Riverton to Colac Bay

Day 83 (Wed 10 Feb): Riverton to Colac Bay

Started 9.25am, finished 1.45pm, 12k.

Pain in the head status: Head gave a few twinges on the left hand side of the scalp, just to remind me the migraine is always lurking. It became a more severe twinge in the evening but was appeased by pub food and nurofen.

Beach babe in Colac Bay. PS I’m not pregnant

Word of the day: Ersatz, a substitute or imitation, usually inferior.

We had a luxurious sleep in, since we had a short day ahead of us, to compensate for the long days just gone. It started to drizzle as we set of, then cleared up, then continued this cycle for the rest of the day until the evening, when an onslaught of heavy rain began. We were snug and dry in our cabin at Colac Bay by that time, full of pizza, wedges and cheesecake from the tavern, reflecting soberly that this would be our last non dehydrated dinner for a week.

Summary photo of my experience of Southland so far: overcast, drizzly, excessively long beach, farms and someone stole the information sign

But to reach this contemplative space, we had to do some walking. We started out at Mores Reserve, a small piece of bush that has undergone restoration by some retirees who got tired of being harassed by magpies on the golf course and decided to eradicate them, which was the conduit into the never ending occupation of pest control. The local kereru were definitely appreciating their efforts.

We popped out from the bush into farmland overlooking a stunning piece of rugged coast. The landscape was reminiscent of Scotland, complete with thistles, stupid sheep and even some ersatz standing stones. I could see why the less imaginative Scots were drawn here, those who could not envisage an alternative life to fishing in frigid, wild seas, living in wind-battered dwellings under dismal grey skies and growing trees that were permanently stunted by the prevailing gales. The Scots who settled in Waipu had more inspiration to try a climate that was a little different.

Pebbly beaches were interspersed with those of silky sand, for no apparent reason, then a few steps on would be a beach of smooth round stones speckled like bird’s eggs. It was more taxing than yesterday’s flat monotonous beach walk, what with clambering over headlands and stiles, but far more interesting. No podcasts were required until we popped back onto the highway, but not for too long. We ended up on a road to Colac Bay that had been partially washed away by the encroaching sea and strewn with beach stones. Although a large sign at the end of the road accused the local council of sabotage. I wasn’t fooled – I can spot a conspiracy theory from a mile after all the podcast exposés I’ve listened to. But the thrashing waves on the sea wall at high tide were pretty self explanatory.

Strange sight of the day: Flocks of white and grey barnyard geese on the wild rocky beach.

Day 84 (Thurs 11 Feb): Colac Bay (zero day)

Pain in the head status: Headache sated by a long sleep, even though disturbed by the lashing of the wind and rain against the building during the night.

View from the cabins

Word of the day: Ineluctable, impossible to avoid or escape.

View from the pub

Turns out yesterday wasn’t the last non dehydrated meal for a week – tonight was. We had the pizza on special last night – today’s special was burgers. We hadn’t planned on staying another day, but after waiting for the worst of the wind and rain to pass it became apparent that this spate of bad weather was ineluctable, at least for the next 24 hours. Neither of us relished the idea of slogging headfirst into the bitter wind and into the piece of forest that had the worst reputation for mud in all of the South Island TA on a day with a heavy rainfall warning. So we booked a cabin for another night and set ourselves in front of the fire at the Colac Bay pub. I had two hot chocolates, read a book and watched a horse race from the Invercargill race ground, which was a novel experience for me, but not one I’ll be hankering to repeat.

We watched the rain clouds envelope the route we would be taking tomorrow, making the trail extra boggy and slippery for us. But at least we weren’t on it today. Chatting to some motorcyclists who bailed out at the pub, our decision was validated – they described being bowled across the road by wind gusts and becoming saturated in minutes once hitting the deluge around Longwood.

Photos from Southland

Despite the winter temperatures, someone had decided that this was the day to put the Rug Doctor to work on the carpets, which was fine in the tavern which had a fire and heaters, but not so great in our cabin, where the heater didn’t work and the  only strategy for drying the carpet was blowing freezing air in through the door.

The skies finally cleared as we were having dinner (a repeat of lunch- the burger special) so we could go out and appreciate the giant surfer statue, which is a bit mouldy and in need of repair, which sums up Colac Bay nicely.

Back on trail tomorrow.

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