38. Along the South Coast to Invercargill

From Waipapa Point and the lighthouse, we had two more stops to reach Invercargill – one at Fortrose and one at Kapuka. From Invercargill we drove south west to visit Oreti Beach and Sandy Point.

We tried to go to the museum in Invercargill but found it closed for earthquake strengthening. A great idea, but couldn’t the museum, or at least parts of it, have been set up somewhere else in the meantime? Apparently not…and furthermore they haven’t started on the strengthening and don’t seem to know when they are going to start.

We came across a few of these disappointments in the south. In addition to the Invercargill museum being shut we also learned that tours are no longer run in either the Tiwai aluminium smelter in Bluff or the power plant at Manapouri. Both experiences we really wanted to take part in.

Oh well…

Nothing to do about it except blame Worksafe and OSH compliance which we did quite well on for a few days, telling our grievances to anyone who would listen. Being one of NZ’s favourite go-to conversations currently, we had no trouble with that! In return we heard some beaut stories. I won’t go into them here, but it was quite fun hearing about incidents of utter silliness with health and safety practices. I’m not against safety but it’s best to set safety rulings in close consultation with the people actually at the grassroots of each situation, and to be flexible when a rule comes along that turns out to be straight out daft.

The Toetoe Estuary of Fortrose is sculpted by the sea and two rivers that feed into it – the Mataura and the Titiroa. It’s home to lots of birds most of which are protected although ducks and Canadian geese can be hunted in season. Fish species include whitebait, flounder, trout and salmon.
In the middle of the estuary the remains of a shipwreck can be seen. This was the steamer Ino which came to grief in the 1870’s. Sea trading and transportation was popular for many years until roads could be built for horses and carts.
Tuhawaiki, or Bloody Jack, was a big name for Ngai Tahu in this area. He adapted well to the arrival of Europeans, trading in ships up and down the coast, while also protecting Maori ownership of land. He died young in his 30’s by drowning, a great loss for Ngai Tahu at the time.
We stayed at Asher’s Lignite Pit, Gardens and Cafe and got see an old lignite bed that was quarried for a good chunk of the 20th century by small teams of men. As it was dug down a pump was needed to stop it from filling with water. Once it closed the pit started to fill up and the area was used as a local dump site. New owners bought it a few years ago, cleaned it up and opened it to the public as a cafe and campsite.
The coal started forming from plant material in the Cretaceous about 100 million years ago and reached a depth of 1 kilometre in the cooking process. The shallow depth produced this lignite which is a low quality coal.
We had to look twice to pick the difference between original plant material and the modern pine roots that have grown through.
One of the coal trucks left to preserve a bit of history.
The gardens were lovely; a mix of native and non native plants.
Oreti Beach is famous as being the beach where Burt Munro trained on his home-built Indians before taking the best one to the salt flats in Utah US and successfully breaking speed records there. His story was made into the movie The World’s Fastest Indian with Ian Hopkins acting the part of Burt Munro.
We drove on the beach ourselves. The sand was so soft that Kevin accidentally did a skid when we turned around.
A petrel maybe?
We were horrified to read this sign after coming off the beach – and another one next to it explaining the life cycle of the bivalve toheroa. Toheroa only have two beaches where they can really flourish in NZ, this being one of them. We shouldn’t have been driving on the beach! It’s such an enticing beach – I wonder how they deal with the annual Burt Munro event where a lot of people come together to ride and race along.
Further along the beach – it’s incredibly wide and long, running for kilometres and kilometres.
At the actual Sandy Point. That’s Rakiura/Stewart Island in the background.
Looking back towards Invercargill.
There are areas of native bush on Sandy Point with walkways going through them. We saw quite a few people walking and training their dogs out here.
The Visitor Centre held interesting information about the area. It had photos showing different indentations on the surface of local sand and you had to guess what kinds of creatures made them – turned out to be bivalve, worm and crab markings.

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