To the right…

Having  gone left yesterday, today we went right. The plan was to go all the way to Waipapa Lighthouse and then work our way back but we were distracted by the Lost Gypsy Gallery which at first glance seemed to fit the bill to be in Owaka – rusty old bits of bicycle fashioned together and a ramshackle caravan. 
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However, we were soon mesmerised by the quirky, ingenuity of the ‘lost gypsy’.  A hundertwasser style coffee shelter with coloured glass bottles embedded in bench seats and  walls along with a myriad cornucopia of cogs, wheels, old tools, coins and anything else I recognised from my dad’s collection of tins in his shed.  The ‘temptation’ button tempted us (and everyone else who went past!) and our transgressing was rewarded by being sprayed with water.
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Inside the old caravan is packed with an amazing array of inventive engineering using aforementioned bits and bobs of everyday life. All those things my Dad hoarded because they might come in useful; springs, wires, string, bolts,  nails, cogs, wheels artfully blended with shells and driftwood with snippets of cartoons, interesting newspaper cuttings, pithy sayings and political satire thrown in for good measure.  Press a button and a wee train runs around a shelf above your head activating lights, jingles and other stuff. Kaleidoscopes,  light boxes, mechanical trompe d’oeil – the more you looked, the more you saw.  We spent a happy half an hour exploring the caravan and were so intrigued by it all that we decided to pay the princely sum of $5 each to enter the ‘Theatre’. 
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The ‘Theatre’ houses larger scale inventions,  some simple and some intricate but all made of things we would normally throw away; old telephones, bicycle wheels, bits of transistor radios,  television tubes, dolls, buckets, bells,  hairdryers,  whistles…..  The pièce de résistance was the piano, each key activated a different set of noises or actions. We must have spent a full half an hour ‘playing’ and identifying which key did what in this amazing theatre of light, sound and action.  Probably the best 5$ I have ever spent.
Back on the road we amended our plans.
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The day hinged on getting to Cathedral Cove for low tide so we decided to go straight to Slope Point and miss out Waipapa.  The rain fell for much of the car ride but cleared by the time we got to the most southerly point of South Island. Here the trees and grass appear to grow horizontally so strong is the prevailing wind!  It was a bracing walk to the point which is marked with signposts indicating the distance to the two poles.   Below the waves crashed on to the rocks the white foam exploding out of the blueness of the water on impact.  Mesmerising.
Onwards now to Curio Bay where 160 million year old trees lay petrified in the rock. Mud and ashflow from volcanoes felled the forest and buried the trees, the ocean levels rose and all were covered. Dropping sea levels exposed the rock and the action of the waves has gradually eroded the softer rock around the trees so trunks and stumps are clearly visible. 
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I love walking around rock pools anyway but Curio Bay is special. Once you get down onto the bay and look from ground level you can see the extent of the tree stumps and easily visualise the forest – tall, leafy trees where now there are only stumps.  Where there might have been lush undergrowth there are now rock pools rich with life – easy pickings for the gulls, oyster catchers and shags that stalk the beach.
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Seaweed is an incredible plant, isnt it?  There is a narrow channel there which is full of huge ochre coloured seaweed. clamped to the rock at one end its long ‘tails’ are free to snake backwards and forwards as the waves pulse in and out.  It is other worldly and the ‘heads’ atached to the rock made me think of the ‘ood’ from Dr Who!  
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Yellow eyed penguin nesting sites are roped off to protect them but it is sad that some people ignore the signs.  We spotted a group clustered up on the rocks close to the shrubs and dunes and realised that they were following a penguin.  Nigel managed to get a great video with his new camera on zoom of the penguin hopping away but that was the closest we got.
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Last stop of the day was Cathedral Cave. You will get wet, she said. How wet will depend on how well you judge the waves. We got wet! The huge caves are formed by erosion from the waves beating against the cliff.  Cathedral Cave is unusual in that there are two parallel caves which join at the back and form a horseshoe.  Apparently, years ago they were easy to access at low tide but the sand level shifts over the years and currently it is lower so the sea is always around the entrance. 
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Along with tourists from all over the world we hopped on rocks, dodged the waves and dashed between them to get into the cave without getting too wet.  By now the sky was blue and the sun was out so the views out of the majestic archway were impressive.  We wandered around for ten minutes or so before getting cold and heading out. 
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To Aonghas’ great amusement, Chris was caught by the back splash of a wave on the rock against which she was leaning and was drenched from head to toe!   Before setting out on the steep track through the bush back up to the car park Gus persuaded me to go for a swim.  Well, it has to be done, doesn’t it? Who can resist sun dappled, crashing waves?  Not me!

The Catlins: Left and then Right

At the bottom of our lane there are things to do in both directions. The question on our first evening “What shall we do tomorrow? ” was answered with “Let’s go left”. So we did. And then the next day we went right.
To the left – waterfalls, bush, beach and wacky Owaka
A short walk down through the bush to Matai and Horseshoe Falls. ‘It is Summer and we will wear shorts and sandals!’ We were definitely underdressed by comparison with the rest of the visitors and I have to admit to feeling a tad cold in the damp and dark of the bush. However, clambering over rocks to get closer to the falls soon warmed me up as did the climb back up to the car park.  The falls are interesting without being spectacular.
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Owaka is a curious wee place.  I wonder if it is isolation that breeds weird and wonderful curiosity shops or whether those with an eccentric bent are attracted to wilderness places!  There are three cafes, Dougie’s Man Cave which houses a mixed collection of artsy bric-a-brac, pre-loved clothes and local crafts, an art gallery, and a Four Square as well as a Fire Station and a Community Centre. But the pearls in the oyster are Aunty’s Attic and the Teapot House.  Have to be seen to be believed!  I guess one man’s junk is another man’s treasure but, seriously!?  Aunty’s Attic was stuffed full of every bit of household junk you could imagine – $35 for 6 old milk bottles! A collector’s paradise! The Teapot House has maybe seen better days, and is really a teapot garden. The owner beseeches us to count the teapots and spot the fairies, and photos, the board suggests, can be taken for a gold coin donation. 
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The caffeine and quirkiness hits propelled us on to our next stop. Jack’s Blowhole is an impressive 35m deep fissure 200m in from the seashore. By now blue sky outweighed cloud, the sun almost counteracted the sharp wind and we enjoyed the short but steepish climb from the beach and along the cliff top with the sun on our backs.
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Purakaunui Falls are reputedly one of the most photographed falls in New Zealand and they are certainly picturesque. The light at the end of the afternoon filtered through the bush and dappled the water. Aonghas and I clambered again over the rocks, initially to get a different angled shot but then just for the fun of it. We thought we might be able to get onto the second “tier” of the waterfall but it proved too slippery.
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The Old Coach Road was our last foray of the day.  This is an old road used by traders and sailors back in the day and you can clearly  see the formation of the track through the bush alongside the estuary  This is an area that had been used by Maori well before the European settlers arrived. A site is marked where Moa bones have been found. This track leads to one of the many beautiful golden sandy beaches of the area.
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Summer Holiday – Southern road trip to Stewart Island

Part 4 of our plan to top and bottom the extremities of New Zealand.  The south of North Island was easy; Wellington is the capital city, after all and we have ample excuse to visit with rellies in the area.  I think Cape Palliser is officially the southernmost point and I think we have driven round there on a trip to the Wairarapa. 
Next came the ‘Top o’the South’; the Abel Tasman track was our main goal and we took the opportunity to explore the area by camping out at Collingwood.  It was an eventful trip – more details in this blogpost.
Two years ago we headed up to Cape Reinga on our northern odyssey and took in sand dunes, kauri forest, silica sands and gum diggers on the way. 
Summer 2015/16 then is the turn of the south and here we are. 

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Chairs which represent the people killed by the Christchurch earthquake Feb 2011

Hogmanay with cousins in Rangiora gave us the chance to explore Christchurch a little before driving down via Moeraki Boulders to Dunedin. 
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We had seen similar geological phenomena up in Northland at Koutou Boulders in Opononi but time and the tide prevented us from seeing all of them.  The Moeraki Boulders are impressive even with hordes of (other) tourists milling around and we had fun jumping from one to another, taking silly photos and marvelling at how they were formed. 
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Onwards to Dunedin and the stately victorian buildings are evidence of it being the oldest city in New Zealand.  One of the things we miss about the UK and Europe is the history but being so used to it, we almost took it for granted in Dunedin before realising that it is not what we see very much in Hamilton especially but even in Auckland and Wellington.  Historic buildings are there, of course, but not to the same extent. 
After a week or so of sweltering weather up north we had been brought down to earth with the unpredictability of southern climes with temperature differences of 10 degrees from one day to the next. 
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A visit out to the beautiful Otago Peninsula to see nesting albatross was characterised by hot sun tempered by chill winds.  It is difficult to believe we were only half an hour from a big city as we walked out to the Pyramids, beautiful golden sands and azure seas.  Unfortunately,  (or maybe fortunately) we didn’t encounter any sea lions in the sand dunes and, sadly nor did we see any penguins. 

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January 2nd brought the rain so we were glad we had saved the Cadbury chocolate factory tour but so, it seemed, had the rest of the New Year visitors to Dunedin and the first available tour was after lunch.  Luckily the rain stopped for a while so we decided to do the street art trail.  A series of 25 murals by different artists decorate the walls in alleyways between buildings around the city centre. The paintings are beautiful, all very different and they definitely brighten up some dilapidated areas.  It kept us happy for a good couple of hours until it was time for chocolate!  The Cadbury tour is everything you might expect it to be… very Willy Wonker-ish but entertaining nonetheless and we did learn a little bit about chocolate making.
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Our whistlestop road trip back on the road, we headed south to the Catlins.  As we had driven down from Christchurch the huge expanses of flat lands had given way to rolling hills and then steep gorges. Now we were struck by the lush greenness of the pastures and hillsides. 

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View from Hilltop

Our home for four days is Hilltop cottage in Papatowai. As its name suggests it is perched on a hill with beautiful views out to the coast to the east and inland up the Takahoma valley to the west.  A wee weatherboard house with “character”, we have fallen in love….
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