My Trip To The Catlins

Trip Start Jan 25, 2008
Trip End Nov 16, 2008

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Monday, September 1, 2008

this past week I was finally able to get away for a couple of days, do some sight-seeing and take some new pictures. yaaay! it's about time, right?

about two weeks ago, I had mentioned to my friend Vincent that I really wanted to visit The Catlins before I left the south island. a few days later he tells me that he and a friend of his from work, Ross, were planning an overnight trip to The Catlins and I was welcome to come if I wanted to. UM, YEAH! I was so excited because they were renting a car and I knew that meant more freedom to explore and take our time seeing the places we really wanted to see. I was prepared to book one of those day tours from Dunedin for $100 in case nothing else came up, but I know those tours try to pack it all in and only scratch the surface of what's really there. Imagine my excitement when they picked me up at 11:30am Monday morning! we were off!

situated off the beaten track on the southern-most coast of south island, The Catlins is a major highlight of the Southern Scenic Route. known for its various bays and points jutting into the pacific, it's said to hold some of the most scenic coastline in all New Zealand. for a better picture, here's a map:

the day started off cloudy and grey, but I was ok with that as long as it didn't rain. I was stoked just to be getting out of Dunedin for a while. the three of us have been working for over three months in town and the trip came as a welcomed break. we jumped on the southern scenic route and headed out of Dunedin and towards the coast. about 20 min from town we drove through the little development of Brighton, and we saw this beach with neat rocks so we decided to stop and check it out. after snapping the first pictures of our trip, we walked to the other side of the beach to some stairs that climbed up a cliff to a lookout over the beach. as Vincent and I were walking up the stairs Ross yells down to us, "hey guys! I think there's a dead seal over here." of course I knew that seals frequently haul out to rest for hours at a time, so I wanted to see for myself. as we neared the edge of the cliff, i saw it-- a beautifully sandy-colored NZ fur seal lounging on a bed of kelp seaweed. it lifted its head a few times to look at us, but seemed otherwise unphased by our presence. we decided that it was indeed alive, and had a good laugh at Ross's innocent mistake.  I took a video of it, although I was so excited (as this was my first NZ fur seal encounter) all I did was giggle and say how cute it was.

back in the car, the road veered away from the coast for a little while and we plunged into the farms of southland. we drove into Clutha District-- an area of Otago known for its farming and sheep production. we continued on through Balclutha, the heart of the region and the road finally took us back towards the coast. after driving for about another 30 minutes, our first official stop in The Catlins was at Kaka Point... (yeah, I know)... a teeny little seaside village on the way to Nugget Point. the road turned from pavement to dirt as we followed the tide line up the hill to the famous Point. Nugget Point is one of the most well known "attractions" of The Catlins, mainly for its rugged beauty, dramatic cliffs and views of The Catlins coast from the lighthouse. Seals and penguins are also known to hang out here from time to time. once we had walked around the point and took in the scenery ( lives up to the hype, believe me) we drove halfway down the hill to the neighboring bay of Roaring Bay, where supposedly there are yellow-eyed penguins. when we got out of the car it was apparent where it got its name; the high cliffs surrounding the bay amplified the crashing and cracking of the waves till at times, it sounded like fireworks! the sign said that the penguins were best viewed after 3pm when they come out onto the beach for the night after fishing all day. we looked at our watches and to our delight, discovered it was 4:30-- perfect timing! we walked down the trail to the little wooden booth that had been built for penguin viewing.  Vincent and I had barely reached the booth when Ross points to one just coming up the rocky shore. we watched as he stumbled up the beach to a little nesting area...oh my god, he so adorable!  another 3 or 4 minutes later we were able to watch another one come in, and I took a video this time. again, this was my first chance to see penguins in NZ so I was ecstatic!

the sun was getting low in the sky and we wanted to see a few more things before it got dark, so we pulled ourselves away and headed back on the road. I had mentioned to the guys that I had read Cannibal Bay was nearby and was a usual hangout for sea lions, so we decided to give it a try. once again, we turned off the southern scenic route and onto a dirt road, where we drove through about another 15 min of private farmland and more sheep. we couldn't even see the water, just big hills and times we were wondering if we were going the right way. but sure enough the bush opened up and we were all alone in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Cannibal Bay is a secluded, pristine bay with beautiful flat sand (no sea lions this time though) with characteristic bush lining the shore. as it set in the sky, the sun dropped below the cloud line and cast a shimmering ambiance on the beach. we must have spent at least a half an hour just taking pictures and enjoying the aura of it all. as the sun set lower and lower, it became a truly magical place. my pictures will convey some of that to you, but honestly they don't capture the real beauty of being there.

just amazing.
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