jen yu: new zealand 2007 - day 8

new zealand 2007 - day 8

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catlins, invercargill
march 25, 2007
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I couldn't wait to leave the campground that morning. Everything was drenched in dew from the fog. We packed up quickly and began the drive back to Invercargill. However, we took the scenic route and made several stops along the way to see the natural wonders of this special coastal area known as The Catlins.

The first stop was to see the Purakaunui Falls, a wide cascade of water in an alcove of trees at the end of a short forest hike. The second stop was a pair of waterfalls: Matai Falls at the bottom and then Horseshoe Falls a short climb above. The trails were pretty quiet in the early morning. We pulled over at a lookout on Florence Hill that overlooks peaceful Tautuku Bay.

The next attraction was Lake Wilkie a good place to witness the stages of forest succession. The trail led out to a boardwalk that extended to a low tide streambed covered in snails and tiny crabs. We drove past the entrance to the Cathedral Caves car park and saw that it was not yet scheduled to open unti 11:45 am. The caves are only accessible during low tide, so the road is only open from a few hours before and after low tide. 400 meters down the main road, we took the turn off for McClean Falls and drove the dusty dirt road to the trailhead. The hike in was shady and cool through dense forest to the most impressive McClean Falls. I was glad we had visited McClean Falls last, because it was the best of all the waterfalls.

By the time we arrived at the turn off for Cathedral Caves, the gate was open. The road up was narrow and steep, eventually leading to a large dirt lot where dozens of cars and campervans had parked. We paid a small fee, like $3 a person, to take the trail down. The trail dropped down steep switchbacks through the forest and emerged onto the beach at the bottom. We strolled across to the cave entrances through the cold surf. It felt great on our sore feet. The caves sit right on the beach and the towering walls of rock dwarfed everyone as they entered. The first cave entrance was blocked by a deep pool, but the second entrance was accessible. The two caves joined in the back - it was so amazing. Our final stop after the caves was Curio Bay. Curio Bay contains the petrified remains of a 180 million year old Jurassic forest that had been encased in ash. This is also a feature that is only seen during low tide. We examined the tree trunks and tidal pools until we began to feel tired. It was time to head for Invercargill.

This time, my Lonely Planet made up for the prior fiasco. We got a room at the Queen's Park Motel, in a quiet residential neighborhood at the edge of the expansive Queen's Park. We cleaned ourselves up and washed our toxic hiking clothes before going into town for some excellent Thai food. Originally we had planned to seek out a sushi bar, but it closed on Sundays.

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