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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
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19/01/2008, Purakainui Falls

Driving west through the Catlins, our first stop was the Purakainui Falls. These are another iconic NZ picture, featuring on lots of postcards and so on.
We heard a story that there was once a wedding photo which put each generation on a different level. That must have taken some organising!

Places and people
Bush and ferns
18/01/2008, Purakainui Bay

About a kilometre inland from the beach is a substantial area of protected forest, the original beech wood which would have covered this whole area. It is not clear whether this area was never logged or whether this is re-growth.
Logging was intensive, bush being cleared for farming and fortunes made out of it. At its height there were 37 timber mills in the area between Dunedin and Invercargill (a strip about 30km wide by 150km long). The biggest one, just south of Owaka, worked at full strength for 90 years, before the wood was exhausted.
In this lovely remnant, heavily fenced and protected, there are many tree ferns, pushing proudly above the other trees to reach for the sky.

Places and people
Oystercatcher school
18/01/2008, Purakainui Bay

On the beach was a family of variegated oystercatchers, scuttling through the rock pools and teaching their youngster how to fish. Behind them you can see the giant kelp that flourishes all along this coastline, swirling in the surf like a giant's undies in the washing machine.
The oystercatchers share the beach itself with many gulls, both the red-beaked scavengers and the shyer black-backed variety.

Places and people
Iron Age villages in NZ!
18/01/2008, Purakainui Bay

The elaborate lacework is itself eroded down to smoothness. Taken from above, this could be an Iron Age settlement, the very rumour of which had been lost until its straight lines and apparent order are revealed by aerial photography.

Places and people
More rocks
18/01/2008, Purakainui Bay

The last picture, back into the bay, was taken from the rocks along its western side. These are eroded into fantastic shapes, mini-landscapes of caves and grottos. The geology is a mystery, the rocks riddled with veins of brown, white, grey, and the slabs themselves changing from dark grey to shining white.

Places and people
A quiet day
17/01/2008, Purakainui Bay

We decided to spend two nights at Purakainui Bay. We need to stop and catch our breaths, and this is a beautiful spot in which to do so. In a very large area there were may be 10 caravans and tents on Thursday night; as we write this on Friday afternoon, there are three others. More may come, as the Catlins 'Woodstock' festival happens this Sunday, only about 15 miles from here.
The white dot in the distance is Puff, tucked neatly under a belt of Tea Tree, palms, and flax. There is a colony of tui in the trees, their melodious calls startling us as we get in an out of the van.

Places and people
17/01/2008, Nugget Point

The headland is also rich in birdlife, including yellow-eared penguins (we saw one) and many shags. This spoonbill is nesting in a colony on a tall, craggy spire rising out of a miniature bay.

Places and people
Seal cubs
Still windy but drier
17/01/2008, Nugget Point

Luckily the rain had begun to clear by the time we got to the Catlins. Named after an avaricious settler, this region is famed for its beauty even amongst Kiwis blasť about the qualities of their natural scenery. The sweet, 30 year old guide book that Beryl lent us says that it draws visitors from as far as Dunedin and Invercargill! Today they come from Japan, Europe and Canada.
We had a bracing walk on the great curve of beach at Kaka Point. Beyond here an unsealed track leads to Nugget Point (so named because it is allegedly shaped like a gold nugget.) This uninhabited headland is famous both as a trap to shipping and as the only place on the mainland where elephant seals, fur seals and Hookers sea lions co-exist.
There are indeed seals breeding here, as these pups learning to swim in a rock pool show. The sides of the headland are very sheer and forbidding, making it impossible to get close up. We saw other seals lounging about but couldn't see their noses to identify whether even the largest were elephant seals. Far down one cliff was a colony of sea-lions, their long white whiskers just visible in the monocular, but not caught on camera.

Places and people
Sploshing about
Very wet
17/01/2008, Dunedin

The next day we went into Dunedin in the pouring rain. We needed to mend the electric pump on the water in Puff, but that was easily done (and even required a visit to the chandlery). The Public Art gallery pulled us in for some interesting exhibitions and then we explored the main shopping street. No pictures though; it was so wet we didn't want to get the camera out.

Places and people
Shags and dyes
16/01/2008, Otago Peninsula

There is also a colony of Stewart Island shags on Taiaroa Head. They make these complicated nests, which for all the world look like the dye tanks of the tannery in Fes. All it needs is the bright colours.
We spent the night at Portobello Tourist Camp. Free parking is not allowed anywhere in the Dunedin City Limits, and the others were both further away and more 'family oriented'. The Portobello Camp was the nicest we've visited. Big spaces between the vans, excellent showers, a good kitchen, friendly staff (a major change after Lake Tekapo). Even a book-swap, the first we've seen here. These bring-and-go informal arrangements are common in marinas, but less usual in the ground-based context. Even here, they made sure you left the same number of books as you took.

Places and people
Soaring and swooping
Windy, happily for us
16/01/2008, Otago Peninsula

We were lucky to get a good flying display; normally it is too warm and still in mid-afternoon, but it was very windy and the younger birds put on a display. This is part of their adolescence, when they spend several years hanging around and showing off to each other.
Albatross generally mate for life, although divorce happens, and remarriage after widowhood is common. There are two female albatross living as a pair within the colony, who will sit on eggs and make very useful foster parents. There is also a bigamous male; normally pairs only return to breed every other year, but he appears every spring, with alternating partners.
The Northern Royal Albatross has a wing span of about 3m, wing tip to wing tip, and it is difficult (with no comparison) to give an impression of the scale. They spend 85% of their lives at sea; sitting on the water takes a lot of energy, because of heat loss, and so they are superb flyers, barely twitching their wings as they soar. This bird, expertly snapped by Pip, has one wing twitched up and the other down, steering in the complex currents of the headland.

Places and people
Royal broods
16/01/2008, Otago Peninsula

The Otago peninsula outside the city of Dunedin has been widely praised for its approach to eco tourism. The crowning glory is the breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross at its tip, Taiaroa Head.
These birds, one of the three Great Albatross, breed nowhere else on the NZ mainland. And they only started here in the twentieth century. The first nest was made in 1919, but it was not until 1938, and then by dedicated human protection, that the first fledgling survived to fly on the great migrations.
It is fascinating to learn that only human ecological destructiveness made this headland attractive to the albatross. First of all, the coastal forest was cleared by loggers and tracks were made enabling these ungainly birds to land. Then gun emplacements were made; concrete flat areas, which, as grass grew around them, made perfect nesting sites.
Now the area is surrounded by heavy fences, to keep out the many predators introduced in the last 150 years that have so damaged the ground nesting birds: stoats, possum, cats and rats. These are fences to be the envy of any one trying to keep rabbits or deer out of their gardens and paddocks. They may not go deep enough for moles, though, which fortunately do not seem to have made it to New Zealand.

Places and people

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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