New Zealand Diary: South Island Sojourn

posted in: Fishing, General, New Zealand, Oceania, Travel | 3

Waterfalls, whales and mountains – a South Island sojourn.


What happened so far

After some struggles in the beginning, attending a duck hunt close to Invercargill and visiting Stewart Island on a rush, I reached the southern terminus of New Zealand. There was not much of a chance of getting any further South, so I turned back North. Yet, instead of following the same route, I opted to do a loop. Accordingly, New Zealanders call travellers, who only do the major loop and visit the main atrractions fittingly: Loopies.

Ferry back to the main land from Stewart Island
Ferry back to the main land from Stewart Island

South Island Sojourn Proceedings

Here is a brief summary of my proceedings driving North through the South Island.

Stunning vistas during the South Island sojourn
Stunning vistas during the South Island sojourn

Catlins

From Bluff I drove towards the East in order to pay a visit to the Catlins. This region is phenomenal and offers many wonderful sights. Among others there are stunning beaches, cliffs, and waterfalls. The road through the Catlins is spectacular and one is frequently tempted to have a break. I visited the Pukahinui falls, before heading inland towards Alexandria.

Pukahinui Falls in the Catlins
Pukahinui Falls in the Catlins

Southern Alps

Omarama

After a nap in the car in Alexandria, I continued my ride to Omarama, where there is a free campground. The night fell shortly after 5pm and with it the thermometer plummeted into negative digits (Celcius). I pitched my tent in the dark and wondered whether “pitch darkness” originated from such an event. This was the coldest night out I would experience in New Zealand’s mild winter at -2° Celcius.

Starry cold night in the Southern Alps
Starry cold night in the Southern Alps

The following morning, I drove into the Ahuriri valley, which is famous for its magnificent fishery. Given that the season was closed, my reasoning to visit this place was rather scenery-wise to collect some landscape shots for Fish&Game.

Aerial view of Ahuriri valley in the Southern Alps
Aerial view of Ahuriri valley in the Southern Alps

Twizel

The reason for going into the Southern Alps was apart from the scenery to see and experience the Ohau canal fisheries. This was recommended by several Fish&Game field officers. Arriving at the scene, where a couple of months ago several thousand farmed salmon escaped, I counted as many as 100 anglers along the banks. What would have been an ecological disaster in any other place on the world, was highly celebrated by the angling community. This had also to do with an already existing population of salmon and that the canals are a pretty closed system.

Chris with a stunning salmon from the Ohau canal
Chris with a stunning salmon from the Ohau canal

I met a few anglers and chatted with them. Although I received advice, I did not catch any fish there on the fly. Moreover, a thunderstorm made for an interesting night in the tent, which almost flooded me and my car.

Tekapo or Takapo soon?

Driving towards Christchurch, I made a final stop in the Southern Alps in Tekapo. Being quite late and looking for a place to do the laundry and back-up data, I stayed at the cosy lakefront backpackers. Making friends with new people and getting my things done, I enjoyed a pleasant laid-back evening.

Stunning views from Lakefront backpackers Tekapo
Stunning views from Lakefront backpackers Tekapo

The following morning, I was bitterly disappointed: The Church of the Good Shephard is now fenced due to misuse by tourists and photographers. Back in 2015 one could visit the outside park of the church freely, but now there is an ugly fence preventing any good photographs being taken. This is the ugly face of tourism and spot burning and why I refrain from naming places.

Back in 2015 the Church of the Good Shephard was not fenced.
Back in 2015, the Church of the Good Shephard was not fenced.

Lake Coleridge

Back in 2018, I met a British couple in the Atacama Desert. The man introduced himself as Rob and I soon learned he has a blog too. I have been reading his posts ever since and it is a great source of inspiration. It is also the place where I heard of Lake Coleridge for the first time. You should definitely pay his website called “Travelling Light” a visit.

Stunning landscape along the way to Lake Coleridge
Stunning landscape along the way to Lake Coleridge

After visiting another Fish&Game council, I was directed to this region and I decided to stay at Lake Coleridge. It is such an amazing area and I was lucky enough with the weather, regardless of the bad forecast. It just turned awful when I decided to leave.

Stunning landscape along the way to Lake Coleridge
Stunning landscape along the way to Lake Coleridge

Kaikoura

After a brief stay in Christchurch, I proceeded quickly north towards Kaikoura and almost ran out of fuel. Kaikoura is famous for whale watching and I have not done anything like this before. On my last visit to NZ, I had only a 30 minutes break there. So, I took the chance even though I was similarly indecisive whether it is worth the expense like for Stewart Island. Additionally, I get sea-sick really fast, because Switzerland is pretty land-locked. The sea was rough and I took sea-sickness pills. Nonetheless, I felt unwell but kept all liquids in me. As soon as they spotted the first sperm whale, all worries were gone.

Sperm whale fin Kaikoura
Sperm whale fin Kaikoura

It is an unbelievable experience to see these massive creatures of the sea, blowing air into sky and displaying their huge fin before leaping for another 45 minutes dive. Rather highlighting the photographic opportunity of a whale breath, no-one tells you about the disgusting smell like dead fish that is emitted.

Humpback whale fin in front of Kaikoura range
Humpback whale fin in front of Kaikoura range

A remarkable moment was when the crew spotted a Southern Grey Whale, which is an endangered population. Given I was the only passenger aboard with a proper tele-zoom lens, the guide Mal asked me to supply images for identifying the individual for research purpose.

Southern Gray Whale which is apparently an endangered population
Southern Gray Whale which is apparently an endangered population

Brief South Island Sojourn

Each of these little paragraphs  only scratches the surface of what I have experienced. Most of these stories of my South Island sojourn would be worth their very own post, yet, for the time being I leave it to this short story. In case you are interested in one particular event, let me know and I will come back to it.

With a planned detour on the way towards Picton, I returned to the ferry to the North Island, where my adventure continued. Stay tuned!

Sounds around Picton in a magnificent Sunrise display
Sounds around Picton in a magnificent Sunrise display

3 Responses

  1. Rob Mellors

    Thanks for the website plug Tom. Looks like you had a great time in the South Island and glad you like the Coleridge Lake area. We are off for a short break to Ireland next week. Been a long tome since I was there and looking forward to getting some good pics.

    • Your more than welcome.
      I wish you save travels in Ireland and I am looking forward to seeing what you create. All the best,
      Tom

  2. […] my South Island sojourn that brought me back to the North Island, I urgently needed to go fly fishing. Not only due to […]

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