close.]

Stop II - Nugget Point
Another five minute drive and we were finally there - Nugget Point.  This had been on both Julia’s and I’s list thanks to our geology/env. science backgrounds.  I guess New Zealand is the place to be if you get easily excited about cool-shaped rocks...

[The lighthouse we walked out to...]

[The Nuggets!]

[The shot of our path snaking back to the carpark. On our way back, we were greeted by many fur seals taking a break from the waves in some small pools.  The babies were so cute as they flopped from pool to pool.  Too far away for a picture, but definitely adorable :) ]

[Nuggets & Me]

Stop III - Curio Bay
Back in the car for another two hour drive!  Just as we were leaving Nugget Point, a light drizzle started up.  As we rolled into our campsite for the evening, the rain was coming down in buckets and with no signs of stopping.  I was thoroughly soaked after setting up our too-large, four-man tent (in the dark, I might add).  While camping right on the coast might be nice on a warm, clear night, the cold, strong winds we had to endure were not so pleasant.  Our tent was taller than the ferns and grasses that surrounded our campsite, so we dealt with tent sides slapping us in the face nearly every five seconds as we tried to shield our ears from the pounding rain.  At one point, our rain fly even tore off (thank goodness it was during a brief break in the precipitation), and we had to go digging for the stakes in the mud.  Definitely not the ideal situation... but eventually exhaustion took over and the three of us staying in the tent somehow got a couple hours of sleep.  Thanks to my rain-drenched hair, I woke up the next day sniffling and sneezing.  Greeaaat.  At least we were heading home after just a couple more stops...

[Curio Bay, near our campsite.  This was taken the morning after our wonderful camping experience.  Still a little grey, but much nicer than just a few hours beforehand...]

[The kelp was EVERYWHERE.  Apparently this is pretty common (my CA flatmate made fun of me as I freaked out over my pictures), but I’ve never seen anything like it.  They reminded me of beached squid carcasses... at least they felt like I imagine squid to feel.]

[Huge, crashing waves!]

[The rock platforms (for lack of a better geological term) were so pretty as the wave water ran down their sides...]

[Soooo pretty]

[We were pretty high up, but the waves were still coming in close]

Stop IV - Petrified Forests
So, I don’t know what I was expecting after hearing the term ‘Petrified Forests.’  Guess I got my tree-loving hopes up a little too much... but it was still cool.  Just a little rocky for my taste.  We went here after packing up at Curio Bay:

[Closest thing to a penguin that I’ve found yet]

[Petrified Tree.  It took a while to start seeing them in the rocks, but after we found our first few, they started popping out everywhere.]

[Warm little pools stuck in between the petrified trees/rocks]

Stop V - McLean Falls
After a refreshing stop at a cafe (where I got the biggest, fluffiest scone I have EVER eaten), we made our way to the waterfalls.  A fifteen-minute walk into the rainforest, and this is what we found...

[McLean Falls]

[More McLean.  We were standing RIGHT there.  I didn’t zoom in for this picture at all.]

[A shot of our rainforest path]

Stop VI - Cannibal Bay
Finally, on our way back home.  I was having a good time enjoying the beautiful sights, but the sinus pressure was getting worse and worse with every hour.  One more stop, and then I was happy to be heading back to Dunedin.

[Quick shot of the countryside on our way to the Bay.  Pretty breath-taking, huh?]

[Cannibal Bay.  This bay was much flatter than the other ones we had visited, giving it a beach-ier feel]

[A friend we met on the beach, though this big guy wasn’t too happy to be disturbed during nap time.  My first sea lion!  And he was almost as scary as he was cute.  Don’t think I’ll be getting that close again - he moved a bit faster than anticipated.]

[Hillside at Cannibal Bay.  Note both the sideways tree (all of them were like that permanently due to the strong sea winds) and the sheep (a whole field of them right next to the beach - only in NZ).]

An hour and a half later, and we were finally home.  I got to see quite a bit (just a fraction of what the Catlins have to offer), but I was pretty excited to take a warm shower, put on my sweats, and crawl into bed.  I slept quite a bit the next day, went through a couple packs of tissues and a jug of orange juice on Monday, and was good to go by Tuesday night.  Thank goodness it was a short cold - such a small price to pay for the nice visit.

Granted I can get through some more schoolwork in the next two days (I decided to stick with all of my classes despite still feeling a little overwhelmed), a few friends and I have decided to stay around the Dunedin area and do some exploring here this coming weekend.  Otago Peninsula (and penguins, darn it!!!), here I come!


  1. Gosh, Elz, every shot is a postcard! Simply amazing ~ and gorgeous! The sea lion was very cool, but, yeah, you should probably keep your distance and use the zoom. As to the penguins, be sure someone has a video camera when you finally find them, for I am sure you are going to tackle at least one and take it home! : ) just kidding, of course. Glad to hear you kept your schedule; though it will be tough, I know it would have been harder for you if you had not completed it all. Keep writing, keep shooting. Loving you, Mom

  2. What incredibly beautiful photos. Is so makes me want to pack my bags, book my flight, and fun away!!! Keep the posts coming and continue to have the time of your life. Beth