Owaka, New Zealand – February 16, 2016
Around 09:00, we stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. Then it was off to Dunedin.
Instead of taking the faster route via Highway 1, we decided to take the scenic drive through the Catlins Forest Park. It was a good choice. The scenery was spectacularly beautiful.
The gateway to the Catlins is the town of Fortrose. We stopped at an information site in Fortrose. I picked up a tourist map. The map showed a route through the Catlins from Fortrose to Balclutha. When we got back in the vehicle, I thought it would be nice to skirt the coast as much as possible. I turned to the south out of Fortrose. Maybe one kilometer down the road, I saw a sign that indicated our new route included gravel roads. I knew that would do nothing but slow us down, so I returned to the main road.
We continued east. At one point, our GPS indicated a turn. I thought that turn was to the north. When I compared that direction to the tourist map, it did not seem to jive. I continued driving straight. Soon we went through the tiny berg of Niagara. Next, we drove through the small village of Waikawa. Shortly after Waikawa, the ocean appeared on our left. That seemed odd. If we were genuinely heading east in that part of the south island, the sea would be on our right. I realized we were lost as we drove by what I later identified as Porpoise Bay.
I finally decided to turn around and try to get us back on the correct route. On this trip through Waikawa, I saw the Waikawa District Museum and Information Centre. We stopped. Inside, I asked the woman at the small reception desk how to get back on track. She said I needed to backtrack and take the turn toward Balclutha…exactly what the GPS had initially indicated. I thanked her heartily for the information.
Since we were in the museum, we decided to take a quick walkthrough. It was swift because the museum is tiny. Despite that fact, it was an excellent museum, outlining the settlement of the area. For me, it had the feel of the Cripple Creek District Museum in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
After our diversion, it was back to the SUV and then back to the proper turn-off. It was at this point in the drive when we drove through a beautiful green portion of the rainforest of the Catlins.
It was getting close to lunchtime. We decided we would stop for lunch in Papatowai. Shortly before the town, we stopped at the Florence Hill Lookout. The view of Tautuku Bay was amazing, a real postcard of New Zealand.
The idea to eat in Papatowai was ill-advised. It is one of those blink-and-you-missed-it towns. There was not a spot for lunch that we saw. That meant Owaka was our new destination for lunch. Owaka is a metropolis in comparison to Papatowai.
We happened to stop at the Lumberjack Café. Leslie and I opted for the soup of the day, vegetable soup. When it arrived, it was nothing like the vegetable soup I have eaten before. Instead of a clear broth and being able to see (and identify) various vegetables, this soup was a puree. Odd-looking when I was expecting the style to which I am accustomed, but it was amazingly flavorful. I loved every bite.
Just around the corner from the café was a gift shop. After lunch, we stopped in to look around. It was a lovely shop, but none of us found anything exciting enough to make us part with any of our Kiwi dollars. Nearby was a public restroom. The side of the bathroom had numerous paua (abalone) shells in a sort of ocean wave style.
We still faced 110 kilometers (68 miles) drive to get to Dunedin. I would have like to have detoured to Kaka Point, but we were all ready to get to Dunedin. Kaka Point is named after the Kaka bird, a parrot native to New Zealand. I am sure the views were stunning.