Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Exploring the Otago Peninsula with Liam!

My word, do we have some catching up to do!  So much news I'm not sure where to start, I think I'm just going to have to spread it all out over a few blogs.  In case you didn't see our Facebook post, we went away last week for another trip exploring Dunedin and surrounds.  We always discover new stuff to do there, and every time we visit, we find more reasons to go back again!  This time however was extra special as my eldest, Liam was flying down to meet us for a long weekend.  It has been eight months since I last saw him and we were so excited; Liam doubly so as it was his first visit ever to the South Island.  Although I think he wondered where on earth he was going to begin with, as the plane flew right over Dunedin city before landing 30km away in the middle of acres of farmland, surrounded by spectacular mountain ranges!  'This is a bit different to Auckland and Wellington airports!' he laughed as he climbed into the van.  'That's the South Island for you, it's a bit different all over!' I told him.  Over the next few days, he was to discover just how much.

The Pyramids from Okia Reserve end

Liam and me at the top of the first pyramid, known as Te Matai o Kia

View from the top, towards Victory Beach

Looking out towards Margaret Hazel Slope

With Minnie safely in boarding kennels and the weather looking a bit iffy for the next few days, we wasted no time in doing what Liam had requested, which was doing as much hiking as possible.  Much to Gareth's relief, Tunnel Beach with its enormous hill was closed for lambing season but a quick visit to the Department of Conservation website left us spoilt for choice when it came to alternatives.  As far as we were concerned, the more we got to see the better, so we settled on an interesting sounding one called The Pyramids, along the Otago Peninsula.  These are situated at the edge of the Peninsula's most isolated beach and to get to them, we had to turn off at Portobello and drive out quite literally into the middle of nowhere.  Once there, we then had to follow a track through farmland for some time until we arrived at Okia Reserve and the base of the Pyramids.  As you might imagine, these are two perfectly geometric volcanic columns which look exactly like pyramids.  There was a track leading up the first one so we braved the wind and wound our way up.  It only took around 10 minutes to climb to the top and the view was impressive, stretching out across marshland and to Victory Beach beyond.  However both Gareth and Liam's eyes were focussed firmly on the second, much larger pyramid which stood adjacent to it.  There didn't appear to be a track anywhere for this one, most likely because nobody in their right mind would want to climb it!  The guys were undeterred however and set about finding a way to forge their own path.

The BIG pyramid, aka Pu-Wheke-o-Kia

Off to climb a mountain

Where the bloody hell ARE we?!

Here ensued a lengthy detour up Margaret Hazel Slope, squelching through boggy marshes, and clambering up hills teeming with wild rabbits and high country sheep, as the three of us did our best to work out how the heck we could navigate our way around the swamps to reach the fence which surrounded the giant pyramid.  In the end, the three of us had to admit a wet and muddy defeat - but it had been great fun trying!  From here we turned our attention back to the main task at hand, which was continuing our way through Okia Reserve and onto Victory Beach.  As well as being the most isolated, this beach is also the longest and most spectacular beach on the Otago Peninsula.  It was named after a ship called the Victory after it became grounded there by a drunken sailor in 1861 and you can still see parts of the wreck at low tide.

Mother Nature at her best - completely untouched and unspoilt

Victory Beach.  Well worth the walk, even without the seals and penguins!

Being in such a remote location, Victory Beach has remained absolutely untouched and unspoilt, with its pale sand and 3.5km of pristine coastline.  It's also home to many sea lions, fur seals and both blue and Yellow Eyed penguins.  Unlike other places we have visited with sea lions, the barreness and isolation of this particular place made me super conscious that this was very much THEIR territory and making our way through the dunes was really quite nerve wracking, knowing of the possiblity of an enormous and possibly aggressive male sea lion could waltz out in front of us at any moment!  Whilst we were teased upon arrival by the full length imprint of a seal in the sand, its owner was nowhere to be seen and the beach was devoid of both seals and penguins.

The long walk back.  We recommend sturdy waterproof footwear!   

With daylight starting to draw to a close, we made our weary way back through the dunes and onto the reserve track.  It had been a great start to our trip and thanks to our spontaneous detour, my pedometer was showing we had walked 13.5km!  'So what do you think of the South Island so far?' I asked Liam as we arrived back at the van.  'I rate it pretty highly!' he answered in his usual frank manner, as he took one last look around.  But as he - and us too - were to find out, this was really just the beginning!

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