Wild West Coast Roadtrip part 2

So I know this post is a long time coming. I actually wrote it once before when I arrived in Wellington in a hostel. However, after leaving it to upload whilst I went to work the wifi went down and so deleted my post. Waaaah! So I’ve finally found time to attempt this again. Fingers crossed.

P1030984So I left off the last one coming back to Westport after a couple of days in Karamea. I gave a lift to a guy I had met in Karamea back to Westport which made for a more interesting drive. With his help and the people at the service station we worked out what oil I should buy for Sylvia as the manual wasn’t in the car… After picking up food we headed to the coast to walk to a seal colony they have there. It was a gorgeous day with sun shining and a sea breeze in the air. The seal colony could be seen at the bottom of the cliffs but after my last encounter with seals at a beach I had to say this one was a bit underwhelming. We carried on to the end of the track at a light house where we found a tree with a tube of rubber sticking out of it. It was so bizarre, the tree had grown around this piece of trash and made it part of itself.

After the walk I dropped my friend off at the highway to hitch hike further on the coast, I was going to stay at a camp site very near to the sea that night. Once settled in I wandered down to the sea for an icecream, ‘cos if you can’t eat icecream at the beach when can you.

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The next day I was off to drive to Punakaiki, home of the famous Pancake Rocks. The one road that goes along the West Coast is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. And I can’t say that they are wrong. But when you have your eyes on the winding, twisting, up and downy road its hard to appreciate the cliffs, forests, beaches and waves at your side.P1030992 On the way in to the “township” there was a short walk through native forest to the beach. It was a charming walk to a small isolated cove. On the way back I passed a sudden influx of tourists, in my happy mood I started to say Hi or hello or morning or hey to the people I passed. However, what I got in return was blank stares, no acknowledgement whatsoever. Hm. When I got to the car park I see the bright green Kiwibus. This is a very popular bus which takes groups of visitors all around both islands organising everything for everyone on board. To me it seems an all too easy way to travel and lacks in sense of adventure. But I have many good friends who did the bus and had positive experiences. Anyway back to this particular bus load I passed, I was to be honest quite shocked at the their lack of politeness and general niceity. From as early as I can remember it was a thing to say hi to people you passed on walks/hikes/rambles, me and my sisters always pretended to be foreign when going on family walks in the Peak district or Lake district, saying hi in french or german. But this group of people seemed too wrapped up in their kiwibus bubble, and didn’t want to be shaken out of it. I actually heard one person comment “Nah, I’m not gonna do this walk, i can’t be bothered. Think I’ll just sit on the bus” Whaaaaaaaat. You came all this way to the other side of the world (I could tell from her “charming” accent she was british) to sit on a bus and not go and explore this beautiful and fascinating country??!! What are you doing here then? So to summarise I was saddened by the fact these people didn’t want to engage in something I considered to be an unwritten rule of hiking. From this point on I tried my best to go on longer, and different walks from the ‘typical’ tourist route to avoid such happenings.

P1040007Once in Punakaiki I went straight to the visitor centre to ask what time is best for viewing the blowholes, and was told early in the morning. So I had the afternoon to explore the area. I decided on a loop walk (my faves) up one river (Punakaiki), over a valley and back along another river (Porarari) and then finishing up the road back to the car. It was gorgeous scenery and the people I met I could count on both hands. And everyone was very friendly and even stopped to chat about things (generally the weather, its still a favourite topic of conversation).

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I checked into the campsite and with it you got an hour of free wifi! Woooo I could contact the outside world. Up early the next morning and headed straight to the pancake rocks. And I must say they were pretty cool, with the blowholes and waves crashing around, and temporary formed rainbows everywhere. After a wander around I drove to Greymouth, one of the largest towns on the West Coast. I only stopped here long enough to visit the Isite (information centre), supermarket, cash point and petrol station. That night I stayed just outside of Hokita, the next town down the coast. I was beginning to regret my decision to stay here as it was expensive to be camped next to a railway line basically in a car park but then my friend Loic turned up! Such a surprise! He was making his way north to work in the orchards near Nelson.  I also made friends with a Dutch couple, Aafke & Mart, who were at the same campsite the previous night too.

P1040053Next morning I drove all the way down to the glaciers, missing out Hokita but I had plans to come back to it. The only way to get to the glaciers now is to get a helicopter ride and guided hike. This of course was out of my price range. So the next best thing was to walk to the nearest viewing platform, still a good 50 metres or so from the start of the glacier. The walk to both Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier were similar, walking through valleys that had been carved out by the power of ice. It was a little underwhelming though but then I don’t know what I was expecting. Still worth to see the only glaciers in the world which exist in temperate rainforest. And I also bumped into the Dutch couple again!

 

 

The department of conservation have campsites they own which are free to cheap. I decided to stay at Gillespies Beach that night which is a free DoC site. The road to the campsite was a 20 km gravel windy, twisty road. It literally went on forever and ever. I was getting bored driving this section so started to go faster so I’d get there quicker. Bad mistake. I ended up losing control of the car going around a corner. I was skidding and sliding all over the place, was so close to crashing headlong into a rockface. In the end I slammed on the brakes to regain control of the car. Most terrifying 30 seconds of my trip so far. That drama over I continued at snail speed to the campsite. And who was waiting for me there? My Dutch friends! So I enjoyed a lovely sunny evening with them treating me to yummy things like chorizo, olives and nice cheese! Luxury for a budget traveller! Another gorgeous west coast sunset again that night.

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The next morning I walked around Lake Matheson, this lake is famous for its brilliant reflections of the surrounding Southern Alps due to the dark brown colour of the water. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning so most of the snowcapped mountains were hiding.

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I continued south from here, aiming to get to Jackson Bay which is supposed to have the best fish and chips in New Zealand! It is at the end of the road on the west coast, nothing further on. Jackson Bay isn’t much apart from a few shacks and a jetty.  It’s known for its deep water harbour so close to the land which makes it great for fishing and of course fresh fish and chips.
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I can confirm that the Cray Pot does indeed have awesomeeeeeee fish and chips. I met a cornish couple here who were travelling in a Honda CRV too (there’s was called Oby as he was a deep purple), they were so excited that to meet a fellow traveller who had the same car as them. As they’re not really backpacker type cars.
 

 
I stayed that night at Haast beach campsite. The next morning I couldn’t unlock my car with remote. Uh oh . I assumed at first it was the battery in this which had died. But nope, my car battery was completely dead. So the local garage had to come out to rescue me. And why? Because I left my bludy lights on (Again…) when will I learn. The mechanic also convinced me to buy a new battery, as he thought it would solve the problem of it revving in park. It didn’t.  But I was 100 km away when I realised and didn’t fancy driving back.
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Now I had a decision  to make. Do I go my original route which was back up to Hokita and through Arthurs Pass to Christchurch orrrrrrr do I drive through Haast pass to Wanaka and Queenstown and surprise my friends. I chose the latter. I was feeling sad cos I had to pay lots of money out over a problem that wasn’t even fixed, so wanted some fun company. I had decided that three weeks travelling by myself was long enough. I was ready to be sociable again!
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The Haast pass was amazing, felt very Lord of the Rings-esque. I really enjoyed the drive through there all the way to Wanaka. Stunning views around every bend. Once in Wanaka I had phone reception again for the first time in a couple of days. I managed to get through to one of the girls I worked with in Queenstown to let her know I was coming. I forbid her to tell anyone else though, didn’t want to spoil the whole surprise!
 

 
So I ended up staying in Queenstown with my old hosts for five days which were so much fun. Exactly what I needed.

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