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Published: February 12th 2007
What a Weka
Not a kiwi as you might think but another native NZ flightless bird called the weka. They're very friendly and waddle like mad when they walk!
You might be forgiven for thinking that today's blog has something to do with everyon'e favourite Shrove Tuesday meal but the pancake reference is in fact all about our visit to the rather interesting Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki on the west coast of South Island. Yesterday's bad weather continued all through the night and into the morning so we weren't hopeful for a good experience of the Pancake Rocks. Just made our way over to the popular tourist attraction after having to check out by 10am, the rain stopped and the sun began to peek through the broken clouds.
At first, we couldn't work out what all the fuss was about. There were people everywhere taking photos of views that just didn't seem all the impressive to me but as we continued along the path, it suddenly became clear why what everyone had come here to see. The Pancake Rocks are so called because they look like huge precariously stacked piles of flat rocks. As ever, this unusual phenomonen has been caused by erosion leaving behind not only the weird layers of rock but some cool blowholes that spray sea water across the walkway at high tide. There was also
Give Us a Wave
Some of the harshly eroded Pancake Rocks.
a massive surge pool and we could see the huge waves of the sea come crashing in and then swirl around with incredible force. Nature can be so cool sometimes! As we continued along the well laid path, we found lots of different viewing platforms affording us a variety of views of the area. Our favourite view though had to be of the 'totem pole' rock which looked like it had a human face and a monkey face carved out of it. Check out the photos to see more.
Across the road from the rocks we found a cafe that advertised internet access for only $3 an hour - the cheapest internet we've found outside Auckland. We went in to ask about availability and were told a terminal was free for us to use. By the time we had run back to the campervan to pick up our wallets though, someone else had hi-jacked our machine and we would have to wait for another one to become available. We were majorly peeved that they couldn't have just waited a couple of minutes for us to come back and pay so we turned around and left again.
Glynn watches as the water comes crashing in to one of the surge pools.
way up the coast from Punakaiki is a small toen called Charleston, like the dance. We would never have stopped here if it hadn't been for our German friends, Steffen and Susi, who had told us about a nice free campsite there. We followed the signs for the public toilets as they had told us to and were surprised to find a really lovely little campsite run by the Department of Conservation but no-where was there any mention of camping fees. Bingo! As if that wasn't good enough, we didn't find a single sandfly the whole time we were there.
We parked the van and went for a walk to stretch our legs. There was a loop track signposted at one end of the campsite which took us on a gentle ramble through the bush and to some lookout points where we could gaze at the angry sea crashing against the crumbling cliffs beneath our feet. We also took a stroll across the small, rugged beach, our feet sinking in the soft sand as we walked. Over the tussock-strewn dunes we discovered another rocky cove where we had fun doing another round of jumping photos only this time Jish
Now you can see where they get their name from!
joined in too! It was a really lovely spot at Charleston so I was surprised when Glynn said he wanted to keep driving. It was gone 2pm by now and we had no idea where to head to next but after all the hassles we've had trying to camp on the west coast, I think Glynn couldn't believe that there wouldn't be a catch about staying here.
So, on we drove from the weather and sea ravaged west coast across the Buller Gorge where the road followed the meandering river and took us over some rickety bridges shared by both cars and trains on the same track. It was unnerving to have to keep an eye out for possible oncoming freight trains as well as trying to negociate the difficult road conditions but Glynn kept his cool and got us through it all safely. The bad weather wasn't helping either but by the time we crossed the central mountains, the skies brightened and it stayed dry all the way to the east coast.
We stopped to refuel in laid-back Blenheim, just south of Picton where the ferries dock from North Island. From there, we followed the DOC campsite
This is one of the blowholes and when a big wave hit, a load of spray would be forced out of a hole in the rocks.
leaflet that promised numerous free camsites in the area. We had about as much luck this time as we ever did after coming across several supposedly free DOC site only to find they now charge a fee to stay there. By now the sun was going down and we were running out of options. The last place we wanted to try took us up into the mountains via the all-time worst road that was nothing short of like being on a rollercoaster. The road rose and fell with a never-ending series of hairpin bends to enjoy on the way. If that wasn't difficult enough, it was completely dark by now and the potholes and rain ruts threw the van around with such force that Glynn often had trouble keeping hold of the steering wheel. The van skidded around many a bend and it's testament to Glynn's driving skills and sheer strength that he managed to keep us on the road.
I'm pleased to say that we were at least rewarded for our efforts with a nice little campsite at Robin Hood Bay which had a clean longdrop and was completely free of charge. As an added bonus, we were
the only people there - probably because no-one else would be crazy enough to drive along THAT road! It was 9.30pm when we finally arrived, too exhausted even to cook dinner. We sat back in our fold-out chairs and enjoyed the view of the night sky with stars twinkling across the entire span of the sky. We even spotted the comet that we had heard was passing over New Zealand while we were travelling although it was very feint and barely visible above the horizon. Still, sometimes it's these small things that make up for the difficulties we have to endure to find them.
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