Whisked away: Birthday weekend in the Catlins

IMG_0503 I do love having a spring birthday – however it simply means the volatile weather has switched from summer-autumn to winter-spring! And boy is El Niño mixing things up down here this year!

We decided to take ourselves off to the Catlins, a beautiful rainforest conservation section of the southern East Coast. Remote and unpopulated in nature means unspoiled, but more importantly, the perfect place to get away from it all, as there’s very little cellphone signal too!

IMG_0366After a nice birthday lie in and morning relaxing, we drove up in the afternoon. We chose – almost by random, a small unpopulated campsite called Newhaven in the Northern end of the Catlins. A cute little place right by Surat bay with beautiful coastal walks in both directions, we stayed one night, buying a bottle of red to go with dinner. We popped into the supermarket it Owaka, the Catlins’ only town, when we saw this in the car park! Only in New Zealand!

We took a drive up to Nugget Point with the time we had left before tea. It’s really easy to get swept up in the humdrum of life and forget the beauty around you. I had many many reminders this weekend, Nugget Point being one of them.

This was our cute little cabin, silent and beautifully dark at night, save for the torrential rains on the tin roof! imageWe got up early to take a walk along the beach to Cannibal bay. (So called because bones were found there: Maori were originally cannibals).

We feared we could get soaked judging by the weather overnight but it turned out to be a glorious morning of sunny weather to go with a simply stunning walk along beautiful coastline.

We very quickly learned how important it was to recognise seal tracks in the sand, because as we crossed the rocky headland via an inland path to get to Cannibal bay, this is what we found, blocking the path.

IMG_0427Bit of a problem. We knew we had to stay away but the path was narrow. We were forced to go off road to find a route to avoid the seal. This wasn’t without waking him, getting stared at and growled at, then chased! We learned that tiptoeing in the presence of seals was vital!

We managed to get past and were rewarded with a stunning secluded bay full of more seals basking in the sun. A quick google revealed they can move faster than humans on land, so we stayed well clear!

Just for reference, this is what seal tracks look like, we had three more seals to avoid on the way back, this time taking a wide (and silent) detour!

With all this rain, we decided to revisit a few waterfalls that we had been to before, knowing they would be flowing well today. And were they ever! Almost unrecognisable!

The most impressive transformation though, was McLean Falls. The last time we visited here was when Dad visited in 2014. On that occasion we climbed up the rocks to the foot of the upper falls, sitting on the rocks up there enjoying the views. There’s no way that was happening this time: you can’t even see the rocks we climbed on, it’s covered in water!

We stopped off at a number of other locations on the way through to our stop over for night two, all the spots we see the signs for but usually drive past. It’s a shame that the curios place in Papatowai was closed, I have been meaning to stop there since I arrived here in 2013! It opens next weekend, which must mark the start of the summer season I guess.

Night two was spent at the Whistling Frog Park and cafe, right in front of these falls. It’s a beautiful cafe we have been to many times but haven’t ever stopped overnight at. Again remote, no cell signal so we relied on the satellite TV in our tiny shed like cabin!

It is, however, one of my favourite cafe stops so we made the most of it and had our evening meal there, along with house brewed beer during ‘happy hour’. It’s a family run park, opened in 2006 when the southern scenic route was first tar sealed. They have their own working farm and even brew their own beer. All the buildings are recycled, it’s a really neat place, if not slightly more expensive than I think it should be (to stay overnight) due to its location.

Our final morning was also the morning of the All Blacks Quarter final against France. Mark, once again made me a beautiful breakfast from the remainder of the food we had left, but sadly our picture on the TV mostly looked like this, due to a storm overhead! Aargh! Thankfully they won, but sadly the storm raged for the remainder of the weekend!