We were happy to not have to set up a wet tent in the morning and to be able to sit at our bench in our snug cabin and have breakfast while looking out to sea. We set off from Pounawea under gray skies and drizzle but it didn’t dampen our spirits. As a matter of fact this day rates pretty high on my list, for it was filled with so many scenic wonders and incredible animal encounters! We were following a map of The Catlins that we’d received at camp and also the advice of our Dunedin friends but I became known as “The Taskmaster” because as navigator I told Mike where to stop and which hike I wanted to do next! At one point I said to Mike, “Hasn’t this just been the most enjoyable day?” His reply was, “Yes, but I’m almost enjoyed out.” That was a gut-buster for me and I couldn’t stop laughing for the longest while! We’d done quite a lot of hiking at this point and with only tennis shoes (joggers) our toes and feet were beginning to ache. Also, it was a lot of driving, stopping, hiking in, hiking out, and driving on again to do a repeat. The majesty of the many waterfalls, dense forest filled with a wide variety of trees and ferns and even a historic milling tractor made it just so breathtaking. What topped it all off was that we arrived at Curio Bay around 4:30 PM in hopes of viewing the petrified forest, which can only be seen at low tide, and wah-la, it was low tide! As we walked out across this ancient petrified forest, where fossilized trees are embedded on coastal bedrock, and we examined the many textures and colors of the trees, stumps and the tide pools that nestled amongst them. It is a bit overwhelming to think that these are the remnants of a 180 million year old Jurassic era forest.
In one moment I was looking to my right at Mike just a few feet away and Gregory beyond him in the distance and then I looked left and there was a Yellow-eyed penguin coming ashore just a short distance from me! I couldn’t speak. I just looked over at Mike and made some sort of grunt with erratic arm motioning and pointing to announce my discovery. As he got Gregory’s attention I began taking some video clips and many photos. He waddled and hopped along the rocks all the way across this petrified rock landscape and up to his burrow on the edge of the cliff for his evening rest. The next day at dawn he would be off again for his fill of fish. How amazing is that!! And Mike said he was almost “enjoyed out”! He too had to admit that it was one of those experiences that you will never forget. After saying goodnight to our yellow-eyed friend we continued to wander along the rocks and make our way closer to the sea where waves were crashing violently against the rocks. Gregory was mesmerized and kept calling us to come closer and closer. A couple of waves almost caught him off guard and he was almost drenched but he narrowly escaped. Actually, we all ended up with at least one soaked shoe. My feet have felt damp for two days now and I keep changing socks but my shoes never quite dry out.
We pitched our tent on a wet grassy spot bordered on three sides by flax hedge barriers and overlooking a turbulent sea. We parked the car across the front of our site to block the wind and I set out to cook dinner in the wee concrete cylindrical kitchen while Mike and Greg set up camp. Before long Gregory came running in to show me video he took of a sea lion that entered our camp! At one point they had him coming right for them but fortunately they got the car between them. They have pictures of the seal lion kicking back right by our tent site! Meanwhile, in the kitchen, I had met Mark and Tim, brothers who were brought up in Riverton, who were on a fishing holiday. They were filleting some green bone fish and when I offered them some of my red potatoes for their tea they gave me a fillet to try. It is a beautiful white fish and tasted delicious. Mark and Tim also told me of their father’s paua (abalone shell) jewelry making business in Riverton and told us to stop in for a tour. Mark is also in the business but works out of Dunedin while brother Tim just returned from two years in Scotland and was catching up on the family traditions he’d been missing out on such as the spear fishing. We sat in the near dark, at a damp picnic table, out in front of the office, eating our green bone and a pot of lentil soup, and even though the wind bit at our cheeks, and our toes were damp, we were content, for we had a warm meal before us and we’d shared a most memorable day.
It poured all night long and to say the tent was soggy is an understatement. Big Agnes held up well though and we were toasty dry, that is, until we unzipped and had to get out to take care of necessaries. Mike packed up sleeping bags and mattresses but we left the tent in hopes of a lull in the rain after breakfast. We boiled some water in the kitchen and then headed for the shelter of the picnic area where I’d met Nick and Summer the night before. They are from San Francisco and have just two weeks left of their yearlong journey. We joked that they would go into reverse culture shock when they returned but they assured me they had things to do to keep them busy when they got back. Summer was fighting a cold so we gave her the rest of our Dimetapp. Just as we’d arrived under the shelter, Summer pointed out two dolphins that were feeding just below us out in Porpoise Bay and we watched them frolicking about while we had breakfast and a chat. Last night a couple told us they had gone surfing and had the dolphins come right up to them! Gregory and I have wet suits so we did contemplate taking out boogie boards but by the time we’d packed up our wet tent and made our way down to the beach we couldn’t see any dolphins and besides that it was bitterly cold and raining. Nick pointed out that the rain shouldn’t matter because you are just going to get wet anyhow!