Day 19: Catlins - Purakauni - Tautapere
14 January 2010
3400km - map

Rain overnight has made for a grey start to the day and we head off early, southward, to the Catlins area, stopping at Balclutha for breakfast (a quite bad plate of scrambled eggs) and on to what is now becoming the south coast. Our first sightseeing stop is Jack's Blowhole - a 55m deep hole in a hilltop some 200m inland, fed by the sea. Quite an impressive natural feature but to get there we had to drive down some unsealed roads and hike over several hills and cliffs. We also took in a few of the many waterfalls in the area, first the Purakauni Falls and then the Kahuika and Horseshoe Falls. All of them were all slightly more impressive than normal due to the heavy rain the night before but getting to them along the forest paths is also all the more slippery!

After these stops we continued along the southern scenic highway rather than the more direct state highway route via Gore (which the guidebook tells us is only worth visiting if you're into your country and western music) to Invercargill. We don't stop in the city, which incidentally still has its Christmas lights up, but carry on along the southern scenic highway along the south coast stopping for photos along the way.

Before we get to the Southern Fiordland on the west coast of the island we turn north as there are very few roads that lead into the Fiordland area and certainly no sealed ones. We follow the Waian river to the old mining town of Tautapere where we find a nice free camping area which is actually the town's playing field and we set up camp next to a rugby pitch. A phone number posted on one of the buildings puts us in touch with a Mr Lindsay Faulkner who offers to bring the keys to the toilet block to us within half an hour. True to his word he arrives with his wife, a nice retired couple who look after the keys on behalf of the town.

After sitting and enjoying the evening sun for about an hour another Jucy campervan turns up and camps with us. The Chadwicks have had a similar holiday to us (Sydney for new year followed by New Zealand) but are doing the south island anti-clockwise - the opposite to us. So we spend the evening swapping recommendations and stories of our holiday so far. We're booked in for a cruise around Doubtful Sound tomorrow morning at 9:25 and it's about a 120km drive first so we have an early night.

Jack's Blowhole
Horseshoe Falls
Wind-swept trees along the south coast
Tautapere playing field and campsite