McLean Falls to Kaka Point – 52 miles
What a jam packed day! I had a slow start to the day because I ran out of allergy medicine and forgot to look for some in Invercargill. I was up all night with a clogged sinus and crusty eyes. It was the first time I have camped with a full campground too. I wasn’t prepared for the constant rustling of human activity late into the night. Regardless, a slow start. I did catch a bit of luck in the Whistling Frog Cafe, I stopped in for a coffee and one of the waitresses had a homeopathic hay fever serum. I don’t really know if it helped, but I felt better today than I did at any moment last night.
My first stop was Cathedral Caves, of the largest beach sea caves on Earth at 199 meters of total passage length. As I am in the same general area as yesterday, it makes sense that the beds dipping inland here are of a similar Jurassic sandstone as the petrified forest in Curio Bay. Though obviously the cave has formed over the last tens to hundreds of thousand years from the mechanical erosion and collapse of the rock. Sub-vertical joint sets orthogonal to the bedding enable the waves to create large, blocky passage cross-sections. My timing was perfect, I arrived right at the lowest tide, so I was able to walk all the way into the back of the cave and out its second entrance. The passage profiles are quite large. The first entrance is about 10 meters across and 20 meters tall, while the second entrance is 15×15 meters. They were once two separate caves that eventually connected. The waves continue to erode a single back passage.
Then I rode to Lake Wilkie, a rare memory from the last ice age some 13,000 years ago left behind as a lake. It was mostly just a nice nature walk. But there was a simple yet effective series of informative boards showing how the mature podocarp forest is slowly reclaiming the lake.
Then I stopped at Tautuka Beach. It has a spectacular bay backed by forest. And is clearly a popular spot for surfing and beach driving. I almost wanted a vehicle so I too could go racing down the beach. I note this beach only because immediately after standing at sea level I rode up the beefy Florence Hill overlooking that bay. Beautiful views and literally breathtaking. I was sweating profusely by the top.
I then rode on to Papatowai Settlement and stumbled upon the Lost Gypsy Gizmo Gallery. Incredible little place! They even had a small coffee stand. The owner of this place makes mechanical trinkets, like hundreds, if not a thousand of them. They fill a small boxcar and have continued into the gardens around the place. There is even a back area with larger mechanical wonders. All interactive too. I loved it! I rode down to the Papatowai Picnic Point Forest because they have public toilets, and found a one day only children’s carnival. It was so cute. I didn’t stay.
I continued up another beefy climb to Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Nothing special, but I like waterfalls. It did lead me to opt to head to Purakaunui Falls, which required gravel road travel. But you know what, that gravel road was beautifully level and not covered in deep shifting gravel. Though I probably liked it most because I really only saw a handful of vehicles on the whole stretch. Purakaunui Falls were also fantastic! Very iconic wide, tiered falls.
I then continued the gravel travel out to Jack’s Blowhole. Named after the Maori chief Tuhawaiki, or Bloody Jack, this is basically a sea cave like I saw this morning except the ceiling has completely collapsed. The result is that 200 meters inland, there is this giant blowhole. The sign says it is a 68 meter wide opening that is 55 meters deep. Tide was still relatively low while I was there and I could see sunlight shining through its 144 meters of tunnel to the sea. It was well worth the extra 14 miles of gravel!
I wandered into the town of Owaka next. Unfortunately it was evening by then, because they would have had a pharmacy. Hopefully Balclutha can provide the saving elixir for hay fever! Anyway, I missed out on a lot of cool sounding stuff because everything was closed. I at least had a really nice meal from Lumberjack Bar and Restaurant. The whole place basically reserved for supper parties, but they set me up at the main bar. Pan fried Blue Cod, cheesy scalloped potatoes, and seasonal veggies. I really wanted dessert but knew it would make the ride out too difficult. It was delicious and the staff were extremely friendly.
I probably should have set off for Balclutha, but instead rode to Kaka Point. A small sea side village overlooking Molyneaux Bay. It is a beautiful and scenic route to take up to Balclutha. The reason I set off to add even more miles is because I really want to see Roaring Bay and Nugget Point at the southernmost edge from Kaka Point. There are so many fantastic sights to see along the coast here, but the road isn’t actually along the coast because the bluffs are tall and not continuous. So every place I want to visit requires a lengthy side route out to the coast, then back to the scenic highway, up a short way, and back out to the coast. It has made a long day, but a day worth every mile. And I refuse to skip these last views just because it means a longer day tomorrow.
Back to topic, I am staying at the Kaka Point Camping Ground. When I rode in they had just made the call that no one else could fit, but they saw me on my bicycle and made an exception. Much to my great relief! If they hadn’t taken me, and I couldn’t find a hotel in Kaka Point, I would have been forced to ride an additional 14 miles to Balclutha. And after I already mentioned that I wasn’t skipping Nugget Point, I would have needed to go there first, meaning an additional 12 miles, for 26 miles total. It would have been really dark and raining (as it is raining right now, and I suspect I wouldn’t have made it yet). All the little side trips take up a bunch of time, I hardly made any distance today.
Happy New Year’s Eve! It is about 22:30 and I am heading to sleep. My mom gave me new year advice from her mother, and it is to not do anything for New Years that you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the year doing. I feel pretty good about getting some good sleep and adventuring about. 2017 should be a good year for me!