The Weather Bomb Arrives in Westport


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Westport
September 27th 2020
Published: September 29th 2020
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As expected the weather bomb arrived overnight into Westport.A howling wind from the northwest,driving rain and some thunder announced its arrival some time during the night.

Dawn bought passing heavy showers with horizontal rain and a wind that was incessant.

However it wasn’t that bad to stop most of our plans for the day.

The bush train at Charleston however was only taking adventurers who wanted to get into the bush to do some rafting and other activities on the river.

So as we were only up for the bush train ride we gave the drive out to Charleston a miss and instead headed straight for the seal colony at Tauranga Bay,south of Westport and on the southern side of Cape Foulwind,so named by Captain Cook in 1770 when his ship was blown offshore.

We arrived at the wide bay with the sun peeking through(which it did on many occasions during the day before another squall blew in) and we hiked off the short distance to where the seals were wisely taking shelter from the wind ripping through between the shoreline and Wall Island.

It was an easy boardwalk that took us up to a large viewing platform that was quite exposed to the howling wind which made it difficult to stand in one place and view the seals below especially when a squall with the horizontal rain blew through.Even when that had passed the noise of the wind made it impossible to put a commentary on the video I was taking and when it is downloaded it will be interesting to hear the result.Even one of those fluffy microphones you see weather presenters standing out in a hurricane would not have been any use!

There were not many seals in view and a pictorial board indicated the seals were in decline due to a number of reasons,not the least being caught in fishing nets off the coast.There were a few youngsters but perhaps there were others taking more involved shelter than the exposed rocks below us.

Back in the car park,a weka,from a population that is apparently expanding made itself known to us,albeit from a safe distance.It is great to learn that these native and virtually flightless birds are on the increase number wise especially in places where their predators of stoats and rats etc can be reduced or eliminated.

Next stop was Cape Foulwind and a short walk up to the lighthouse to take in the raging sea from a more elevated position.Not that you could see too far out to sea for much of the time.At least the rain squalls kept away while we did this little return walk and interacted with another weka checking out the car park.

It was then back to our motel unit and a quick bite of lunch before the afternoon trip to the historic Denniston coal mining settlement 500 metres up on the Denniston plateau about 20 odd kilometres up the coast from Westport.

The road up from Waimangaroa on the coast twists and turns for 8 kilometres to gain the ascent to where the coal mining and cable railway worked between 1879 and 1967.

The railway is the very unique feature of this operation and has been described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and it would make very interesting reading to learn how and why this site was chosen back in 1879 and then just how the miners and their families survived on the windswept plateau living their lives without a way back down the 500 metre hillside other than the cable incline railway which also took the mined coal down to sea level for transport away from train.A road,of sorts, to ease access was not built until 1885 and because of the isolation and difficulty in getting to and from the coast many of the inhabitants went months without leaving the plateau.

The population rose to as many as 1400 people in 1911 and the town was essentially self supporting with a small hospital and a couple of schools for the miners children among the other trappings of a town such as a few shops and of course bars.

Almost all of the buildings have now ‘dissapeared’except for a couple of run down houses where people still appear to be living for reasons known only to them.At least now they can drive up and down the winding hill road and not have to dice with death on the cable railway to take a break away from the plateau.

Whilst the buildings have mostly gone there are story boards at several places in and around the railhead telling about the way it was for the town and its inhabitants and one can easily spend a couple of hours walking between exhibits and reading the history to get fully involved.

Thankfully for the time we spent up there the weather was relatively calm which indicated the wind was taking a turn to a southerly direction which was what was predicted for overnight.And the absence of any rain at least meant one could keep dry.

This wasn’t our first visit to the plateau and it seems there is always something new to see or learn on the 3 or 4 occasions we have made the trip up to Denniston.

Back to the motel and some pre dinner drinks and nibbles and then it was time for dinner and at least one of our party of 6,who will remain nameless,got the whitebait patties she had been hanging out for.

Fingers crossed for reasonable weather tomorrow as we head further up the coast for an overnight stay at Karamea and take on the short 2 hour return walk at the start of one of NZ's Great Walks,the Heaphy Track as far as Scotts Beach and return just so we can get a little taste of what 4 days tramping on this world famous bush tramp would be like.


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29th September 2020

Museum at Denniston?
Great commentary on Denniston. Wondered if the big building at Dennuston was still there- the workers hall?. It used to to be run by volunteers as a museum and had lots of interesting things. Also wondered if you visited the Coaltown Museum in Westport? A little insider knowledge ...we discovered on our trip back in March that the bush train now only operates for the rafters.
1st October 2020

Denniston
The big building has gone,not sure why.The whole area is now more open but with great pictorial boards and the boys really enjoyed the whole experience.Think it was time 4 or 5 for us.
1st October 2020

Denniston
Missed Coaltown museum as thought the experience up on the plateau was enough to get the feel.
29th September 2020

Museum at Denniston?
Great commentary on Denniston. Wondered if the big building at Dennuston was still there- the workers hall?. It used to to be run by volunteers as a museum and had lots of interesting things. Also wondered if you visited the Coaltown Museum in Westport? A little insider knowledge ...we discovered on our trip back in March that the bush train now only operates for the rafters.

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