Friday, 1 December 2017
The Catlins, Southlands, 29 Nov to 3 December
The Catlins is an old area of South Island that is now predominantly fishing, farming and food in the shape of Blue Cod!
This fish is a specialty of the region and we make the most of it.
Our house sits on the top of a hill with commanding views. But the house is a relic of the 50s, complete with pink bathroom fittings, lurid carpet and no WIFI! But we cope and the library has free WIFI which we use every day.
We take a trip to Nugget Point to see seals and penguins, but my camera dies on me and I'm stressed by the lack of a charger. It's so windy we are almost blown backwards by the lighthouse. The views are amazing, we spy many seals lolling around on the beach and a few chasing each other through the tumbling waves.
An historic tunnel beckons but we are without torches (how inconvenient not to have our backpacks glued to our backs!) so we peer into the darkness - there is light at the end of the tunnel!
It is very sad that in NZ, as in Australia, the regional lines have been closed, except here freight still uses some lines. This would have been a scenic rail journey not to be missed.
I get the distinct impression that I'm in Hobbit Central with the trees, the hills and the cows and sheep, although there are locals who think there are now too many cows in the area and the sheep are being pushed out. I must find another sheep souvenir to join my black sheep that Mopsy has tried to destroy.
Our next day trip is to Purakaunui Falls. These would be spectacular but because it hasn't rained for ten days, they are a sorry imitation of their normal glory.
The roads are all in excellent condition, not ruined by heavy haulage, but occasionally we hit gravel and the dry weather has made them very slippery - I nearly hit the ditch much to my surprise!
We drop into Lumberjacks Restaurant to make a dinner booking and stay chatting to a couple who have cycled from Auckland to Stewart Island (where we met them in the Backpackers), then up to Dunedin and home to Canada. They tell us to go to an extraordinary attraction called the Lost Gypsy at Papatowai. So we do. And boy oh boy is it odd. Blair Somerville, a would-be engineer, has cobbled together an amazing array of rustic automata in the world. Richard is in his element and even I am intrigued as I wander through the various displays. Blair's imagination knows no bounds.
Before we head into the restaurant, we spy the open door to a, as yet unopened, book shop. We call out to Tori, the owner, and ask if she would take pity on some bookless tourists! We walk in and browse the 1000s of books she has displayed, and spend 15 minutes chatting about which books are missing from my collection. We buy two heavy tomes (Katherine Mansfield's anthology and Marcus Clarke's For the Term of his Natural Life) that we may regret once we shoulder our backpacks again.
Dinner at Lumberjacks is superb - no photos sadly but we have booked for tomorrow night, our last night in the Catlins, so I'll take some photos then. I had to ask the waitress to correct the dessert menu - Eton mess doesn't have an a in Eton!! Can't help myself, sorry.
As we sit watching Sky News, thunder claps disturb the air and the tv cuts out. We look outside and sure enough, dark clouds rumble across the hill top and dump a small amount of rain, which will only serve to lay the dust on the gravel roads and wash some of the dirt off our car.