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Published: March 23rd 2007
Managed to depart by 8:05am and headed first inland along Arthur's pass for a sightseeing tour. The scenery is magnificent. We stopped for coffee (and the largest date scone I've ever seen) at the cafe/general store in the village of Arthur's Pass. We headed on a short distance for more scenery before returning the way we came. At one lookout by the Otapi viaduct we saw our first wild Kea close up. We drove alongside the Transalpine scenic railway running alongside the train for a few miles. Back at the coast we headed north (intrigued by the single lane bridges that are also shared with trains- as you cross the single lane the rails are beneath you - not sure how that works but luckily didn't need to find out as no trains encountered on these bridges. At another point the unguarded railway runs through the middle of a road roundabout - very strange. The coast road is possibly as beautiful as the Great Ocean Road is Australia - the road runs between lush steep mountains and crashing sea, which has beautiful rock formations. We stopped at Punakaiki for the rock formations and blowholes. It is very popular but none
Typical rubble river bed
the less magnificent. Luckily we caught the blowholes and surge pool at near high tide when the effect is best. The sea blasts water noisily from the blowholes and the sea crashes magnificently amongst the rock formations. The rocks have the layered effect of a pile of pancakes. Just before leaving in the car park I saw an unfamiliar bird like a large brown moorhen, which I later learnt, was a Weka. Next stop was at Westport for a quick stroll down the main street to grab a sandwich and a visit to the pier jutting into the big waved sea. Then it was off to the Buller river for jet-boating. The ride was superb - the boat is incredibly fast and manoeuvrable - the driver deliberately just avoids rocks at the river edge. He does 360 degree spins which shower you with water as you hold on grimly to withstand the centrifugal forces. The river itself is set in a gorgeous valley. After the ride, wet and bedraggled, we set out along the twisting and scenic 100 km to our overnight stop of Murchison following the Buller valley most of the way. Light was fading as we arrived at
Kea car park
The keas do not need to be fed - they help themselves to the rubber seals on your car windows.
the Lazy Cow hostel so we dined out at the local cafe/art gallery rather than cooking. Followed this by a drink in the local hostelry - very much a backwoods feel - some very drunk people - including one rather scary local who jabbered incomprehensibly but luckily lost interest and went away. A relief to get back to the comfort of our snug double room.
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