Queen Charlotte Track

In which Miles samples the first few hours of the Queen Charlotte Track, from Anakiwa to Cullen Point Lookout.

You can view the full gallery of 19 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

My friends were unable to do another weekend on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.  The planning was somewhat complicated due to a low-tide only crossing, campsite booking and water taxi availability, so I decided against a second weekend on the track myself.  I decided to move slowly toward Picton and the ferry to the North Island, and to do a day walk on the Queen Charlotte Track instead.

I had to stop for the view of Pelorus Sound, largest of the sounds which make up the Marlborough Sounds.

Pelorus Sound
Pelorus Sound

Next stop was the southwest end of the Queen Charlotte Track at Anakiwa.

Start of Queen Charlotte Track at Anakiwa
Start of Queen Charlotte Track at Anakiwa

The Queen Charlotte Track is a 70km long New Zealand walking track between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound in the Marlborough Sounds. It extends from Ship Cove in the north to Anakiwa in the south. For most parts, the track leads through native bush along the ridgeline of hills between the sounds, offering good views either side.

From early 2013 on, the Queen Charlotte Track also has become one of the New Zealand Cycle Trails, accessible for mountain bike-level riders.[1]
Wikipedia

Queen Charlotte Track
Queen Charlotte Track

From the portion of the track that I walked Kenepuru Sound is never visible.  Views of Queen Charlotte Sound are abundant though.

Queen Charlotte Track
Queen Charlotte Track

There’s a campground at Davies Bay, then an ascent to Cullen Point Lookout.

Davies Bay from Queen Charlotte Track
Davies Bay from Queen Charlotte Track

Quail were plentiful, and pretty fearless, just before the lookout.

Quail on Queen Charlotte Track
Quail on Queen Charlotte Track

Along the way I had enjoyed a nice view of a nest of pretty big cormorant (shag) offspring.

Cormorant nest on Queen Charlotte Track
Cormorant nest on Queen Charlotte Track

I took a break and took in the view from Cullen Point Lookout before heading back to Anakiwa.

View from Cullen Point Lookout
View from Cullen Point Lookout

I had gotten a  late start again, but this time I was prepared, with freshly charged batteries in my head-mounted light.  It was dark soon after I left Davies Bay.

I saw my first live possum in New Zealand on this walk.  Actually, I saw my first several.

Ringtail possum, from Wikimedia Commons
Ringtail possum, from Wikimedia Commons

The common brushtail possum was introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in an attempt to establish a fur industry. There are no native predators of the possum in New Zealand, so its numbers in New Zealand have risen to the point where it is considered a serious pest. Numerous attempts to eradicate them have been made because of the damage they do to native trees and wildlife, as well as acting as a carrier of bovine tuberculosis. By 2009, these measures had reduced the possum numbers to less than half of the 1980s levels – from around 70 million to around 30 million animals.[1]

Since 1996, possum fur, obtained from about two million wild-caught possums per year, has been used in clothing with blends of fine merino wool with brushtail possum fur – variously known as Ecopossum, Merinosilk, Merinomink, possumdown, eco fur or possum wool. Possum fur is also used for fur trim, jackets, bed throws, and possum leather gloves.
Wikipedia

Possums are the most hated of New Zealand’s pest species, and possibly the most destructive to the native birds and animals.  New Zealanders are encouraged to kill many invasive species on sight, and they slay possums with great enthusiasm whenever they get the chance.  The chance to do so appears most often on the roads, and kiwi people will swerve to hit a possum.  Road kill is the only form of possum I had seen before this walk.

I was actually a bit intimidated by the first possum I saw, partly because of the way they spring up and grasp onto the trunks of small trees and stare at you with eyes that glow much brighter and redder at night than shown in the stock photo above – but also probably because of their reputation in New Zealand.  I joke that it may be illegal in New Zealand to say this – but they’re kind of cute, and an interesting animal to see in the wild.

Bluebridge Ferry from Cullen Point Lookout
Bluebridge Ferry from Cullen Point Lookout

I finished my walk back in the dark without any problems, and camped in nearby Picton for the night.

You can view the full gallery of 19 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Rabbit Island

In which Miles enjoys an afternoon at the Rabbit Island Recreational Reserve on Tasman Bay.

You can view the full gallery of 7 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Rabbit Island is the largest of three islands that make up the Rabbit Island Recreational Reserve.  There are multi-use tracks, but most people seem to go there for the long, safe swimming beach.

Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay
Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay

The island was at some point replanted with evergreen trees.  If I recall correctly there is still some harvesting of these trees going on.

Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay
Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay

Rabbit Island is fairly close to Richmond, but it draws people from the whole Nelson area.

Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay
Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay

The Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, a cycleway running from Richmond to Motueka, runs through Rabbit Island. There is also a newly established equestrian area.  These girls and their horses seemed to be having a great time in the water.

Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay
Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay

You can view the full gallery of 7 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Abel Tasman National Park

In which Miles walks two days of the Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park.

To view the full gallery of 46 pictures on imgur, click here.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60 kilometres (37 mi)[1] long walking track within the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. It extends from Marahau in the south to Wainui in the north, with many side tracks. It is one of two main tracks through the park, the other being the Abel Tasman Inland Track, which stretches for 38 km between Tinline Bay and Torrent Bay off the main coastal track. The coastal track is well sheltered, and with mild weather in all seasons, it is accessible and open throughout the year.
Wikipedia

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

I didn’t make it To Abel Tasman ten years ago when I visited the South Island.  It sounded like an investment of 3-5 days would be required, and I only had a month for the entire island.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

As one of the New Zealand Great Walks it is busy during the summer, so I waited until mid-April for my first visit to Abel Tasman.  For multi-day walks it is necessary book a campsite or a hut.  Even outside of peak season, I waited until too late to book a bed in a hut, so I booked a campsite.

Weka on Abel Tasman Coast Track
Weka on Abel Tasman Coast Track

I had managed to avoid using my large pack the whole summer so far.  I had never needed to prepare to stay overnight anywhere without having my campervan, with all of my stuff, close by.  This would just be two days and one night, but I put some time into planning and packing.  In spite of this, I learned a few things the hard way that should mean that I’ll be better prepared next time.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

This was my first of New Zealand’s Great Walks.  I noticed right away how well formed and maintained the track and facilities are.  I would guess that this is the case on most or all of the more high-profile parks and walks.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

I had become friends with a young Māori guy at a campground in Richmond, and on returning there met his cousin, who was staying with him.  They both decided to come with me to Abel Tasman.  There was a lot of partying, and it took a lot of work to get us all packed and to the start of the track.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

We got a late start, and since NZ was now on daylight savings time the sun set by 6:00pm.  We walked fast and hard, although we did take long breaks.  I must admit that I was impressed by our ability to keep that up for four to five hours with loaded packs.  We arrived after dark at the Anchorage Bay campground.  Of course we didn’t enjoy the views below until the next morning.

Anchorage Bay
Anchorage Bay

I had checked my flashlight while packing, but somehow failed to notice that the batteries were nearly dead.  A companion’s light was pretty dim, so we ended up relying on the flashlight app on my phone to set up the tents they had brought – I had no tent myself.  It was cold at night, so they gathered wood and started a fire.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

They brought no food at all.  Fortunately I had brought OSM bars, nut bars, various nuts and dried fruit, and apples.  Good thing it was only one night!

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

Later I was telling a friend about the walk, and the fact that my companions hadn’t brought any food.  He made a joke about them eating me, and I recalled that the Māori were cannibals long ago.  He said “I think that’s the first thing I’d ask those guys if I were going camping with them – are you guys bringing any food?”  I laughed, but I didn’t share that joke with the guys.  I wasn’t sure how they would take it, but I’d guess they’d probably have a sense of humor about it.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

On the second day I continued north toward Bark Bay.  I only had the two days, so I had booked a water taxi from Bark Bay back to Marahau.  The guys didn’t want to pay the $40, so they walked back the way we had come.

The Torrent Bay estuary crossing, from the north side
The Torrent Bay estuary crossing, from the north side

The timing was good for crossing the Torrent Bay estuary, which should only be attempted within 2 hours before or after low tide.  This is meant to save 1-1.5 hours over the alternative high tide track.  The estuary is very wet however, even at low tide.  I took the time to find a route that would leave my hiking boots mostly dry on the inside, if not on the outside.

Torrent Bay
Torrent Bay

Having booked the water taxi for a specific time, I was on a strict deadline for arrival at Barks Bay.  I found myself once again in the position of needing to walk fast, and spent most of the day walking hard, although with breaks, and plenty of brief stops for photos.

Torrent Bay
Torrent Bay

Once a trail marker assured me that I had plenty of time to make it to Barks Bay, I found that it was actually an effort to break myself out of forced-march mode, and take a more leisurely pace.

Swing bridge over Falls River
Swing bridge over Falls River

The swing bridge above does swing quite a bit when you’re in the middle.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Coast Track offers some nice bush and interesting rock formations.  But most notable is that you pass one beautiful white sand beach after another after another.

Bark Bay
Bark Bay

It is possible to kayak the coast.  This offers the benefit of encountering the abundant sea life along the way, including seals, who are a lot more friendly when they’re in their element.

Bark Bay
Bark Bay

I caught an earlier taxi at Bark Bay, and was able to meet the guys at the van exactly when we had planned.  We were all exhausted, but quite happy with our weekend.

I’ll return to Abel Tasman for the remaining 3 days of the Coast Track, and also for kayaking along the coast.  The Abel Tasman Inland Track sounds worth looking into as well.  It would undoubtedly be a better experience doing all 5 days consecutively, immersing oneself in the place, and preparing better to allow for a more leisurely pace and greater comfort.

To view the full gallery of 46 pictures on imgur, click here.

Ohau Stream Waterfall pool is baby seal daycare!

In which Miles returns to the Ohau Stream Waterfall to find a baby seal playground.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

I found the Ohau Stream Waterfall to be a magical place when I visited in February.

Ohau Stream Waterfall
Ohau Stream Waterfall in February

But everyone visits this place for the seal pups.  The baby seals spend their days playing in the pool while their mothers are out fishing in the Pacific Ocean.  There were none in the stream or pool in February, but they were there in force when I returned in mid-April.

The video below best captures the experience of watching the pool full of jumping splashing playing baby seals.

The waterfall is quite shaded and dark, so I had to shoot on the highest ISO available.  The best still shots of the playground didn’t turn out nearly as well as the video.

Ohau Stream Waterfall Pool
Ohau Stream Waterfall Pool

I do like some of the pictures of individuals and small groups though.

Seal pups in the Ohau Stream Waterfall Pool
Seal pups in the Ohau Stream Waterfall Pool

I sat on a large rock at the very edge of the pool.  The more curious pups would swim up to investigate, and say hello.

Curious seal pup
Curious seal pup
Curious seal pup
Curious seal pup

I enjoyed the personality of this little guy. He sat on a rock at the edge of the pool with his head pointed straight up in the air, always looking like he was about to fall asleep.

Seal pup
Seal pup
Seal pup
Seal pup

When other pups came close he would watch them. If they tried to spar with him, he would spar back. But he never left that rock. I never saw him go for a swim in the pool.

Seal pups
Seal pups
Seal pups
Seal pups

These playful pups were everywhere along the stream, coming and going from the pool.  They showed no fear of humans.  There were also a few seals that were definitely larger and older, but still smaller than adults, like big sisters there to watch the little ones.  Some larger seals also slept among the trees and bushes along the path.  They would snort if any humans got too close.

Seal pup
Seal pup

Every now and then every little seal in the pool would suddenly rush at top speed for the edge of the pool.  It was like someone had issued a predator alert for practice (“shark!” “orca!”).  I thought it was time to go back to the ocean, but they always returned gradually to playing in the pool.  I was really sorry that I wasn’t able to capture one of these moments on video.

Seal pups at the edge of the pool
Seal pups at the edge of the pool

I don’t believe I’ve described any other place as magical.  I found it that without the little seals, and it was definitely that with them.  This is one of the most amazing places in New Zealand, and I was really glad to have returned again on my way north.  I came back again a couple of days later to spend a bit more time at Ohau Stream Waterfall.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Oamaru Skyline Walk

In which Miles returns to Oamaru, and does the Oamaru Skyline Walk for a different perspective on the town and surrounding area.

You can view the full gallery of 13 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Finding info online for walking tracks around Oamaru was a bit tricky, but a visit to the Oamaru i-SITE gave me the information I needed.  There was at least one detour on the Skyline Walk that required me to look very carefully for the track markers in order to know where to go next – and without the help of a local I’m not sure how long it might have taken to find the beginning of the first detour.  Construction, and possibly erosion, seem to be causing some changes to the tracks, but they seem to be working on them.

There are several options for starting the Skyline Walk, and I chose to start at Oamaru Public Gardens.

Oamaru Public Gardens
Oamaru Public Gardens

It was a pleasure to walk through the gardens again.  This time I saw one of the Chinese pheasants.  They had all stayed indoors on my previous visits.

Chinese pheasant at Oamaru Public Gardens
Chinese pheasant at Oamaru Public Gardens

I stopped to say hello to Jimmy, but Jimmy wasn’t talking.

Jimmy the resident sulphur crested cockatoo
Jimmy the resident sulphur crested cockatoo

Soon after leaving the far end of the gardens the ascent begins, and soon I was looking over Oamaru and Friendly Harbour.

Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk
Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk

The Skyline Walk gave me my first look at fall colors.

Fall colors on Oamaru Skyline Walk
Fall colors on Oamaru Skyline Walk

The Oamaru Skyline Walk traverses pastures and bush with recurring views over the town and harbor.

Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk
Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk
Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk
Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk

The track then descends for a return along Highway 1.  I was drawn by first one old building then another into a spontaneous architectural tour that eventually led back to where I had parked.

Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru

You can view the full gallery of 13 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels

Free 1st-world WiFi, no charge for showers, great location and facilities… Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels may be the best campground/holiday park in New Zealand.

WiFi

Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels offers fast unlimited free WiFi to guests.  You just connect and enter the password.  It is very first world.

The campground is within cell range, so mobile data can be used if necessary.

When I first arrived there were several days of internet down time.  Staff were appropriately apologetic, demonstrating that they definitely understand how important WiFi is to their guests.  Shortly after it was fixed it went down again.  A tech was there on Easter Sunday fixing it, demonstrating to me that someone was lighting a serious fire under the ISP to get things right.  I stayed there for about two weeks in total, and after Easter it worked beautifully.

There are two kitchens, and both have some tables near outlets so that you can sit down and plug in, and do some real work.  A lot of campers use the sockets to charge their various devices, and at times it can be hard to find one available.

Pro-tip:  Carry a cheap power strip when staying in campgrounds in New Zealand.  I found great benefit in always having enough sockets available.  I also enjoyed the fact that most of the time I was actually providing more sockets to my fellow guests than I was using.

Internet access provided at Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels is simply what you would expect to find in most parts of the world, but find rarely in New Zealand.

Facilities

Both kitchens are large and spacious, with plenty of good burners and even ovens for baking.  Pots and pans, plates and cutlery are provided as well.  A good number of sinks make cleanup easy.

A good kitchen and dining area is a good social hub at many campgrounds, and this is where you’ll meet most of the people passing through Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels.

I ran into the Taiwanese girls whom I met in Paihia here in Dunedin, purely by chance.  These are the girls who taught me to think in terms of meeting the wild animals, rather than just seeing them.  They had tried to meet great white sharks south of Invercargill!  Talking to them in Dunedin, they referred to baby sea lions as cubs, rather than pups.  But if they’re lions, the little ones should be cubs, right?  I decided that I’d start referring to them as such.  This campground made it easy to meet a lot of other nice people during my stay there.

There are two shower blocks.  The showers never ran out of hot water.  They are un-metered, and there is no charge.  Each show block also has toilets, and everything was always clean and in good repair.

Laundry facility were clean, reasonably priced, and had enough machines for a large holiday park.

Long-term residents

Most campgrounds in New Zealand have locals living in them.  Without speculating on the reasons, a campground will often have one or more kiwi who is an alcoholic, or who shows some kind of mental illness, who is frequently around.  Either there are none of these living at Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels, or they live in an area separate from other campers.  It is a very large park.

Staff

Friendly and helpful – and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of the internet in 2016!

The Cons

There are ways they could improve this campground, but none of them affected my enjoyment of the pros.

A powered site costs $6 more than an unpowered site.  This is one of the biggest price differences I encountered, so I opted for the latter.  I charged all of my batteries during the day – many people left their various devices charging in the kitchen while they were away, so I didn’t worry too much about losing my power bank, which I used to charge my cell phone overnight.

The kitchens and TV room close at night.  They close at 10:00pm, later than any other place that closes those rooms in my experience.  This may be unavoidable; being close to central Dunedin, homeless people often try to use the facilities.  When the weather gets cold, even tourists may try to sleep indoors.

Unpowered camp sites are not assigned, so if I left during the day, I may have to find another spot to park my campervan when I returned.

None of these interfered with my enjoyment of Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels in any significant way.

Northbound

In which Miles reaches the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world, weighs his options, and heads north.

The Catlins Coast

I based my exploration of The Catlins Coast on the advice of fellow tourists I met at the campground in Dunedin.  One German girl had spent four days exploring the coast, but based on the info I received, I chose to visit four locations along the coast.  I accomplished this in a leisurely two days.

Just to be thorough, those locations were Nugget Point, Cannibal Bay, Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay.

I’ll return to The Catlins on my next visit to the South Island.  I definitely feel that there is more worth exploring.

The Catlins Coast is very far south, and any southerly wind brings cold air straight from Antarctica.  The weather can be quite unpleasant at times, but I was fortunate enough to enjoy a couple of nice days.  The Catlins Coast is beautiful when the weather is fine.  I’m sure it is a different kind of beautiful in inclement weather, but I’m grateful it was nice for my visit.

Invercargill

After a southward trip along The Catlins Coast Invercargill is a common stop.  Invercargill is the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world. It is the commercial center of the Southland region.

Invercargill Town Hall and Theatre
Invercargill Town Hall and Theatre

As always, I used CamperMate app to locate a campground in the area.  Only one looked like it might be acceptable.  It turned out to be outside of cell range, so I had to rely on the camp WiFi for internet access.  I paid the $5.  I was able to get my work done.  But I didn’t find it comfortable, and I didn’t want to have to work there again the next day.

The World's Fastest Indian
The World’s Fastest Indian

I began looking at my options for where to go next.  Destinations in Fiordland seemed likely to suffer from unreliable internet access.  Destinations in central Otago looked expensive.  I had friends who were leaving New Zealand that I wanted to see before they left, and a friend who was visiting from overseas that I wanted to see, so I had a date that I wanted to be back in Auckland.

And I was tired from the constant struggle to find useful WiFi access.

I decided to turn back to the north, traveling along the east coast, the way I had come.  This would allow me to take advantage of accommodation with which I was already familiar, some of which has good WiFi.

It would also allow me to do some of the things I hadn’t done on my way south.

I was happy with this plan, even though it would mean missing some very interesting South Island destinations.

Stewart Island

New Zealand’s third island looks like an absolutely spectacular place to visit.  It is one of the wilder parts of New Zealand, with a permanent population of 381 people as of the 2013 census, most of whom live in the settlement of Oban on the eastern side of the island. 

It is a great place for meeting natives birds and other wildlife.  I was hoping to meet the island’s own species of kiwi, the southern brown kiwi, which is often active during the day.

A German tourist shot this video of Stewart Island kiwi, late this summer or early fall.  The remarkable thing about this video is that it appears to show a kiwi beating up another kiwi – although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it is trying to make baby kiwis.  In either case, I’m also impressed with how active they are in broad daylight, and by the fact that they don’t appear to be bothered in the least by the human presence, running circles around his feet.

My first surprise regarding the personality of the kiwi came just at the end of 2015, with the news that a kiwi had chased a robin from its nest and killed its babies.  The babies were apparently uneaten, and there is speculation that this was territorial behavior.

Further evidence that kiwis are tougher than I believed came in the form of a video of a kiwi beating up a possum!

Possums get a huge portion of the blame for the troubles of many of New Zealand’s endangered species, so it is very interesting to see a kiwi thrash a possum like this.

One more video of Stewart Island kiwi demonstrates that close daylight encounters are not so rare on Stewart Island… and also that kiwi are very cute birds!

Concerns about WiFi access were among the reasons that I couldn’t bring myself to commit to booking ferry trips and accommodation for a visit to Stewart Island.  I decided to save it for another time, possibly booking a flight from Auckland for a week or weekend.

I also reminded myself again that it would be wise, on a summer trip around the South Island, to explore the southern parts at the peak of summer, and save the northern parts for later, when it has gotten cold down south.  I did not manage to time that right this summer, although I can only be grateful for the weather I did get.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound. Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Milford Sound. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand‘s South Island, within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor)[1][2] and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination.[3] Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World.[4]
– Wikipedia

As I mentioned, destinations in Fiordland seem likely to suffer from unreliable internet access.  Everything is also affected by the fact that there is very little competition in Fiordland – in Milford Sound there is one campground.  I’ve visited before, and I’ll probably visit again – although another sound in Fiordland is said to offer more in exchange for a little more effort.

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound. Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Doubtful Sound. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Doubtful Sound / Patea is a very large and naturally imposing fiord (despite its name) in Fiordland, in the far south west of New Zealand. It is located in the same region as the smaller but more famous and accessible Milford Sound. It took second place after Milford Sound as New Zealand’s most famous tourism destination.[1]
– Wikipedia

I don’t remember being aware of Doubtful Sound before this year.  I’ll make a point to visit in the future.

Queenstown

Queenstown. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Queenstown. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Queenstown is beautiful, but it just keeps getting more expensive.  I didn’t relish spending more to camp there, or like the sound of any of the campgrounds available.  Since it is located in Central Otago, it was sure to be colder than the coast.  Its reputation as a fun party town was no selling point for me.  Maybe I’ll visit again next time.

Wanaka and Lake Tekapo

These are attractive destinations, but they too are located in Central Otago, a place better visited during the summer months, unless you like the cold.  These places alone weren’t enough to draw me there.  Both are well worth a visit, but they’ll have to wait for another time.

Wanaka. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Wanaka. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Lake Tekapo. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Lake Tekapo. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

 Mount Cook

Mount Cook. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Mount Cook. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Mount Cook, too, will have to wait until next time.

The Good News

This is all very sad.  But no traveler gets to see everything.  So, what else did I plan to see on my trip north?

Dunedin is just a 2.5 hour drive from Invercargill.  I found the city a bit busy at first, but surely I was spoiled by my week in Oamaru.  Dunedin is also the home of what I have come to realize is my favorite campground in New Zealand.

Oamaru is just a shot distance up the coast from Dunedin.  Surely there is more to see and do in Oamaru.  And if not, there is always the little blue penguins, and the friendly and relaxing atmosphere.

I still want to swim with dolphins, and Kaikoura is a great place for that.  I also wanted to see if I could meet baby seals in the pool at the base of the Ohau Stream Waterfall.

I still hadn’t done the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.  I had a friend in the area who I was looking forward to seeing again as well.

And I hadn’t spent any time exploring Queen Charlotte Sound.

That is not a bad list!

I was headed back to Auckland.  But I still had a lot to see along the way.

Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay

In which Porpoise Bay offers no porpoises, but Curio Bay offers penguins and petrified forest.

To view the full gallery of 25 pictures on imgur, click here.

Porpoise Bay

I based my exploration of The Catlins Coast on advice from various fellow travelers I met at the campground in Dunedin.  After a day at Nugget Point and Cannibal Bay I camped in Balaclutha, and in the morning drove to Porpoise Bay.  I stopped at Florence Hill Lookout just before, for a nice view from above.

Porpoise Bay from Florence Hill Lookout
Porpoise Bay from Florence Hill Lookout

I was hoping to meet porpoises at Porpoise Bay.  A couple of nice German girls had told me that striking two rocks together underwater will draw the attention of dolphins and porpoises, who will investigate the sound.  It was a nice day for fall in The Catlins, but it was too cold for me to think about going into the water.

Porpoise Bay
Porpoise Bay

There were a lot of surfers present, but the beach is so long that most of it was empty.  The waves seemed to break a fair distance from shore, so I didn’t have high hopes of seeing any porpoises, but I took a long walk along the beach anyway.

Porpoise Bay
Porpoise Bay

The beach and scenery are beautiful, and the South Pacific waves put on a great show, so I wasn’t too disappointed to not see porpoises.

Curio Bay

Next stop was Curio Bay.  Unfortunately, I was immediately swarmed by sandflies.  After an application of insect repellent they left me alone for the most part.  The weather probably helped as well; sandflies don’t seem to like rain or cold air, and some light showers had begun.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

I knew that it is best to visit at low tide, but I hadn’t checked the tides.  Fortunately I had a 3G signal at the carpark and was able to check on arrival.  It was a bit early, so I had a quick look at the bay from above.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay

It looked quite submerged, so I decided to walk the Curio Bay Walkway, located just across the road from the carpark.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay Walkway

The walkway is about a thirty minute loop through native forest, with a good selection of the area’s plant life, identified with signs along the path.

Curio Bay Walkway
Curio Bay Walkway

There seemed to be continuing development, but it was a nice walk.

Curio Bay Walkway
Curio Bay Walkway

When I got back to the viewing platform above Curio Bay I saw that there was a yellow-eyed penguin below.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

An Asian lady asked why he was ashore so early, and I guessed that he was molting, and hadn’t gone fishing that day.  Then I hurried down for a closer look.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

Signage at Curio Bay urged keeping a distance of 10 meters from the penguins.  This is a considerably shorter distance than what was recommended elsewhere.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

I used maximum zoom, and I’m pretty happy with some of the pictures.  All of these are cropped and therefore much lower resolution than what I usually post.  In the picture above, and the one below, I enhanced the penguin separately from the background by boosting contrast, saturation and sharpness, so more detail is more easily visible, but the quality suffers a bit in other ways.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

Sometimes video works better than stills photos, and I think the video below is a much better look at the penguin, only partly because their movements are so entertaining, especially when they have to have to do some rock-hopping.

Curio Bay is a great place to see yellow-eyed penguins, but it is a special place for other reasons.  It is a unique and interesting bit of coastline that seems to always be at least partly underwater.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay

Curio Bay is also a fossilized forest of an age that is very rare in the world.  It is full of petrified logs and stumps of ancient conifers closely related to modern kauri and Norfolk pine that were buried by ancient volcanic mud flows and gradually replaced by silica to produce the fossils now exposed by the sea.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

The fossilised forest grew at a time of semi-tropical climate and before grasses and flowering plants had come into existence. The original forest of cycads, conifers and ferns was buried by massive floods of ash and volcanic debris either directly from a volcanic eruption or from later heavy rain on a barren volcanic mountain. Distinct bands of fossilised vegetation exposed in the cliff face indicate that in between such floods, the forest grew back at least four times over a period of some 20,000 years. Following this, the area remained buried over millions of years. Silica started to impregnate the wood and eventually turned it into stone, preserving not just tree stumps and wood, but in some places also fern fronds and leaves.
Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curio_Bay
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curio_Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay

Curio Bay is a unique and amazing place in a beautiful setting!

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

To view the full gallery of 25 pictures on imgur, click here.

Cannibal Bay Part 2: The Angry Sea Lion

In which Miles brings you the exciting conclusion of his encounter with an angry New Zealand sea lion at Cannibal Bay!

You can view the full gallery of 15 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

In our previous exciting episode, I was enjoying the antics of a group of five friendly sea lions when I saw another – a big one – emerge from the ocean.

From the moment I saw him, he headed straight for me!

Did the big sea lion eat me?  Did he have something else in mind?  Did I survive the encounter?

Read on for the exciting conclusion!

I do realize that there are serious problems with trying to build suspense when I’m obviously writing this post, and therefore obviously survived.

So I’ll need to tell you a few things about the adorable animals I’ve enjoyed meeting the last few months that you may not have known.  If you would prefer not to know about the dark side of some of the cutest animals in the world, maybe you should skip the rest of this post.

Seals, penguins, sea lions, dolphins, ducks… are all notorious rapists and sexual deviants that would be in prison if they were human.  Many are also known inter-species rapists.  I won’t go into more detail here, but you can read this article for more information.

So, although you know that I survived this encounter, you don’t know whether or not my innocence was lost to this large angry sea lion.  I don’t know how much suspense I’ve introduced into the story, but read on!

This new sea lion was wet, having just emerged from the ocean, and was therefore almost black in color, and easily distinguishable from the others whose fur had dried in the sun.

He made a beeline for me, but sea lions aren’t at their most mobile on land, so he needed a few stops along the way to rest.

Sea lions are also wise to not turn their backs on other sea lions, because they’ll be attacked from behind if they do.  So, eventually my nemesis had to stop and engage various members of the group I had been watching.  He was noticeably more aggressive toward them than they had been to each other.

He spent some time sparring with others.  That required more breaks to rest.  But when he saw his chance, he turned toward me, roared, and charged.

Angry Sea Lion
Angry Sea Lion

I ran up to the top of the grassy sand dunes at the back of the beach.  From this higher elevation, I turned and resumed shooting video of my pursuer.  Briefly.

He roared and charged again.  I fled the beach.

I walked along the backs of the dunes and returned to the beach a good distance from the sea lions.  It was getting late, so I started to make my way back along the beach, giving the creatures a wide berth.

At one point I turned and noticed that the big, wet sea lion who had chased me now appeared to be behind where I had stood after my flight through the dunes and return to the beach.  I think he had tried to use the dunes to sneak up behind me!

I was shooting video during my entire encounter with this angry sea lion, so you can see it all below.

As the sun dipped toward the horizon, showing Cannibal Bay in its very best light, the sea lions took their running battles slowly toward the Pacific Ocean.  At times they looked back as if they were wondering if I was going to follow.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

It was a great experience sharing some leisure time with these five sea lions.  I’m grateful to have met that friendly group, and to have spent time with them before the more aggressive one arrived.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

And I am equally grateful to have still never known the tender embrace of an adult male sea lion.

You can view the full gallery of 15 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

#CannibalBay, #TheCatlinsCoast, #NewZealandSeaLion

Cannibal Bay

In which Miles meets a small pod of New Zealand sea lions at Cannibal Bay.

You can view the full gallery of 15 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

In our previous episode I took you with me to Nugget Point and its lighthouse, on The Catlins Coast, then drove along the Southern Scenic Route on the way to Cannibal Bay.

I had the beach to myself for most of my visit.

Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay

I was initially drawn to the impressive rock formations at the east end of the beach.

Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay

But I was there for the sea lions.  At first I didn’t see any, but as I walked along the beach I saw one lying alone.  It was some time before I saw him move.  Apparently sea lions like their naps as much as seals.  When I walked back, at least an hour later, he was still sound asleep.

New Zealand Sea Lion at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lion at Cannibal Bay

This big guy looks a bit battle-scarred.

New Zealand Sea Lion at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lion at Cannibal Bay

An information board at Cannibal Beach warns that sea lions can be aggressive.  When I saw a group of five napping I approached cautiously.  They slowly began to wake up and spar with each other playfully while I watched for at least an hour, from about 10 meters away.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

This pair were the first to wake up, and the most active.  This male was quite aggressive toward the larger male shown in the pictures below.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

He doesn’t look especially large in these pictures, but he easily outweighed me.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

These five ignored me, but whenever one made any move in my direction I was quick to move away.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

Enjoy the video below of these sea lions doing their thing.  WordPress won’t embed the video at the moment, so you’ll have to click the link below.

https://youtu.be/7uh3muZEas4

After watching this friendly bunch for some time, I noticed another sea lion just coming in from the ocean.

From the moment I saw him, he headed straight for me!

What’s this – MileSteppin’s first cliff-hanger?!  That’s right folks!

Does the big sea lion eat him?  Does he have something else in mind for Miles?  Will our milesteppin’ hero survive?

Tune in in a couple of days to find out!

You can view the full gallery of 15 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

#CannibalBay, #TheCatlinsCoast, #NewZealandSeaLion