Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sundry Swims In The South Island

I managed to have a few more swims along the way as we looked around the South Island of New Zealand. Here are three spots I particularly enjoyed.

Lake Wakatipu
We stayed at the Lakefront Youth Hostel in Queenstown, with great views over the water to the mountains, including The Remarkables with fresh snowfalls. In the afternoons, I used to walk across to the lake shore and have a (quick) swim in the cold, clear, incredibly blue water. It was hearty stuff, and I didn't stay in too long, but I loved it all the same. I tried to discover the lake temperature online, but could only find two sites that gave me the annual temperature range. One reported it to be between 8 degrees in the winter and 11 degrees in the summer; the other site was more generous with the summer temperature, giving the range as being between 8 and 13 degrees.

Cleddau River
Even more chilly was this fast flowing river at the back of the Milford Sound Backpackers Lodge in Fiordland. I found a backwater to have a safe dip, and took the photo from there. I'm disappointed that I couldn't capture the incredible milky blue colour of the water.

Bob's Bay
The water at the Marlborough Sounds felt positively warm by comparison with other swims, though we were told it was sixteen or seventeen degrees - winter temperatures by Sydney standards. The water was gorgeous though, and I swam for as long as I possibly could. It was a great walk along a cliff path to Bob's Bay, and I was ready for a swim by the time we got there.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool

Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand

In contrast to some of the other wilder swimming spots in New Zealand, was this 25 metres long pool at St Clair Beach in Dunedin. It's very much like the sea baths in Sydney but the water is heated to 28 degrees C. This was particularly welcome because the air temperature was a cool 14 degrees, and the sea temperature was 13 degrees.

We swam length after length here, enjoying the hot saltwater, stopping every so often to look out over the sea wall at the surf breaking onto the beach.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Resolution Bay

Marlborough Sounds, South Island, New Zealand

Another of my favourite places to swim while in New Zealand was in Resolution Bay on Queen Charlotte Sound in the South Island. We spent a couple of days walking two sections of the Queen Charlotte Track from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet (a mere 15km of the whole 71km track). It's a great walk through thick coastal forest and along ridge lines with incredible views of the Sounds.

We stayed a couple of nights at Resolution Bay in a wonderful cabin. They had their own wharf from where you could jump or dive into cool, clear, blue water.

I couldn't stay out of the water and went for several swims both in the sun and, later, in the rain. The saltwater was cool (the locals reckonned 16 or 17 degrees C, which felt about right), but, it was so wonderful, I stayed in for as long as I could. The cabin had a hot shower which was really welcome after I came out shivering uncontrollably.

It was lots of fun acting like a kid and throwing myself off the wharf, but it was also great to swim out to deep water. It was so still and clear that I could see the bottom, but couldn't possibly duck dive to the bottom (I kept trying).

It was also lots of fun swimming across the bay to a couple of the pebbly beaches, sitting in the sun, then swimming back to the wharf.

We took some sea kayaks out to explore the bay and some of the coves around this part of the Sounds, and were constantly amazed at how clear and how blue the water was.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lake Marian

Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand

Just been over in New Zealand for a couple of weeks, touring, walking and managing to have the occasional swim. One of my favourite swims was in Lake Marian. It's in a gorgeous setting in a glacially-formed, hanging valley surrounded by the Darren Mountains.

We had a three hour walk to get there and back. The track crossed the Hollyford River on a swing-bridge, followed Marian Creek past an incredible series of waterfalls, then made a steep ascent through thick silver beech rainforest until it reached the perched valley above the tree line. Lake Marian was very full from snow melt, and the track, which circuits the lake, was under water.

The water was clear and blue and very, very cold. I swam for a maximum of five minutes, including a duck dive that made my head ache.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Heathcote National Park

Sydney is surrounded by National Parks. These are mostly on rugged sandstone ranges cut by creeks and rivers. They have a distinct vegetation, and are usually covered in dense bushland. Many are accessible by Cityrail train. Often you can walk into the park from one railway station and walk out at another station.
One of my favourite National Parks is Heathcote. I usually manage to go down there a couple of times a year to bushwalk and swim. I get the train to Waterfall station, walk about ten kilometres, and catch the train home from Heathcote station.
Swimming in the creeks and rivers in the park is one of my favourite activities.
Swimming hole on Heathcote Creek
There are many pools along the creeks and rivers, all of which are great for swimming in. The one in the photo above is just off the Bullawarring walking track. This is usually where I have my first swim of the walk. The dark colour of the water is due to staining from all the submerged eucalyptus leaves.

Kingfisher Pool
Taken from a rock ledge several metres above the pool. When there's been plenty of rain, there is a waterfall tumbling down from this ledge. It's fun both to walk behind it or to swim beneath it. Kingfisher Pool is a popular swimming hole, though I was here on my own this morning. The water was very warm today, and I spent a long time just floating on my back looking up at the cliffs and the tall gum trees.
Off the track
This is my favourite swimming holes. It is quite some way off the walking track, but well worth the scramble down the gully, through the bush. I found it by accident about four years ago. I was walking along a ridge, when I noticed a cairn just off the track. I guessed that it was a marker for a swimming hole. As I descended to the creek, I made small cairns of my own , so that I could more easily find my way back to the track. I've added to the cairns over the last few years, and now have no problem finding the pool. There are some deep holes here that are lovely and cool even in summer.

Lake Eckersley looking North

Lake Eckersley looking South
Lake Eckersley is a huge waterhole on the Woronora River. You can swim a long way up and down the lake, and it's so deep that you don't have to worry about scraping your knees on submerged rocks or tree branches. Worrying about eels is another matter. I swam my inelegant front crawl up and down the lake a couple of times. I met some young people here who told me all about a swimming hole I'd never been to before. I was keen to swim there later in the day.

Pool above Mirang Pool

Rocks leading down to Mirang Pool
Mirang Pool is another popular swimming hole, but I usually climb upstream to a smaller pool to swim. It's in the shade for much of the day, so it's usually cooler than Mirang. When theres been a bit of rain, the rocks leading down to Mirang have a series of cascades. At some places, you can lie with your head underneath a strong cascade. Also there are lots of potholes in these rocks, and some become natural jacuzzis when the water is flowing strongly.

"Rovers" pool

Rocks to jump off
The young people I met at Lake Eckersley directed me to this waterhole. They called it "Rovers Pool", and they told me that they enjoyed jumping from the rocks into some very deep water. I had yet another long swim here, then jumped off the rocks a couple of times for good measure. They were right - it is very deep indeed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thirroul Olympic Pool

This is Thirroul Pool, on the Illawarra Coast, south of Sydney, on a very stormy day. It's an olympic sized pool at Thirroul Beach, which is tidally filled with seawater. You can't actually see the beach because of the wall at the left of the photo. The first thing that alerts you to the fact that it's not a conventional chlorine pool is the sign announcing the times when the pool will be closed due to low tide.

I had a great swim in the pool, then walked outside and had a swim, between the flags, from the beach. I even managed to catch a couple of (very gentle) waves.

There are a lot of ocean baths along the Illawarra coast, including this one at Coledale. One day (in the distant future) I'll try swimming from Wollongong to Sydney via the ocean baths along this coastline.