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Published: December 23rd 2006
Woke in Lesley's garden to a steady drizzle. Quick cup of tea then packed the tent and headed south. Stopped in Westport for breakfast and to check e-mail by the time we came out of the cafe the sun was trying to break through so set off south towards Greymouth (sounds inviting no?). Stopped at Truman track recommended by Lesley as one of the best short walks on the west coast - it was. A track down through native forest - rata, rimu, matai and southern palm trees intertwined with various shrubs including Kiekie (like a a small NZ cordyline which can grow on other plants eg in forks in trees), supplejack (the vine so common in north island forests, the ever present manuka etc ( David Bellamy eat your heart out). The path then wound through a veritable forest of 6 ft tall NZ flax to a near perfect beach - surrounded by cliffs, huge rollers breaking in from Tasman Sea and to top it all its own little waterfall plus best of all the sun was now shining!!!
In my opinion best of all was the fact that the beach was full of shiny pebbles - some of
them probably jade, so i spent a pleasant half hour sifting through rocks. (Wendy)
Then on just a little way to Punakaiki rocks - limestone stacks in the sea that have weathered to give layers reminiscent of a stack of pancakes. The Dept of Conservation have built a track around the coast so that you can view the stacks and blowholes safely and the hard and soft landscaping involved must have taken a long time and a lot of effort. I tried to photograph the acres of salt tolerant NZ flax (cordyline) that stretch back from the sea - we reckoned they'd be worth millions of $$ if each one were potted up and sold!
Camped at a small and very cheap camp site just north of Greymouth on the coast and had a walk along the stony beach at sunset. The sand had a goldy metallic sheen to it, which may indeed have been gold, cos the west coast of NZ was the site of gold mining last century - and there's still a little goes on today. In fact Brian who we stayed with last weekend worked for a while as a gold dredger.
was fine and we packed up the tent and headed South once more. We crossed some interesting road/rail intersections on the main highway, such as a roundabout with a railway line across it and 2 unmarked level crossings in the middle of the roundabout. The most striking was a single lane bridge shared by the road and the railway: so your worst case crash scenario would be two cars meeting in the middle and then being squashed by two oncoming trains.
Took a walk along another old mining railway to a lakeside picnic spot, then headed for Okarito, where there is a rare white heron colony on a coastal lagoon, intending to camp and then take a bird-watching tour of the lagoon.
Alas, it was not to be. We camped at a community run camp site - only 5 pounds a night for the two of us and the tent. We woke at 6am to the sound of rain. It rained steadily till 8.30, when we decided to get up and head for civilisation, in the knowledge that somewhere we'd find a cafe open to serve hot drinks. It continued to rain steadily as we paddled through the
puddles to take down the tent - and now some 4 hours later there is still no sign of any let up. So have booked into classy motel for a couple of nights R&R.
It has actually been very pleasant not to do anything, or see anything, or do stuff but just to laze around reading books - we're reading the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb just now. I know it sounds pretty pathetic, but it's hard work being permanently on holiday and taking in new sights and experiences: it must be awful to be a small baby where everything in the world is new to you. No wonder they sleep so much - the world's just so exhausting.
A word about sandflies.... they're bigger than midges, so you can see them and maybe kill them, but they bite just the same and they love the taste of me. I've taken to wearing socks with my flip flops to avoid being bitten - I'm also waering long sleeves for the same reason,
so no chance of a sun tan. We have three varieties of beastie repellent - 1 tropical strength & one normal strength containing DEET and saying reassuring things like "harmful if swallowed". The other is a local remedy consisting of babyoil and dettol - makes you smell like a hospital or a recently cleaned public toilet, but is as far as I know not poisonous.
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