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Published: March 29th 2018
Our last driving day in NZ as we head 100 miles north to Greymouth. Our motel for the past 2 nights was all the reviews promised; damp, smelly and uncomfortable and it’s a relief to be on the road again. We leave North Southland and enter South Westland, or something like that, it’s all starting to blur a little.
We take a break in Hokitika a small town at the mouth of the River Hokitika. A hundred plus years ago it was a boom town, epicentre of the gold rush. Now it’s struggling to find some sort of raison d’être. It seems to have settled with being a pleasant place to stop on the way to/from somewhere else and has rebranded itself coollittletown.com. We take a walk along the beach, where someone has made the word Hokitika out of driftwood. Then back through the quaint town centre for elevenses on a bench by the river.
It’s a picturesque drive up the rugged coast on a ledge between the mountains and the ocean. As we head north, the temperature starts to rise and the vegetation becomes less alpine, giving way to gorse and flax.
The approach to Greymouth is
interesting. The road bridge across a rather wide river is out of action, so we are diverted across the ancient wooden railway bridge. It’s very narrow and driving a car on a railway line is a slippery, bone shaking affair.
We detour 30 miles up the coast to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks; a layered rock formation (formed by stylobedding) which resemble a stack of pancakes. The old man is still grumbling about being taken to see rocks that resembled marbles a week ago. But he cheers up when he realises he change his FB status to ‘Rocky 2’.
The Pancake Rocks have been incorporated into a nice circular walk, lined with native plants with viewing platforms and information about the area’s geology and wildlife. We have missed high tide so the blow hole is only spitting but the rocks themselves are quite a sight. A sign says scientists can’t explain how the rocks were formed. We suspect we know one who can!
We return and check into our motel in Greymouth. It’s clean and comfortable and doesn’t smell. And it’s huge. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to reach the toilet without tackling an assault course
of my own belongings.
In the evening we head for the breakwater to watch the sunset. The old man is convinced he knows the way and heads towards a deserted dock. We spend some time climbing through an industrial wasteland. On the other side of the river, glinting in the setting sun, is a row of hire cars and RVs of tourists enjoying the view but we still have some cranes and a disused railway siding to explore before he admits defeat.
We make it to the breakwater just in time to see the sunset. An added bonus; there are dolphins chasing the surf just offshore.
Once the sun has set, we head back to luxuriate in our enormous motel suite with dinner and some mighty fine Harrington’s beer.
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