34. Papatowai in the Caitlins

We looked back on the high and very flat Table Hill where the Matai Falls and Historic Rail Trail sat on its lower flanks until we were nearly in Papatowai when it fell out of our sight.

The drive into Papatowai was truly lovely, with the bush and marshes only becoming more attractive by the kilometre. By the time we reached the bridge across the huge sandy Tahakopa River we were looking for a place to stay. We ended up by the beach at the Picnic Ground and over a sandwich and cuppa I read in the NZMCA magazine that there was a DoC campsite right in the village – I felt like an idiot as we must have driven right past it! Sure enough, there it was on our way back through the village, behind the shop, with a huge sign at the entrance!

Papatowai? – papa means earth, and towai is the name of a native tree that belongs in Northland, so I couldn’t figure out why it was used to name this village way down here in Southland – I’ve missed the point somewhere along the line!

The bridge across the Tahakopa River, leading into Papatowai.
The beach at the Picnic Ground.
We drove back across the bridge and took the Old Coach Road to Tahakopa Beach, a walk of about half an hour.
Looking back towards the bridge from the far end of the track.
On the Tahakopa Beach.
Middens from up to 8oo years ago, containing shells, bones and stone tool fragments. These middens have been extensively studied. Someone in the DoC camp told us their son found a very old human skeleton or skull on this beach many years ago. That would be amazing.
Next day, we drove up the closest hill to the south for a view – so this is looking towards Papatowai, where we are staying.
We found a quarry on the hill!
The brown stripe down the face on the left is an abseiling site.
This local flora looked as though it had just popped out of it’s casing.
Later we walked on the beach again, leaving from the DoC camp and heading for the area of the Picnic Ground. These southern rata trees are 1000 years old! Imagine moa, which would have been walking beneath them for much of this time!
These rata trees would have grown from seed on the ground – this is a major difference between southern rata and northern rata – although they look quite similar, the northern rata grows from epiphytes on existing trees.
A cave has been eroded away into this bank; it’s amazing how the tree roots can be so exposed, but keep growing anyway!
Beautiful weathering in the rocks. This area is Jurassic in age and there are fossils to be found close by – not in these rocks though!
See all the small holes? We wondered if they were made by native bees…
There was a lot of birdlife on the river; we could see oystercatchers and shags amongst other species we couldn’t name – possibly any one of stilts, spoonbills, kingfishers and fernbirds which all hang out around here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s