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  • Writer's pictureClaire

21/03/24 Owaka to Omaui via Curio Bay and Bluff

A peaceful night spent listening to the waves lapping in the inlet, and the brightest most beautiful star canopy twinkled overhead. Just incredible, and how I wish I could bottle them and bring them home with me. I do love the stars and Milky Way. I don’t mind a galaxy but I prefer a dairy milk if I’m honest.  Oh dear god I’m turning into Simon with these awful dad jokes. Sorry!! 

After a very exciting day yesterday we had another busy one planned for today, again thanks to our friendly campground owner in Temaku. We contemplated another beach walk to see if there were more seals and sea lions and maybe penguins early doors, but instead got on the road taking the Southern scenic route to our first stop of the morning, Purakaunui Falls. The falls are a short gentle 20 minute return walk through a lush green towering Beech forest. It is wheelchair friendly to the first wooden look out point, but from there it becomes a little less friendly to wheelchairs pushchairs and toddlers!  From the first lookout, a short set of steps took us down to the base of Purakaunui Falls, where there is a wide wooden viewing platform. From there we were treated to a simply mesmerising 20 metre high three-tiered waterfall that cascaded over the dark grey rock slabs. I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of water as obviously they are rain dependent, so was really surprised to see some quite strong falls. The early morning sun danced over the droplets of water as they tumbled down over the rocks in front of us. The peace of it was utter perfection, all we could hear was the water falling and the occasional bird song coming from the forest . We encountered just 6 people there and back and had the viewing area to ourselves.

Leaving the falls we continued along the highway we were on, although it wasn’t the official scenic route, the road was in good condition and was good enough for a twin trailer artic lorry to rattle along so we figured it was good enough for us. It was all going splendidly until the tarmac ended and we were on ungraded road. Well, that slowed us down! We were slowed down even more when we rounded a corner, and there was a massive machine grading the road. We now knew where the double trailered artics were going, to dump off more surfacing.  It didn’t go quite so well from there. With the grading being only half done, there were huge mounds of surfacing still lurking, and waiting to be flattened Just waiting to catch the unsuspecting driver out and almost grounding the unsuspecting drivers vehicle on it. Said vehicle escaped with nothing more than a load of surfacing scooped up underneath it that it proceeded to empty out for the next few hundred miles… 

Finally the road became solid beneath our wheels, and we were back on track. In the Chaslands we located the Whistling Frog. A holiday resort with a cafe that had fantastic reviews that raved about the pizzas, the rest of the menu, with breakfasts in particular getting a special mention in the rave reviews. It was a severe disappointment to us, breakfast offerings were either toasties, or muffins. That’s not a breakfast mun! We just had a brew, they didn’t serve up a bad one although it was on the small size! Disappointment weighed heavily upon us so we propped Bob and Kev into their bright green frog sign outside, took a quick pic and then carried on with our adventure. We came to Florence Hill Lookout, on the road to Papatowai. Basically a pull in off the main highway, that provides impressive views of Tautuku Bay, its well worth the stop, and was quite popular with several large camper vans already pulled in. We had to move on quite quickly from there as Ismene was getting a complex about her smallness compared to the bigger girls bless her. 

The road from the look out took us to Niagara Falls, whoever named it that had one hell of a sense of humour!! It was a blink and you’ll miss it place that apparently has outstanding seafood. We passed by it and as we’d only realised it after we’d gone on a while (That’s how small it was) so we decided not to turn around and it turned out to be a very good move. Our destination was Curio Bay, which is the location of one of three accessible fossilised or petrified forests in the world.

Getting to the Forest was by way of a well maintained track in the nature reserve, that is completely wheelchair friendly and takes you to a fabulous look out point. The  walkway to the petrified forest takes you via a penguin boardwalk and through the nesting grounds for endangered yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho). These little cuties waddle ashore from the beach at dusk and can sometimes be seen through the peep flaps in the boarding. Once again we were there at the wrong time of day to potentially see them. We were surprised to learn they make it so far inland to nest and then we read that they now commonly nest underneath houses in the area. It’s amazing how well they manage to adapt to the surroundings. The Forest is preserved by silica in the ashy floodwaters that drowned these Jurassic-era trees. You can see the craggy stumps and entire logs which are are a dramatic contrast to the turquoise frothing waves. The wood grain is still clearly visible in the larger pieces. There are steps down to the Forest from the lookout point, non slip with a handle on both sides and we decided to go and inspect the Forest from the ground. The tide was out when we arrived, and we went along the shoreline, and in the cliffs, clearly visible you can see the wood grain age circles of the trees. It looks like they ploughed into the cliffs during the flooding and got stuck. The detail we could see was almost as clear as what you’d see when you were looking at a log of wood, and to think it was 180 millions of years old was just mind boggling. As we explored we noticed the huge tree trunks in the water, their grain as clear as day, and we also noticed that the tide was very quickly coming in. Where I had been watching waves crash over the rocks, I could no longer see rocks, so deciding it might take a while to get back to solid ground we made our way back to the lookout point. On making it back, looking out over the bay again, the incoming tide highlighted the trees and the stumps showing them up perfectly. You could make them out when we arrived but on leaving they were far clearer, the water enhancing them as the waves washed over them   The Forest reveals itself for around four hours either side of low tide, so if we had stopped to fill our little fat bellies we would have missed out on this beautiful experience. 

Leaving the delights of Curio Bay, instead of returning on the road from whence we came we decided to take the ‘alternative’ route. It looked ok, for a while and then we had patches of road that were not so ok. They were totally passable, we just had to pay attention and Stirling Moss driving, had to take his foot off the accelerator! We rejoined the scenic highway at Fortrose, and from there followed our noses to Invercargill. We weren’t going to bother going there, but as we were in the area so to speak it seemed silly not to. It seems a bit tired does poor Invercargill, a bit lost and folorn looking, and in need of an overhaul. We drove around it, had no desire to get out and investigate it further, and just carried on driving to Bluff. 

Bluff is the southernmost and one of the oldest European settlements on mainland New Zealand, being permanently occupied since the establishment of a whaling station there in 1836. It was Originally named Campbelltown,  but Bluff became the town’s official name in 1917. 

The most-photographed spot in Bluff is the famous signpost at Stirling Point,  The signpost points out distances to major cities around the world and marks the beginning of State Highway 1, New Zealand’s main highway which runs the length of the country all the way to Cape Reinga in the far north.

The Bluff oyster is reputed to be the best in the world and New Zealand’s national treasure originating in the pristine, cool waters of the Foveaux Strait, one of the few natural oyster beds in the world.

Bluff Being a massive shipping port is massively industrialised, and despite being a man made port it’s pretty unattractive in my opinion. As you go further through and get past the industrial area it’s actually a very nice place. On offer there is shark diving should you so desire, they will take you down in a cage so you can potentially get eaten alive. Don’t these people watch Jaws???  The houses are cute and well kept, the ocean view is stunning, (past the port) and the Oysters, well the Oysters are flipping massive. No delicate swallowing down of these bad boys whole, oh no, these buggers are a mouthful and need a fair bit of chewing. We stopped at the point where the sign was giving miles to various places and up on the bank, overlooking the sea was Oyster Cove Restaurant and it promised perfect views out over the ocean. We went and parked up took a seat at the window and ordered the seafood platter for two. Bloody hell it was gigantic!! The oysters as I’ve already said were huge, the green shelled mussels enormous, gigantic  prawns, calamari and squid tentacles (I think), battered white fish chunks,  a few chips underneath, and some chibatta bread with various sauces and dips incase we were ravenous! Si had 2 glasses of wine with his, and do you know what? It was all beautiful!  Well I say that , the bits I had were. I was fancying the mussel but then I looked at it and it had burst open so I could see its insides and that put me right off, shouldn’t have looked and it would have been ok I’m sure.  I stuck with the prawns, after Si had eaten their heads because I don’t like the thought of eating prawn brains, and the battered white fish. Whilst sitting there, a group of, I want to say Swedish people arrived at the point with their hiking poles, all started hi fiving each other and hugging. From that I assumed they’d walked quite a long way to get to Bluff. Then they started swinging from the signpost for photos, and one (there's always one right) decided he was going to climb up the post and balance on the top posing. You know when a thought just pops into your mind and you’re not sure where it came from? Well it happened, and the thought was, I’d laugh my bloody arse off if he fell of there.  But he didn’t fall which quite spoiled the 5 minutes for me if I’m completely honest! They lingered and hugged the sign for the whole time we were having our meal, gettibg in the way of other people who wanted to take photos of the iconic point. Bloody rude or what. 

Having eaten the huge platter of seafood, and almost licked it clean, to ensure nothing was left behind we paid the bill and made our move. Oyster Cove goes on my favourite places to eat list, and I suspect on Simon’s too. Whilst not the cheapest place we’ve eaten it certainly wasn't the most expensive, and, considering it could have easily fed 4 people it was bloody fab. We  did the picture taking of the sign before jumping back into Ismene and driving back through Bluff towards our residence for the night. I decided that we (I) needed some warmth and comfort, and the luxury of going to the toilet without hobbling over grass and stones to do so, and the added bonus of an en-suite shower. Good old Air BnB came up trumps and we found a little place on the beach in Omaui.       . 

A lovely little, what I would describe as a granny annex,  toasty warm, hot shower, fully equipped kitchen, with tea coffee milks and sugars, cold water in the fridge, a bed that felt like a cloud, and best of all, chocolates in a basket on the table! Fabulous. The host had communicated the instructions on getting in if she wasn’t around so we let ourselves in and made ourselves at home. An hour or so later, one of the boys came and welcomed us, adding that if we needed anything just ask. Really nice people and a lovely little place, I loved it. All the facilities available to us were utilised and we used the time and space to reflect on the days adventures.

Much love

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