Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
220Trip End Jun 17, 2009
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We drove north east through the top of the Westland National Park with the Southern Alps away to our right hand side, all forest covered mountains for miles and miles. Like so many days before this spectacular vista was endless and it was too easy to become blasé about the fabulous scenery we were continuously passing through.
We passed through small, sleepy towns on the main Hwy 6, over rivers and creeks, all of which had names and occasionally neared the sea coast, where the deep blue Tasman Sea was rolling waves onto long, black sandy beaches.
We came across a railway line, something that had not been part of the most southern areas and in parts the railway shared the same river bridge, quite an interesting feature. As we entered on small town the rail track ran through the middle of the road roundabout, which would have made for very interesting driving!
The biggest town was 'Greymouth', which like most towns around had a (very) short spell of gold mining and then developed into a logging centre.
Farther north we reached 'Pancake Rocks', an amazing geological phenomena where the limestone was layered and looked like stacks of pancakes. The rocks were well weathered by the sea into fantastic shapes and narrow gullies had been cut deep into the cliff face. One long gully was called the 'Blowhole' and at high tides and a strong swell, would hurl a plume of water up high into the air as the incoming sea was compressed into the narrowing gap. Intriguing.
As it was getting dusk we turned inland and an almost full moon was rising like a giant, luminous balloon over the forested mountains. This really would have made a great shot for 'Lord of the Rings'
Supper was a takeaway pizza from a small café we found on the deserted, Saturday night, main street. The café advertised "Italian pizzas, made by an Australian in New Zealand". Catchy, but it was a really tasty pizza - well done the Aussie.
Distance driven 280 Km 174 miles
Sunday 20th April
Bright, sunny morning and we sat and ate breakfast on the picnic table in the motel garden, surrounded by bushes, singing birds and a gorgeous, bright orange butterfly with a four inch wingspan.
We left sleepy Westport, which had been a prominent coal mining town but now had no remnants of the industry, just many 1950's style buildings and drove northwards up the coast. Just out of town we stopped at a rail crossing where a long, coal train was taking empty trucks to a working mine near "Hector".
The mountains slowly closed in on us and after 'Mokihinui' (I love the mix of Maori and English names), we started a serious, twisty climb through the densely forested slopes. Tight bends and steep drops made this a really interesting driver's road, which lasted for nearly twenty miles until we came back to the coast and flat meadowlands again.
We saw half a dozen 'Pukekos', which are a large water rail and a pair of Plovers, feeding in a field. The whole road was a dead end that ran into the 'Kahurangi National Park', a forested, mountainous area that covers the north area of the South Island. If you really want to get away from it all, this is the place! We drove through the small town of 'Karamea' and on the track leading to the beach, were challenged by a young bull who's field we were crossing. He lowered his head and ran towards us. I decided not to stop and as we passed he gave up the chase. Not having brought my matador's cape I did not pursue the matter.
The long, sandy beach was awash with rolling waves and we sat for a while and enjoyed the views out to sea, before returning to town (no sign of the bull) and setting off back.
I spotted another interesting road sign warning of 'slumps', I don't know if they are more dangerous than the bull but we kept a careful look out anyway. Across the road from the sign, a herd of young cows spotted us and ran to the fence to investigate. I don't know if they were expecting to be fed or were just looking at the strange beings that had wandered into their remote area.
One feature that we noticed in the farmland here was that most of the fields had been excavated into undulations, like giant waves around four metres peak to trough and twenty metres width, peak to peak. We could only assume that on the flat land near to the sea and with a high, westerly rainfall, it was done to provide drainage without all the fields becoming flooded.
Back in Westport and a quiet supper after another interesting day.
Distance driven 205 Km 127 miles