Owaka to Fortrose

Owaka to Fortrose

I’m out the door and on the bike again. Only 12 days after arriving at The Catlins YHA. One word, chilled 🙂

I abandon Craig and little Jet 🐕 to their solitude. Some like it, some don’t, some just go demented with it, others find it spiritual!

I head towards Balclutha. The plan is to cycle north and Cromwell. With the idea of missing the headwinds I was picking up cycling clockwise around NZ.

Around 5 km’s out with my first hill caressing me ⛰️ I’m thinking, I might have to perform this hill again when I return. Sod that! At that point I remembered I still owed Craig $10 for internet. I’m turning back regardless. In turning around it feels right to be heading in this direction again (good karma) I’m staying on my planned trajectory, whatever the weather throws at me … mind over weather! As Phil ‘Chasing White Stripes’ called me, a kindred-bicycle-warrior 🚵 I’d better start cycling like one!

After the second time asking, I say cheers to the YHA and head down the road in the direction of Invercargill. A road race passes as I take shelter from the passing shower ☔ I’m soon on a gravel road and heading towards Purakaunui Falls. By now the heavens have started to open up, slowly. I’m not bothered, it’s warm, so comfortable.

The brief walk or cycle in my case to the falls is the highlight as the Kiwi forest 🌲🌲 is dense and mystical. Lush, green, wet, as it should be.

I’m starting to get pretty wet too, still comfortable. But would be happy to set up camp, dry off, get a cuppa under way and call it a day as the rain doesn’t look like abating.

Paptowai offers a DOC campsite 🎪 on the other side of the bridge. Get in, dry off, dry clothes on. Soon all is right in the world, again! Fortunately, this DOC site has a cook house. I’m able to get undercover and prepare my meal without faffing in a tent while it’s raining.

In hindsight, I should’ve pitched my tent in the lean-to next to the cook-house. Lesson for another time. A pleasant evening is enjoyed with my new Swiss friends over a couple of glasses of white.

I depart in the morning thinking the wind is favourable. But I get no further than 100 metres … I’m a sucker for a good coffee ☕ This curio shop and cafe is certainly interesting, with some great artifacts. The whale swims if one turns the handle.

Sign – “There are many temptations in life. The button below is one of them ….” 🔲

The road whines through the impenetrable forest. I climb up to the vista point overlooking Porpoise Bay. Boy its windy up here! Next I’m skittering downhill towards the Lake Wilkie board walk. The trail to the lake is accessible by bike, even though I get a few looks!

Before, I start what looks like a big climb looming, I pop into the Frog and Whistle cafe to fill my water bottles. What I got was not a drop 🚰 They wanted $2 per 500 ml! Informing me it’s because they’ve to filter it. I couldn’t believe it. I was more shocked than anything else 😲 I left. Not so much thumbs up, but a thumbs down 👎

The day is cool. Fortunately as I climb, I’m also climbing into cloud. The temperature drops dramatically, reducing the need for water. On reaching the summit I remove my gilet and replace with my waterproof jacket, as I expect a chilly descent. It was just that.

With the major drop of the descent behind me, I stop for some peanuts and change my jackets. I look down to where my gilet should be attached to the top of my left-front-pannier. I scream 😱 like a banshee, when I notice it’s not there! As in an instance, I know full well it’s back at the top of the climb, which is 4km’s behind me!

It’s a good quality garment and to replace in New Zealand would set me back some handsome $’s. But that’s not the point, I need my gilet.

So, with my now few drops of water supply left, I head back up. Soon realising I’ve no need to be hauling my heavy panniers back up too. With no traffic around, I ditch all four of them in the roadside bush. The climb is fast, but with no headwind I’m soon sweating. No gilet to be found? OH bloody hell! The only other thing is that it had come lose on the rapid descent, but I’d not seen anything obviously on the way up? With the wind in my ears, my eyes 👀 fixed to the road as I would’ve been travelling at 40 km’s an hour plus, I’d not observed it slipping off.

I head backdown slowly. 2 km’s nothing. I’d nearly given up on finding it. Out of the corner of my left eye, I catch a glimpse of a garment unravelled in a culvert. I’ve never been so delighted 💖 to be re-united with a piece of clothing before! With my gilet firmly in place, it’s not far to Niagara Cafe.

As I pull up a mini bus that I’d previously seen at the Frog and Whistle was departing with a party of women on board. Lots of screaming and whistling directed at me as they depart. I politely wave back 🖐️ I dismount, making my way into the cafe and hopefully filling my water bottles. I merely get to the garden gate. The rowdy mini bus returns … hmmm, trouble!

After further antipodean female howling and laughter, I’m invited into the bus for a drink. Liquid refreshment at last, beer 🍺 Didn’t have to ask me twice! It was a birthday booze cruise. Their plan now was to get my bike into the bus and man-nap me back to Owaka. Now, I did think about this briefly, but Owaka is two days cycle to this point and that dam hill again! I declined, politely.

After consuming a large bottle of beer, a lot of laughter 🤣 and questions, we gathered for photos. I said my goodbyes and escaped smartly into the safety of Niagara Falls Cafe. It truly is an oasis in The Catlins!

First things first, water bottles filled. This is performed without any issues or payment and with a smile ☺️ After my large bottle of beer, I feel like another. A few squatter bottles are enjoyed outside on the sunny deck. Sweet! Before I arrived at the cafe I’d already checked out the nearby community hall to see if I’d get away with stealth camping next/behind it. Thither I head.

Pitching my tent behind the porch with a brew on the go. Nice porch, it has a deck chair 🪑 As anyone who has camped out, this is utter luxury, having a backrest while sitting down.

Niagara does have a waterfall as one would imagine due to the name. I’d heard it’s all of about two feet in height. I didn’t search it out! From Niagara I progress onto Waikawa and Curio Bay.

As I leave Waikawa and any possibility of being thrown into the local jail, I follow the turn to Curio Bay. Another cyclist 🚴 rolling down the road. I slow down to say hello, likewise too. Young English (Devon) sheep farmer James. He’d only the day before set off from Owaka. Purchasing his bike locally and kitting it out with farmers string! We natter for 20 minutes or so. He’s heading towards Invercargill via the tar road, while I’ll be heading there too, but on gravel back roads.

I promptly arrive at Curio Bay. Its extremely wind swept. I search out the only supplies store for miles around. It’s a scant store at the campsite, but allows enough for me to carry on wild camping 🏕️ Drinking water collected too.

As I head out through Haldane Bay the wind 🌬️ truly picks up as I slog through the gravel. A gravel road is usually fine on it’s own, but with a monster headwind, vigorous work indeed!

I cycle pass a turning that says Waipohatu Forest picnic spot. It’s early afternoon. It might be worth a look, plus also a rest bite from the wind for a bit.

From the picnic spot there is a wheelchair enabled trail. This, I explore on my bike (know one else around!). Just beautiful. I discover another trail that is a two hour round trip to the Waipohatu Falls. This one could be unique. But I just can’t leave my bicycle out in the open. I change into walking boots (👟). Hiding the bike in the forest.

The hike takes me 40 minutes one way. It’s very rough, wet and slippery. Including a few good climbs. Loved it. The waterfall certainly outshines all the others. It has to be well over twenty metres and not a sole around for kilometres. Once back from the excellent hike, I search out my bike.

A brief search, I find a great spot for the night, with bench. A natural stream runs past my camp. So water available to wash or boil for cooking and drinking.

The next day starts positively, clear, blue and no wind, but I’m well protected here. The tent is set out to dry as I have breakfast. Normally porridge to kick start the day. I head backdown the lane, joining the main gravel scenic road. Yep, it’s windy 🌬️🌬️ The road takes me to Fortrose and the end of The Catlins.

I leave the windy Catlins. I’ve decided to head back up north to Cromwell as the wind doesn’t seem to be abating. The Catlins is special as it’s very different to anything I’d come across so far in New Zealand.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’d planned to get beyond Invercargill and try my hand at WOOF’ing. This will have to wait or perhaps another site up north.

Photos shot with a Samsung EX1 24-72mm f/1.8.

The map is interactive. Click on the route or icons for detail.