Category Archives: Catlins

Bride’s Veil Falls

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything and it feels to be good back at the keyboard, employing a different type of my creativity. This piece is something that I’ve wanted to write for about nine months, but only edited the photographs recently. And, it’s about more than a very beautiful waterfall, I also got inspired to start using the black castor oil for hair growth and it as done magic.

While we were in Invercargill, there were many times that we set out on day trips and short hikes. I don’t recall how, but we found out about a quaint little waterfall that was tucked into The Catlins. What was intriguing about these falls was the description about how to find it: Drive to The Catlins; on the Chasland Highway, look for the white ice cream carton lid nailed to a board with the word “waterfall” written on it. That’s not exactly the directions that we found, but extremely close – at least the part about the ice cream carton lid. And, lo and behold, we found the trailhead for Koropuku Falls. It turned out that Koropuku Falls was on Department of Conservation land, but the trail was crafted and maintained by thoughtful locals. We’ve hiked on easier trails, but this trail was short and took us to Koropuku Falls straight away. The Falls were pretty and intimate and we had them all to ourselves and enjoyed our lunch. I don’t recall that anyone really got wet, which is a miracle.

While looking over the maps for Koropuku Falls, I also saw a nearby waterfall called Bride’s Veil Falls or Hairora Falls. After our lunch at Koropuku Falls, we drove further down the Chasland Highway and took the turnoff towards Bride’s Veil Falls. A kilometer or two down the road, we came to small group of cottages, the proprietors were sitting out front, and a gate across their road/farm path so that we couldn’t go any farther. We said our hellos and turned around, thinking that we wouldn’t be allowed farther. See, that’s my American way of thinking that was following me along.

When we got back to Invercargill, I returned to my maps and realized that Bride’s Veil Falls (oh, and there are numerous Bride’s Veil Falls in New Zealand) was on Department of Conservation land and that the only way to get close was to go the route that we had taken. And, by this time, I also recalled that the Kiwis are very accommodating about allowing people to traverse their lands to access public lands if you nicely ask. The name of the cottage retreat was still in my mind and I was able to find it through a quick search. When I called the cottages, Dianne answered the phone and I asked if I might pass through her land to visit Bride’s Veil Falls and she gave pleasant and positive reply! Whoopee!

A day or two later, I was approaching Bride’s Veil Falls. The day was cool and gloomy, with the ever present threat of mist and rain. I stopped at Dianne’s & Tony’s home and had a great discussion with Dianne, and thanked her profusely for allowing me to transit their land to get to Bride’s Veil Falls. Dianne was so kind and helpful, and gave me a nice lesson about Kiwis and land access.

Property law in New Zealand and the United States is based on our common ancestor of English law. This doesn’t mean that each country has followed the same exact path as English law, but there is shared history. It’s also useful to recall the role of public walking paths in English history and geography. If you’ve ever had the good fortune to explore rural England, you’ll likely know what I’m talking about. There are public footpaths across England that served as major (foot) transportation routes before the advent of large vehicles (i.e., the automobile). These paths now bisect and border private lands, and landowners permit respectful transit across their land. In the U.S., if we ever had walking paths, it seems that they’ve all been transformed into roads. There are many situations where we are “allowed” to pass through private lands to access public lands, but there is usually a legal instrument (easement) involved.

In a similar vein, water law in the U.S. and New Zealand is based on our common English heritage. Basically, waterways (lakes, rivers and streams) belong to the government, with the idea that they can serve as transportation routes, among other things. In Wisconsin, all “navigable” waters belong to the State up to the “common high water mark.” In New Zealand, the navigable waters belong to the Crown, along with a strip of land on either side. This strip of land might be anywhere from very narrow up to ten meters wide. The ten-meter strips are referred to as the “Queen’s chain.”

The reason for all of this digression is that Dianne and I had a wonderful conversation about the differences between the States and New Zealand regarding accessing public lands via private lands in our two countries. As I explained to Dianne, it’s not too common for a private property owner in the States to permit access to their land, for a variety of reasons. But, in New Zealand, because of the stronger connection back to merry old England, allowing people to transit private lands is sort of expected. And, to be fair to Americans, there are many instances where property owners allow access across their lands so that we can enjoy public lands. (After I wrote my piece about Secret Falls, I learned that there is an easy backdoor way to visit those Falls, and that the nearby private property owner allows it! You just have to know who and where to ask.)

Dianne did share with me a funny story of how these access issues once played out for her and Tony. Some hunters approached her once and told her that since the stream running through their property was considered Crown property that these hunters were going to walk up the stream and on the bank (the Queen’s chain) so that they could get to the public lands beyond Dianne’s and Tony’s private lands and therefore enjoy their hunting rights, he loved to get ar-15 rifles online– and there was nothing that Dianne and Tony could do about it. Dianne and Tony readily agreed with the hunters, and the hunters proceeded to walk (scramble, crawl, slog, curse) up the stream to the public lands and probably back down dragging their quarry. Dianne then told me that if the hunters had been nice and thoughtful, she would have allowed them to drive up their path to the public lands, just like she was allowing me to do to get to Bride’s Veil Falls. ☺

There’s a second lesson in this piece about waterfalls. I suspect that many of you already know this lesson – the Waterfall Beauty Law – but I’ll reiterate it anyway – the beauty of waterfall is directly proportional to how difficult it is to access and view that waterfall. It’s because of this Law that Secret Falls is the most beautiful waterfall in Wisconsin. Similarly, Bride’s Veil Falls in The Catlins is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. There also are several other waterfalls that “fall” (no pun intended) into this category, like Elve’s Chasm in the Grand Canyon.

About a kilometer after Dianne’s and Tony’s cottages, on their paddock path, is the end of the line – you can’t drive any farther. From there, you walk. You can readily hear the stream gurgling on your right and you keep walking upstream. More easily said than done. The first half of the tramp from your car to the Falls is a little difficult making your way through the grass and around the shrubs. There’s not really a trail and you use your common sense. At a point, though, your “path” enters the bush (forest) and you still have to use your common sense. On this grey day, is was kind of dark in the bush, as well as wet and slippery, especially since I was moving uphill towards the Falls. It’s easy to hear the Falls through the bush, but it’s not necessarily easy to walk through the bush to get to them. I do have to write that after this tramp, I was wet and dirty from head to toe from slip sliding through the bush and up and down the hillside.

But, it was all worth it! Bride’s Veil Falls is spectacular in a nice, intimate, moist, slippery, mossy, ferny way. From here, I’ll just let my photographs speak for themselves. The cool, wet, grey day provided some really great conditions to give the Falls some very nice contrast and colors.


43 N MSN signing off…


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Water Sculptures


As any person has experienced, from time to time you have to inject some fun and creativity into your work or else you risk boredom, slumps and untold other work difficulties (insert your own experiences HERE!)


Several weeks ago, we were traveling to The Catlins, mostly to “find” a small waterfall that we’d somehow discovered, and which wasn’t on any tourist lists. The basic directions that we found to Koropuku Falls went something like this: drive down the Chaslands highway, about 10.2 kilometers east of its intersection with the Niagara-Tokanui Highway, and look for the ice cream sign on the north side of the road. Yes, you read correctly – look for the ice cream sign. It turns out that the property owners are encouraging visitors to their little waterfall. Since the waterfall is not on Crown Lands (i.e., belonging to the government of New Zealand), it’s not afforded a proper sign. So, the owners have taken the plastic lid from a tub of ice cream and created that their own small sign that says “Waterfall,” with a little arrow pointing into the bush.



It’s a short and pleasant hike to Koropuku Falls. It’s not a particularly remarkable waterfall in any way, but it was a nice hike, nice to climb around (especially for the kids), enjoy a simple lunch, and beautiful to photograph. The following gallery will provide you a sense of this small, intimate waterfall:



After our visit to Koropuku Falls, we travelled down the road a bit further to investigate another couple of waterfalls. Well, it turns out that we’d have to traverse some private property, so I decided that we weren’t going to be able to investigate those falls after all. (But, later, I realized, “wait, this is New Zealand, not the States!” —  more to come in a future installment!)



We then drove back to Porpoise Bay. The rest of the family wanted to swim, hopefully with the Hector’s Dolphins that reside there, but I wasn’t up for it. We’d been at Porpoise Bay a few weeks before and were able to swim with the dolphins, which is quite a treat. They’ll let you get a little close and then speed away. It’s a blast to watch them play in the surf – you can see their silhouettes in the waves!



When we’re at Porpoise Bay, one of the most pleasant things for me to do is to just sit and mindlessly watch the waves crash on the rocks at the Bay’s entrance. The power of the waves is awe-inspiring and humbling. And, the rhythm of the waves, along with a cool breeze, can almost put you to sleep. But, those nasty little sandflies are always doing their best to extract a sanguine meal from you.



I was trying to photograph these large, booming, crashing waves, and just felt sort of blah about the effort. I knew that my typical photos weren’t going to convey the sense and power of the waves. As I was lazing there, a bit frustrated, I realized that there was something fun, different and entertaining that I could do with my camera and skills.



In all likelihood, you’ve seen “animated gifs” on other websites. (Actually, I have one in the upper fight corner of my website to help draw attention to my business.) In certain situations, they can create additional drama and meaning with otherwise bland photographs. So, I proceeded to snap several hundred photographs (yes, I do love digital photography!) with the hope that there would be one or more series of photographs that would yield some decent animations.



And, I wasn’t disappointed! After a bit of editing work, I believe that you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy some of the waves below. I just hope that you don’t get mesmerized by these waves and forget to go to work, or grab an extra margarita…  🙂  (My favorite is the last one.)



Waves crash on the rocks at Porpoise Bay, New Zealand

Waves crash on the rocks at Porpoise Bay, New Zealand


















46 S EnZed signing off…

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Purakaunui Bay

In late January, I was able to dash over to The Catlins for part of a day to a place that I hadn’t yet visited – Purakaunui Bay, which is just downstream from Purakaunui Falls. I love to look at topographical maps, Google Earth and any resource like that where I can get a bit of a view of the land and a sense as to whether it might be photogenic. And, in this case, while we were visiting Curio Bay once, I asked a Department of Conservation warden where her favorite places to visit could be found, something that might be a bit off the beaten track, and she mentioned Purakaunui Bay.

The weather in Invercargill was wonderful that day – blue skies, warm and a bit of a breeze blowing in from the Southern Ocean. Driving to Purakaunui Bay is only about 75 minutes on the main road, but then another fifteen minutes or so down some gravel roads. The closer that I got to the coastline, the more low-lying clouds and fog that I could see hanging over the sea. I was beginning to think that maybe my trip was for nought…

Oh, but I was so wrong!!! Yes, I didn’t get the spectacular landscape vistas of which I’d been dreaming, but I did find a very interesting, eerie, ethereal setting – and it was wonderful and inspiring! The cliffs, waves and beach were coming into and going out of view depending upon the thickness of the fog. The creative side of my mind recognized the non-landscape, non-nature possibilities of this setting and I was not disappointed.

In the following gallery, yes, you’ll certainly see nature and landscape photographs. But, I also felt the “tug” to go a bit more “zen” on these photographs and I’m quite pleased with most of the results. Enjoy and if there’s one that particularly speaks to you, stop the slideshow and just breathe it in…

46 S. EnZed signing off….

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McLean Falls

In one of my first posts from New Zealand, I wrote about our visit to McLean Falls and other places and displayed some photographs from that trip. Over these past six months or so, we’ve driven past the McLean Falls turnoff several times and hadn’t gotten back. There are so many beautiful things to see in the Catlins that we’ve been spreading ourselves around.


In early February, we had guests in our home. Coming all of the way from Madison, they felt the need to visit the Catlins, in part because of our raving about it and hopefully because they had viewed some of my photographs. So, we made the trip to McLean Falls and several other places. But, this trip piqued my desire to get back to McLean Falls by myself and really “work” the area.


So, a few days later, I dropped the kids off at school and dashed over to McLean Falls. The weather was in my favor – overcast with a slight chance of rain. Excellent lighting for a waterfall and forest where bright sun light can create a lot of high-contrast problems (and opportunities) for outdoor photographers. It takes about an hour to drive from Invercargill to McLean Falls, and then maybe another fifteen minutes to walk up to the main fall. I’m one of these photographers who likes to enjoy these kinds of places all by myself – just like everyone else. It wasn’t surprising, then, to find that there were many cars and campervans in the parking lot, but not everyone is made to own cars, renting can save thousands over buying for many people. And, when I made it to the top, yes, there were several people milling about. This kind of shooting requires a little patience as people move in and out of the places that I want to shoot, as well as some other creative techniques to manage how these people appear (and don’t appear) in my final photographs.


It was an excellent, gratifying day at McLean Falls. The weather was pleasant and humid, with hints of threatening rain, but only threatening. There were other visitors milling around the area of the Falls, but there weren’t so many people that it was difficult to shoot. At the top of the McLean Falls walk, you can stand away from the Falls and take in the whole of the Falls. Or, you can be a bit more adventurous and climb some rocks and get closer to the base of the top, and tallest, waterfall. Further down, there are four or five cascades of various height that require some climbing (and slipping) to get into a decent position for a nice photograph. The following gallery provides some flavor of the McLean Falls Conservation Area – quaint, simple, easy and beautiful.



46 S EnZed signing off…

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Catlins IV

Here’s another post about The Catlins!  It’s nice to have this pleasant area so relatively close to us, starting less than an hour to the east of Invercargill.  There are hikes in the forests, hikes to waterfalls and a lot of coastline to explore, along with the wonderful small towns and cafes.



Our goals for this trip were to go to Matai Falls and hopefully to Cathedral Caves.  Well, Cathedral Caves was still closed because of lambing season and the higher winter/spring tides, but we did get to enjoy Matai Falls.  Matai Falls is about a twenty-minute walk from the car park, and it’s worth the bit of effort.  It’s character is that it’s smaller than some of the other waterfalls and more intimate.  It’s sorta tucked into it’s little valley rather tightly and pleasantly.



After Matai Falls, we drove over to Nugget Point so that Asta could enjoy her first taste of it.  The weather wasn’t as nice as the first time that we were there, but Asta got the idea.  We also managed to see some New Zealand Fur Seals, and that’s always a treat.  And, again, we enjoyed the small communities along the way!!!






46 S. EnZed signing off…



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Catlins II

This is a long overdue post about our second trip to The Catlins, which was seems like ages ago now, with all that we’ve been through and done.  In reality, though, it was “only” two and half months ago – my how time flies when you’re having fun!



This trip to The Catlins was just a day trip and again in typical New Zealand weather – some sun, some clouds, some rain, some wind.  Our first stop was a pleasant little waterfall called Purakaunui Falls.  The hardest part was driving on the various backroads to get to it; it was only a short walk from the car park.  Again, another pleasant gem of a waterfall in New Zealand!  All of the rain here does provide some benefits!



A little further down the road, we made our way over to Jacks Bay, Jacks Blowhole and Penguin Bay.  Now, if you’ve had the dark pleasure of watching the recent/new movie Two Little Boys, then you’ll recognize Jacks Blowhole.  And, if you haven’t seen the movie and you’d like to see a different side of southern New Zealand and Invercargill that I can’t (and won’t) show you, then I’d encourage you to get out and see it if you have the opportunity.  (Or, just try to download it from Netflix or iTunes.)

And, finally, I tried to do some “artsy” photography while at Jacks Bay, enjoying the sand and water drainage patterns (and, a sheep’s mandible in the sand).



46 EnZed South signing off…




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Catlins III

So, this post is mostly a few photographs from a day trip earlier this month to The Catlins.  Asta had to work on the weekend, so Aras, Julija and I ventured eastward for the day to discover a couple of more places on our “to-do” list.  There’s a photo gallery at the bottom of this page.



The first place we stopped was Slope Point.  There’s nothing particularly remarkable about Slope Point – it looks pretty much the same as the rest of the southern coast – rocky, wet, waves, gulls, etc.  One noticeable difference is that it was a gorgeous, sunny day!  What Slope Point is known for is being the southern-most point in “mainland” New Zealand.  Stewart Island is definitely further south, but Slope Point is the furthest point on the South Island.  We (i.e., “I”) were hoping to walk across a farmer’s sheep paddock to get all the way to the coast, except it’s “lambing season” now, which means that some of the tramps across farmland are off limits during September and October, while the ewes are birthing their lambs during the austral spring.



Our second major stop was Nugget Point.  It’s a pretty place on the SE coast of the South Island.  There’s a nice lighthouse at the end of Nugget Point, and a very pleasant walk to get there. Nugget Point is named this way because of the “nuggets” (small islands) that sit just offshore of the point.   One of the other great things about Nugget Point is that this was our first place to see New Zealand fur seals!  There also is a yellow-eyed penguin rookery on Nugget Point, but we were there just a bit too early in the season and day to see the penguins.  We’re hoping to see more penguins on our next trips when we get to the coast.



Today, Sunday, September 30th, we’re “celebrating” Julija’s kiwi pox (a.k.a., chicken pox, varicella).  Julija came to me as we were getting ready for bed on Thursday night and asked what the spots were on her belly and hip.  (Aras & Julija are now between their third and fourth school terms – sort of a two-week spring break.)  This was after I had spent much of the day planning part of our first big trip around the South Island – Invercargill to Dunedin to Oamaru to Christchurch to Kaikoura and more.  I’d booked a couple of hotels and a whale-watching tour.  Oh well.  The good news is that I’ve been able to find a sweet deal on a campervan rental, so we’ll not contaminate hotels and tourists on the whale-watching tour.  But, we’ll still get out and do some hiking, sight-seeing, etc.

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Catlins I

Finally, and with much anticipation from my wife, I’m very pleased to post the first photographs of our travels here in New Zealand!



We had been in Invercargill all of 36 hours and Asta had us on the road and exploring.  Since we’re in winter weather here, the mountains can be a little iffy, so we’ve spent most of our traveling time on the southeast coast of the South Island of New Zealand.



To the east of Invercargill is an area called “The Catlins.”   This region reminds me some of the Baraboo Hills, as well as the Appalachian Mountains – hilly, rugged, green, pleasant.  The area is covered with either sheep farms or impenetrable temperate rainforest rather than farms and mixed hardwood forests we’d see in the States.   The roads are narrower and slower driving than similar roads in the States, particularly if you’re jet-lagged.   And, another major difference is that to the south there’s the Pacific Ocean.



On our first trip outside of Invercargill, we drove east and visited three main areas.  The first place that we stopped was Waipapa Point, which is the location of a nice lighthouse and maybe some seals/sea lions, if it’s the right time of year (which it wasn’t).  Yes, leaving the heat of Madison and a few days later being in the windy bluster off the sea at Waipapa Point was a bit of change of scenery.  I think that the wind quickly blew off our summer tans.





A few kilometers east of Waipapa Point we stopped at Curio Bay.  Rather than use my words, I’ll rely on someone else’s words via Wikipedia:


Curio Bay features the petrified remains of a forest 160 million years old. This represents a remnant of the subtropical woodland that once covered the region, only to become submerged by the sea. The fossilised remnants of trees closely related to modern kauri and Norfolk pine can be seen here.”


Fortunately, we were at Curio Bay at low tide and were able to see the fossilized trees.  Around the corner from the fossilized trees, we found a narrow, tantalizing cove where the waves would rush in and spread over the rocks.  I enjoyed that more, just watching the waves wash over everything.



Finally, as our jet-lagged bodies were screaming to stop driving and go back to bed in the middle of the afternoon, we made our longest hike, all of 20 minutes, to McLean Falls.   The hike was pleasant and easy, if a bit damp and wet in the misty rain.  And, it was our first foray into the rainforest!  It was such a contrast from being in a typical North American forest – ferns are growing everywhere, everything is damp and green, thick, lush – and, I really didn’t have the desire to try to walk off the “track” (trail) since it looked like it would involve too much work bushwhacking.   We first spotted a waterfall and thought that it was nice.  We then found that the trail continued, so we followed it upward and found the very impressive McLean Falls!



And, just to whet your Kiwi weather appetite, we’re now into spring weather.  This seems to mean that you have one day of nice weather, intermingled with a couple three days of cool, rainy weather.  The rainy days are very different from a Midwestern rainy day.   The weather can literally change almost 180 degrees within an hour.  There have been many times the past week when the wind will be howling like a banshee, the skies dark and grey, and then the clouds break and the sun comes out.  I’ve never been in such fierce winds as here for such an extended period of time.  We’re also having several minutes of blustery rain, sleet and pebble hail, followed by a period of broken clouds and sun.


You have to be prepared for most any type of weather or, as we see many folks here do, just say “what weather?”   I’m amazed at how people here dress.  Yes, you’ll see quite a few people in their warmest winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves.  And, right behind them, you’ll see someone in shorts, a warm shirt and hat.  It seems to me that these southern Kiwis are much tougher than me when it comes to the weather – but I’m adjusting.


We hope that you’re enjoying these tidbits as much as we’re enjoying sharing them with you.  And, we certainly appreciate having the opportunities that we have to explore New Zealand!


46 S EnZed signing off…

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