Roaring Forties

Next on our tour of NZ’s South Island, we drove to its southernmost end.

A somewhat long morning drive from Oamaru ook us to a shore lined with beaches of lively orange-colored sand …


… and on to the planned attraction of the day – Nugget Point – basically a lighthouse placed atop a scenic rocky spit right at the island’s southeast corner:


The place receives its name from these rocks which, according to those who christened it, look like “golden nuggets”. Indeed they do:


Perched high up at the cliff there, we were a good 100 meters above sea level, as Paulo verified …


… the sea being quite lively that day, raging under us as it reached the rocky shore:


It was a great place for an epic selfie, which I ruined terribly by misjudging the sun glare, direction, and wind effect:


From there we proceeded to our lodge that day – this simple but quaint cabin located at the mouth of river Catlins, in the middle of an eponymous area, a vast, sparsely inhabited place covered by dense temperate forests:


We were now beyond 46 degrees of latitude South, well in the heart of a region known as the “Roaring Forties”, where strong westerly winds and waves parade around the globe almost undisturbed – except for Patagonia, in South America, and New Zealand, where we were.

And roaring the winds were that day. A Depression (aka “Bad Weather”) was approaching, causing the Westerlies to be brisk. Another Depression, which had visited us a few days earlier, had left a big swell on the opposing direction, delivering a show that I will hold forever in my memory:


The big swell, livened up by the outgoing tide of river Catlin, having its top foam combed off by the roaring westerly wind – so much beauty and power:


I stood there, in the middle of the bush, for as long as I could. But the falling temperature, dimming daylight and growing appetite suggested I hike back to the lodge to work on supper. On my way back, to my surprise, the kids were outside playing with giant chess – Paulo’s wearing the t-shirt nearly disguising the fact that temperatures were well under 10C (50F) at that point:


With our appetites quenched, bodies warmed up, and having had a good night o’sleep, we woke up next morning to a still blue-skied day, despite the imminent arrival of the Depression. Moreover, the tide was low, very low, and it was just impossible to pass a hike along the sprawling beach in adjacent Surat Bay:


Having spent so much time in balmy tropical beaches in the last three years, it was quite a dramatic change to walk on a beach in such circumstances:


Even more peculiar was to share it with a local Sea Lion:


He was clearly less amused than us, as his cold welcome made it very easy for us to understand:

The wind was still blowing that morning, sucking sand off the surface of the beach:

And amidst all this, I managed to ruin another selfie:

As expected, the Depression soon caught up with us. The sky clogged up with dense clouds, the wind roared even stronger, and rain poured down plentifully.

We drove out of the Catlins, across the Chaslands, and over to Invercargill, where we stayed indoors for two days awaiting for the Depression to blow itself away. This marked the southernmost foray we shall make on this Journey, and completed our tour of South Island’s plains, on its Eastern side. From there, we would drive back North, and West, to New Zealand’s incredible Alpine area, where a whole different environment, and experiences, awaited.

Stay tuned.