Owaka to Fortrose

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


The Windy Cat
  • Owaka 30th November 2012
The Catlins map
I leave Craig and little Jett to their solitude. Some like it, some don’t! Some just go mad with it! Others find it spiritual!
Craig and Jett YHA The Catlins
I head out towards Balclutha. The plan been to cycle north and Cromwell, with the idea of missing the headwinds I was picking up cycling clockwise!
Owaka is home to Tea Pot Land!
Tea Pot Land Owaka
Around 5 km’s out with my first hill caressing me, I’m thinking , I might have to do this hill again when I return. Sod that! Then I remembered I still owed the YHA $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.…mind over weather! As Phil ‘Chasing White Stripes’ called me a kindred bicycle warrior, I’d better start acting like one!
After the second time asking, I say cheers to the YHA and head down the road in the direction of Invercargill.Cycle race on
A road race passes as I take shelter from the rain.
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 as 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.
Purakaunui FallsBush walk
Lush, green and as it should be, wet.
I’m starting to get pretty wet too, still comfortable though. 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.
Papatowai Bridge
Paptowai offers a DOC campsite on the other side of the bridge.
DOC campsite Papatowai
Get in, dry off, dry clothes on. Soon all is right in the world again!
DOC camp site PapatowaiFortunately this DOC site has a cook house. I’m able to get undercover and prepare my meal without faffing in a tent. DOC camp site Papatowai kitchen
In hindsight I should’ve put my tent up in the lean-to next to the cook-house. Lesson for another time.
A pleasant evening is spent with my new Swiss friends over a couple of glasses of white.
Swiss Family Robinson
I depart in the morning thinking the wind is favourable, well it feels that way. But I get no further than 100 metres. I’m a sucker for a good coffee!
Curios at PapatowaiPapatowai curios shop whale
This curio shop and cafe is certainly interesting, with some great artifacts. The whale swims if one turns the handle as seen in the photograph.
Papatowai curios shop
Sign – “There are many temptations in life. The button below is one of them….”
The Southern Scenic Highway
The road whines through the dense forest.
Porpoise Bay
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 on my bike, even though I get a few looks!
Tautuku Estuary Boardwalk
Check out my video below, as it shows the ride down to the lake in all its glory.
Kiwi woods
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! Telling me it’s because they’ve to filter it. I couldn’t believe it. I was more shocked than anything else. I left.
Frog & Whistle
Not so much thumbs up, but a thumbs down!
The day is cool though. Luckily 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 gillet and replace with my waterproof jacket, as I expect a chilly descent. And, it was just that.
Thick Kiwi vegatation
With the major drop of the descent behind me, I stop for some peanuts and reverse my jackets. I look down to where my gillet should be attached to the top of my left front pannier. I scream like a girl 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 $200. But that’s not the point, I need a gillet. With it having no arms just the body, it keeps ones core warm and dry. A well-used piece of kit.
So with my now few drops of water supply left,  I head back up. Soon realising I’ve no need to be hauling my 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 gillet? OH bloody hell….! The only other thing is that it had come lose on the fast 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 noticed 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 happy to be re-united with a piece of clothing before!
Southern Scenic Highway
With my gillet 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 only 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!
Predatory Kiwi ladies
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! So reluctantly, I reclined 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!
Xmas at Niagara
First things first, water bottles filled. This is done without any issues or payment and with a smile.
Penguins at Niagara
After my large bottle of beer, I feel like another. A few smaller bottles are enjoyed outside on the sunny deck. Sweet!
Niagara cafe'
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 to it. There I head.
Niagara community hall camp set
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.
Tea time
Niagara does have a waterfall as one would imagine due to the name. I’ve heard it’s all of about two foot in height. I did not search it out. OK, I just plain forgot!
From Niagara I progress onto Waikawa and Curio Bay.
Waikawa jail
As I leave Waikawa and any possibility of being thrown into the local jail, I take the turn to Curio Bay.
Waikawa chapel
Another cyclist rolling down the road. I slow down to say hello, he does too. 
Young English (Devon) sheep farmer James. He’d only the day before set off from Owaka. Buying 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 on gravel back roads. We part, but we’ll meet again.
I soon arrive at Curio Bay. It’s very wind swept.
I search out the only supplies store for miles around. It’s a small store at the campsite, but has just enough for me to carry on wild camping. Drinking water collected too.Entrance to Curio Bay mouth
Back roads out of Curio Bay
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, tough work indeed!
Very windy Haldane Bay
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.
Waipohatu forest
From the picnic spot there is a wheelchair enabled trail. This, I explore on my bike (know one else around!). Just beautiful. I find another trail that is a two hour round trip to the Waipohatu Falls. This one could be special. But, I just can’t leave my bicycle out in the open. I change into walking boots, hiding the bike in the forest.
Bike hidden in woods Waipohatu
The hike takes me 40 minutes one way. It’s very rough, wet and slippery. Including a few good climbs. Love it.
Waipohatu River
The water fall certainly outshines all the others. It has to be well over twenty metres and not a sole around for kilometres.
Waipohatu Falls
Once back from the excellent hike, I search out my bike. This can be viewed in my video.
Camp set Waipohatu
A brief search I find a great spot for the night, with bench.
Fetching water Waipohatu
A natural stream runs right past my camp, so water available to wash or boil for cooking and drinking.
Morning coffee Waipohatu
Drying out in the morning Waipohatu
The day starts well, 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.
Leaving Waipohatu
I head backdown the lane, joining the main gravel scenic road. Yep, it’s windy!
Sheep stationInto wind
Into wind once again!
The road takes me to Fortrose and the end of The Catlins.
The Catlins new Zealand
  • Fortrose 3rd December 2012 – 90km’s
I leave the windy Catlins. I’ve decided to head back up north to Cromwell as the wind doesn’t t seem to be abating.
The Catlins is special as it’s very different to anything I’d come across to date 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.


Wild/stealth camping spots can be viewed when zooming in on each location. Also, click on the icon for a photo and another click will open it up in Flickr.


You can click on each photo in this the post for an enhanced Flickr view or the above Flickr slideshow for further photos for this post.



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