Monday, 21 January 2013

The Catlin Coast

What an interesting day its been, on the one hand lots to see along the Catlin Coast, on the other, boy has it been windy! 
Mac making himself at home in our van
We wondered whether the wind is because we are approaching the ‘Roaring Forties’, the latitude in the Southern Hemisphere known for its very strong winds, as there’s few landmasses to break the wind. We are at 46deg south, so a bit short, but nevertheless, there’s only the bottom bit of South America and the very tip of South Africa other than this little bit of New Zealand in this stretch of the Southern Ocean, so the wind and sea can just whip itself up into a frenzy – and it certainly has, must be approaching gale force, making it fairly difficult to stand up. 
I think its normally quite windy here despite what they say!
But, in fact people are telling us this wind is exceptional, so we must be unlucky, but at least its been sunny and, for a vast portion of the day, blue sky.

Before writing about today I must mention a little trip we made into Invercargill town centre yesterday to a place called E. Hayes & Sons Ltd., which is now part of Hammer Hardware, a nationwide hardware chain. Ernest Hayes, his sons and now his grandsons are engineers dating back to 1895 and the site of their engineering works is now the Hammer Hardware shop, which doubles as a hardware shop and museum – very strange to walk round! The museum celebrates the success of Burt Munro, a local lad born in 1899, who went on to claim the motorcycle World Record Class S-A 1000cc in August 1967, with an average speed of 183.586mph (one way 190.07mph), a record which still stands to this day, on his self-modified Indian Scout. He bought the standard model, which was 600cc for NZ$120, completely rebuilding it and increasing the bore size to 1000cc, overcoming numerous problems such as con-rod and big-end failure, amazing the people attending the event in Bonneville Flats, USA mainly because of the age of both the bike and the owner. Several of Burt Munro’s motorcycles are on display, along with Hayes’s original lathe’s, tools and a prototype racing engine, all amongst the shop hardware stuff. The story is immortalised in a film starring Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro. I think I may have seen this film, but I must look it out again now!

The signpost at Bluff
Anyway, we left Invercargill this morning in cloud and high wind and headed 22km south to Bluff, which is almost the most southerly point. It’s a bit like John O’ Groats in Scotland really, making a big thing about being the most southerly point, with signposts pointing to various places round the globe, but it isn’t really, just like John O’ Groats isn’t quite the most northerly point in Scotland. In Scotland the most northerly point is Dunnet Head, which we walked to in very high wind with Helen, Ian and Roddy dog a couple of years ago and is just along the coast a bit, having none of the glamour of John O’Groats. It was a ‘god-for-saken’ place with not even a café but a small notice stating it to be the most northerly point. 
The symbolic anchor chain to Stuart Island (Maori legend)
Here the most southerly point is Slope Point and we walked there in very similar very high winds as well! It was pretty isolated and had a similar small signpost announcing it to be the most southerly point of mainland South Island. Its latitude is 46⁰ 40’ 40” south, a little bit more than Bluffs 46⁰ 36’ 54”. The photo of Jackie holding onto the sign was not ‘staged’, it really was that difficult to stand up!

The signpost at Slope Point
I'm a big old tired sea lion!
At Waipapa point, just before Slope point we’d been promised sealions, to go with the fur seals we’d already seen, so we walked to the lighthouse erected after NZ’s worst civilian maritime disaster, down to the beach, and here was a big male – it was obviously his turn on the rota as he looked exhausted at having had to haul himself up the beach.

We then moved on to Curio Bay, certainly to a curious campsite, it has a round tower that has three tiny showers in (but what is in the core?) and a tiny round kitchen! The pitches surrounded by flax are lovely though and are doing something to reduce the “worst wind they’ve had for ages”. 

The 'Petrified Forest'. This is a fallen tree 180M years old
These are apparently 180 million year old tree stumps
The main attraction here is a ‘petrified forest’ which can be seen at low tide, it’s true, there are trees, but I can’t get terribly excited, they also don’t want you on much of the area, as it is a breeding ground for rare yellow eyed penguins. We saw some, close enough to know they were penguins, and bigger than the little blue’s we’ve previously seen, but not close enough to see they have yellow eyes!

A yellow eyed penguin (this was as close as we were allowed)

Another long distance photo of the very rare yellow eyed penguin

This really is a hector dolphin (they are very small - and a long way away!)
The bay beneath the camp shop is also one of the very few areas inhabited by the very rare Hectors dolphin, now on a good day you can swim with them, but today, with the wind and the waves, they were not performing, till one jumped and jumped and jumped its way across the bay just for us.

Our camping spot in amongst the flax
The Catlins are a lovely, but remote area, hopefully the weather will be kinder to us tomorrow, though wind is obviously relatively common here! Still I’m pleased to report that despite B whizzing along unpaved roads for much of the day all the crockery appears to be in one piece, including the two wine glasses we bought, to replace the one broken on our last day on the last van. We’ve discovered that at most tips there is a shop, selling who can tell what (though the first one we went to had a beautiful cat apparently she wasn’t for sale, despite the fact that three of us were fighting over her) so we bought, 2 glasses, 1 fork and a book for B, all for $4, can’t be bad!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Guys, I love the idea that there is a shop at the tip. It makes so much sense when you think of the old saying 'one man's rubbish is another man's treasure'(something like that). You look different jackie (one the blog of 22nd), different haircut I suspect! And all that sun sea and relaxing is obviously doing you bith a lot of good. xx