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New Zealand – Catlins / Scenic Drive / Pounawae – 20th-21st Dec

A windy night ensured some light sleeping in the swaying van over night but waking to find a seal outside your van is a nice morning surprise. This is perhaps the most scenic spot we have camped at looking straight out toward huge waves crashing in. We were hoping to hire surf boards but as we couldn’t get any cash from anywhere we just packed up and went onwards along the Caitlins scenic route.

We ended up having quite a sightseeing day starting with a much needed coffee at the Whistling Frog Cafe on the road toward the McLean Falls which is where we were headed next. We walked up to the base of the falls which at 25 minutes return was a little quicker than the 45 minute forest walk advertised on the Southern Scenic Route info. We soon found out that they were way off on their timings after walks to the Matai Falls and the Purakaunui Falls, we also felt like we were suddenly on a tour of New Zealand’s waterfalls. They’re all lovely though with Purakaunui coming out top and also attracting the most tourists.

As we followed the route round we came across the Lost Gypsy Curios shop and gallery in Papatowai. This place is very intriguing and full of surprises and quirks. Containing old and the forgotten we spent some time playing with the gadgets, reading the funny signs and taking it all in. You can’t miss this place as there is a dummy outside holding a ‘Curios’ sign and the main gallery is housed in an old bus. Before making our way all the way round to Pounawae we decided to back track and visit Cathedral Caves, open only 2 hours either side of low tide. So we got there not long after 3pm and paid the $5 entrance fee, we were the first people on the beach which is private access only and along with a few other sight-seers we went to explore the caves.

It was only just low-tide so we had to climb onto rocks in order to get into the caves and make sure we were far in enough to avoid the tide coming in. We were able to loop round to another cave entrance where more shallow waves were splashing in but it was getting less and less. They were fairly impressive caves and the walk to and from the car-park is equally as enjoyable. We had a good chat with the warden about the caves and local birds and the like, the carpark was full so whoever is running this attraction is certainly doing okay!

When we continued along the road we stopped off in Owaka the Caitlins largest town with a sort of cash machine at the 4-square, accommodating only New Zealand account holders! We were able to pay on card though which was a good thing and so we stocked up and then made our way to the lovely Pounawae Bay where we would spend the next two nights at the Pounawae Motor Camp (lovely owners and really good facilities).

The following day we drove to Surat Bay, it’s not that far from Pounawae at all but we were heading for Jack’s Blow Hole straight after which was too far to walk. Surat Bay is a beautiful untouched bay stretching for a mile or so. Seals try to cool themselves in the sand whilst flies pester them and we also came across a dead seal and the remains of a sheep, harsh life!! Aside from this though we enjoyed a really nice walk along the full stretch of the bay as the sun came out to warm us. From now on the weather was looking to be good through to Christmas so we were happy about this.

When we left Surat Bay we drove west to Jack’s Blow Hole which includes a pleasant 30 or so minute walk to the hole. This blowhole is in the middle of a farmers field some 50 meters or so from the cliff edge. The waves come through to the hole underground and crash against the walls of the hole pretty much all the time, although high-tide is probably more impressive. It’s a pretty awesome sight though in terms of what is happening there. It’s closed off during the sheep-sheering season too which gives you an idea of its location.

By the afternoon we simply decided to chill out back at the campground, we were more than happy to read, work on the blog and cook some nice food before getting ready for our next drive to the Otago Peninsula the next morning.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0, Leica 90mm f/2.8, Zeiss 18mm f/4 ZM processed in Lightroom 3)

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