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Finding Christina Helene

At Mclean Falls there was a sign for a missing person. Jordan and I regarded the sign a curiosity for what happened and a sincere hope that he is found. He looked like a nice guy, an older working class kind of man. The poster said he car was last seen in the McClean Falls parking lot, abandoned.

We continued up the incline to Mclean Falls. When we got to the top, you can even do a bit of rock climbing to get to the top waterfall pool. This is a 22m fall that seems to go on for days. I enjoyed this one much more than Purakanui Falls, even if it’s not the Instagram Hotspot.

When Jordan and I got back to the van, one of the search and rescue team asked us for a ride up the hill to get to his car. He and another worker were walking around the farms on the hills to get a good view of the land. He said they found evidence of ways to kill yourself on the missing guy’s laptop in the car he left in the parking lot. They weren’t looking for an alive person. They had been looking for him for about a week. One of the best ways to fake your death, according to the Criminal podcast, is to take a hike and never come back. Who is to say what happened to this man.

The search and rescue worker was a very sweet and friendly man missing many teeth. He looked and sounded like a man born on an island at the end of the world who grew up without internet and is used to living off the land. He was born in the Catlins and baptized in the Catlins River when he was a baby… the bridge his mom had been crossing at the time collapsed into the river, baptizing both of them. One could say this man was born into the search and rescue career.

We drove away from McClean falls with a sense of excitement I only get when there is a mystery involved. We continued onto Cathedral Caves, but it was closed, probably due to season or weather. So we headed for a hike called Waipohatu. We drove along a gravel road for a long time. When we got to the trail head, I was surprised to see a picnic table and drop toilet. You could tell it’s not a popular tramp, as the hike signs were hand written instead of DOC printed.

The trail was overgrown and muddy in places. It was great to follow the trail markers and feel really in tune with the wild. The first part of the hike is flat and wheelchair accessible. After that, it gets into the woods with a climb. Here, the forest floor is covered in the greenest of soft green moss that look like a flower blanket you just want to take home and cuddle up in. Jordan absolutely loved being in the wild and the indistinctness of the trail. I liked it until my knee started hurting and my hunger got to be too much. Time to turn around.

We ate some hearty pasta after that hike, then headed towards a free campsite at Slope Point. That was the idea anyway, however, the road to Slope Point was closed. I saw a campground sign at Curio Bay, so I convinced my driver to head there instead.

What we got at Curio Bay was a stunning campsite on the sea. If I was to live in New Zealand, I would try to buy a house on the ocean here. The campgrounds were being prepped for the high season, which started on Sunday and the office was closed. The office had an honesty box that read 15 per person. As we were walking over to pay, the warden came up and explained the showers were closed and one of the kitchens, so she only charged us 10 each.

We got a prime spot secluded by flax all to ourselves. I got to watch the sunset and listen to the penguins calls over the tide pools. The waves crash fiercely over the rocks and remind you of the sheer power of nature. Humans are really only guests on this planet, ruled by mother nature and the moon.

If you care to learn to surf, you can surf here, through the campsites school. Dolphins will ride the waves with you as sea lions tan on the beach.

I took a run barefoot in the sand before sunset to scenery that shames the runs I used to take on the sand from work to the Santa Monica pier in dirty old LA. I saw only one other person on the beach during my run.

I ran from one sandcastle by our campsite, to a sand castle at the other end of the beach. Each castle was beautiful in it’s own right, and very different. I added shells to the one at the far end of the beach.

On my run back I had to stop to drink in the sunset with the waves crashing over the rocks, and admire only one set of footprints in the sand.

Being on the southern point of New Zealand, you almost see the sunset in the West, and get a great view of the sunrise in the East, depending on which side of the five minute walk you take through the campsite’s peninsula. In the morning, I got up for sunrise. The sunrise here competes with the beauty of the sunsets. I was the first footprints on the beach again for my morning run, as I ran the length of the bay, from sandcastle to sandcastle. This will be my happy place for a long time to come. I’ve never had a happy place actually exist before, it’s always been someplace made up, like how humans picture paradise to be. The sun coaxed me along, peaking over the horizon as I ran. The water glittered as if the sun was rising straight out of the sea.

To avoid more gravel roads, we skipped the Waipapa Lighthouse and headed on towards Invercargill. Passing Fortrose , I whispered goodbye and thank you to the beauty and serenity of the Catlins.


  • Uncle Fred


    Absolutely amazing photography – are the photos using your smartphone? Your narrative is just plain fun to read! so glad you are seeing real New Zealand…


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