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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