I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Tuesday 19 March 2024

The BIG One - New Zealand - Days 35, 36 and 37

 Wednesday 6th March - Curio Bay

We managed to get a bit of a lie in this morning but it was very cold, 11 degrees and I reckon it had been lower than that!

The site we were on was unusual as the motel rooms are all little chalets mostly done in a different designs.  You can see one in the photos at the end of today.

Our first port of call was Gemstone Beach where, if you are lucky enough, you can find some pretty gemstones.  We found some which, when polished up, might just look nice.  The beach was lovely with the snow capped mountains in the background.

We were driving the scenic route which I was worried might be a bit twisty but, in fact, they were mostly long straight roads.

We drove passed Invercargill which is the southernmost and westernmost city in NZ and one of the southernmost cities in the world.

We wanted to go to Slope Point which is the southernmost point in NZ.  We have now done both the northernmost and southernmost points in NZ. We walked out to what looked a bit like a modern lighthouse where we found the obligatory sign.

Our campsite was only about 10km from Slope Point and was almost on the beach.  Each pitch is divided off by some tall plants, I’ve no idea what they are, but it does give privacy though no view.  The site is right on the sea though it is rocky but we could see a lovely Sandy beach.

We drove through all kinds of different landscapes today, but the mountains seem to always be there. This area is the Catlins and must be home to about 90% of the sheep in NZ!  I have never seen so many along with an abundance of cattle.


Thursday 7th March - Purakaunui Bay

We couldn’t decide where to stop tonight and ended up choosing a DOC site at Purakaunui Beach.

I had on the list three waterfalls to visit today.  We ruled out the first as there was hardly any parking and the entrance to the path was very steep.  The second falls was the McLean Falls, named after Alexander McLean, an Invercargill farmer who made visitors welcome to the area in times before easy access.  The path started out nice and level but soon got rough and stoney.  We had our walking poles with us so strode out to start with but soon slowed down.  There were lots of steps which weren’t easy.  We finally got to the falls and it was certainly worth the effort of getting there.  The return walk didn’t seem to be as hard as all the steps were going down!

Richard is suffering with his left knee so the one waterfall was enough for today.  My new knee is holding up well, but getting in and out of the van is the hardest and hurts a bit.

We pulled in at a scenic point which looked over Tautuku Beach.  It was amazing, the loveliest of beaches but no way down!  I found a sign with a few facts on it which I will impart with you.  The Catlins is sea, coast, forest and farmland.  If it is calm, the fierce southwest wind of the “Roaring Forties” will soon blow in from the sea, but if it wet or stormy, the sun will soon come out and everything will become mild again.  Here are some weather comparisons.  Temperature averages 11 degrees - London is 12 degrees.  Average rainfall is 1200mm - London is 615mm.  Average sunshine is 4.4 hours - London is 4.1.

The phone signal today has been the worst we have had which doesn’t help for finding our way.  I had a rough idea of where Purakaunui Beach was but I got signal just in time for us to turn off the main road and travel 6kms down an unsealed road - it was a bit rough at times.  We found the camping area and parked up looking directly at the beach.

While we were having dinner we watched a seal making its way down the beach, not sure where it had been, and it kept tripping over its flippers and would then roll on his back in the sand.  He appeared to be enjoying himself! He was too far away to take a photo of sadly.

Friday 8th March - Dunedin

We were off grid last night and once again I had a disturbed night!  This time it was heavy rain and quite strong wind which kept coming in, I think it woke me up about 5 times.  There were a few hardy campers in small tents and I was worried about them, however they were all still there in the morning.

We set off for Nugget Point Lighthouse but it was up a steep hill and Richard was worried about his knee and coming down it.  

We did discover that there had been a school at Nugget Point in 1906 for the children of the lighthouse keepers.  Before this they either had to walk 5 miles or be taught at home. As more fishing and farming families settled their children walked up to the Nugget school and in 1922 there were 17 children on the roll.  The school closed in 1936 due to concerns about it’s safety, in gale force winds class was held in the keeper’s house in case the building blew away completely!

We drove to Kaka Point as I thought it was an old port but I had got it wrong and it was Molyneux Bay next door that was.  The bay was named by Captain Cook in 1774 after his sailing master, Robert Molyneux, who died on the voyage.  In 1838 it became the site of a station with the first permanent European settlers, George Willsher and Thomas Russell who arrived in 1840.  Coal and gold mining led to an increase of the necessity for shipping and the harbour was built about 10 miles up the River Clutha.  The town thrived until a major flood in 1878 carried silt down the river and changed the river’s course.  Less than 6 months later a second disaster happened, there was an explosion at the Kaitangata coal mine which killed 34 miners.

We have been amazed at the beaches on the Catlins. They have been huge and gorgeous.

We stopped at Waihola Lake for lunch and watched the seagulls huddled down in the wind.

We had been seeing a lot of Triumph sports cars on the roads and discovered today that 15 of them had left Cape Reinga at the top of North Island to drive down to Bluff at the bottom of South Island - I think we must have seen all 15 of them.

We found our campsite for the next three days in Dunedin.  It’s not a bad site - we have stayed at worse!


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