J&H West Coast Holiday - May 2011
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Well, here we are parked up at Haast Beach Holiday Park at the end of day two on
We left home at sunset, Friday, stopping briefly at Milton, another quick stop
at Alexandra before ending the day at B&K home, Wanaka around 9pm in time to
watch the Royal Wedding. After a quick catchup I went to bed around 10pm, Helen
90min later. Memorable about the drive was the paddocks of swamp mist (so early
in the evening) just out of Milton and the cat & mouse chase I had with a
truck/trailer unit all the way to Ettrick, where it turned off.
Very cold Friday night, Saturday morning on the road around 10am, first stop was
Elfin Bay. In all the time we spent in Wanaka, Id never been out that way, it
didnt look anywhere as nice as the photos. We stopped here and there admiring
the view along Lake Hawea, before lunch at Boundary Creek. A very nice day, blue
skies, not a breath of wind, plenty of sandflies. Stopped at Makarora for coffee
and beef stew in a pottle for dinner. Onward we travelled, stopping at the Blue
Pools (plenty of birdlife on that walk, Tomtits, Riflemen, trout in the river),
Fantail Falls (not that great - no rain for past 10 days), Gates of Haast &
Thunder Falls before ending the day at Pleasant Flat with three other Mhomes.
Sunday morning, we cruised slowly to Haast, stopping at DoC walkways before
arriving at the DoC Info centre for a look around. Another nice day on the cards
and the view through their picture windows was memorable. After a quick drink we
then drove through the a few small settlements towards Jacksons Bay, taking a
turnoff to Cascade where the road turned to gravel for the next 22km before
turning into a private road. At Cascade Lookout we ran into another traveller
(from Napier), the 5th time in the past two days. Returning we stopped a while
at Jacksons bay. My hopes on getting a seafood feast from its iconic cafe were
dashed, it had closed for the summer season, two days before. We returned to
Haast slowly, poking about here and there, doing a couple of walks, then dinner
at the Haast Hotel and now parked up at the MCamp. It clouded over this
afternoon, but the weather remains fine and warm.
Monday 2nd May - We give Haast Beach Mc just two stars from five, its miserable
attitude to maintenance, equally matched by their roadside signage, none. We
drove out of there early morning stopping to take in the two walks (in gentle
rain) at Ship Creek then cruised slowly up the almost deserted highway at 70kph
to various other lookouts knights Point, Bruce Bay etc, then to the highlight of
the day, the Salmon Farm Cafe about 30km from Fox Glacier. We had a very nice
lunch here then watched the farmed and wild salmon swimming in the pools
beneath. The biggest of them would be a good 125mm girth, huge. Onwards to Fox
Glacier where we did the 1km walk to the glacier face (weather had cleared up by
now), then drove to our evening parkup at Gillespies Beach. We did a few of the
walks, chased along by fantails and tomtits. After sunset five Spaceships joined
us, one parking closer to us than you would at a supermarket.
It drizzled Tuesday morning, but that didnt stop us doing the 1.5hr Lake
Mathieson walk, finishing it off with a bite to eat at the very nice Mathieson
Cafe. Still raining, but mild, we drove to Franz Joseph and first stop, the
informative Doc Centre. Yes we do have a laundromat, so off to do some
essentials. The weather improved so we walked the town twice waiting for the
drier to finish, bought tonights dinner in a can, then away to Okarito. Luckly
the weather was still fine so we walked the town, beach, had a chat with the
only other camper here at this very nice camp ground, showers, covered kitchen
dining area all for little more than staying at a DoC reserve.
Wednesday. Showers overnight but still mild 15C or so. By the time we were ready
to travel the rain came down relentlessly, pity the french couple who
arrived late last evening, pitching their tent in the rain with just the
illumination of their car headlights. Too wet to do any of the available walks,
so a slow drive eventually stopping at Puke and the Bushman Centre. There no
hiding their feelings on 1080, opossums or Aucklanders. We stopped for a smoko
break, declining the menu Special offerings (yesterdays leftovers) instead
opting for a road kill burger. When we returned the rain was torrential and
stayed that way to Hokitika where we stopped for fuel, 950km since last filling
up. Nearly pushed our luck too far, the tank remaining distance calculator gave up within
coasting distance of the BP station. After 108lt diesel fillup, we stopped for
some groceries then parked up at Shining Star motorcamp, still in torrential
rain. The rain and wind have abated a little now, still wet as outside. But we
are parked in the lee of the modern amenities block where we will offload-reload
before investigating the local attractions tomorrow morning. It nice to at last
be in radio and mobile contact since Saturday. We have only heard snippets of
news, will feast on TV1 news tonight, thats all we watch on the move.
Similarly the house battery has held out well, never getting below 75% capacity.
The rain abated enough Wednesday evening for us to walk across the road and take
in the views of the Hokitika Glowworm Dell and very impressive it is to, highly
Thursday, headed away to check out the Hokitika Gorge. While we drove out, the
weather kept improving until we were in bright sunshine just as we started our
walk. All very nice but the recent rain clouded the water so we missed out on
seeing the lovely blue hues its renowned for. On our return, we came across a
couple walking their Samoyed dog along the country road, so we stopped and
chatted, for almost an hour. Then on the way this time to Dorothy Falls on the
side of lake Kaniere. The road turned to soft muddy gravel, traction control
light came on a few times as we powered through the slop. View the falls and
mirrored calm of the lake at the top rest area. It was on this narrow winding
road we had a very close call with a speeding truck/trailer combo leaving very
little room and a very close shave, for a moment I wondered if our holiday was
going to be halted there and then. After a lunch stop we toured Shantytown which
was far more interesting than I remembered from my last visit, 35yrs ago. Then
on to the nights stop, central Greymouth. Along with 12 others we shared POP
1477 arriving after dinner at Formally the Blackball Hilton hotel. Very
interesting place, steeped in history (both the pub and town) but not enough
time to do them justice with darkness closing in just as we arrived.
Friday. It rained heavily overnight, Lilly called us out three times. Did I
mention we are travelling with our newest family member, Lilly white, a 4mth old
Japanese Spitz. Yes it somewhat limiting in how long we can stay at attractions
etc, but its introduced us to many people who we ordinarily not have conversed
with. Most of our holiday so far has been, drive, walk & talk with very little
time for rest. Ive only turned twenty or so pages in the book Im reading. Back
to the journey, we drove slowly (yes 70kph) up SH6 admiring the views which
improved along with the weather, stopping at Punakaiki. The sea wasn't up to much
so no blowholes working. Next stop was Westport Coal Museum for a brief look
through. We must return another time as the place is a historical gem on nearly
everything West Coast. The videos along will take 2hrs to view, then there are
all the displays as well, schedule half a day at this attraction. Next stop,
Cape Foulwind carpark where we did the 7km return walk to the seal colony in
mild but windy weather. Now, we are parked up at POP 1451, Fairdown 6km or so
north of Westport, a West Coast country pub, a little rough around the edges the
the publican has a heart of gold, should have, we are the only patrons tonight
and nothing is too good for us!
Sunday evening and we are parked up in Westport CBD carpark with three others at the
rear of the Country Music hall where they are holding the "Best of the West"
finals. Were not that into CM but I feined enough interest to park here, as the
other spots are inundated with water due to the copious rain in the last few
Saturday morning in heavy rain we drove slowly up the coast stopping at Granity
for a newspaper at the only business that looked like it might be open. It wasnt,
despite the signage but The Press was bundled up at its front door. The only
sign of life in this otherwise sleepy town, the public toilet cleaner said to
help ourselves, put some coins in the stores letterbox and grabbed a paper as the
shop would probably open up sometime later in the day!
We eventually made it to Karamea, the Cowshed Cafe being closed up for the
winter (nice of them to leave the Open sign on the roadside) and Seddonville
being closed up (30yrs ago Id say by the amount of fern & weed surrounding the
houses). Thirsty as, we stopped for a caffeine fix, then headed to Kohaihai,
stopping to take a photo when the rain and cloud lifted. Upon arrival we headed
up the Heaphy Track, 40min or so later reaching the lookout destination. Back in
the open the heavens opened up and two drowned rats returned to the MH to try
and dry off. About 3pm we returned to Karamea wondering where to stay the night.
The Domain Campground didnt look much but we parked up, connected then explored
what was available. Heavens above, a fully furnished house, showers, kitchen,
bunkroom, lounge with heater, book/magazine exchange, TV and all for $16/night.
As it was pouring down outside we didnt need much convincing so we made
ourselves at home, drying out wet gear and taking a nice hot shower to finish
off the evening.
Sunday - with the weather clearing, we headed away up the Oparara Caves road
which quickly turned to a narrow, tight gravel grovel, no wonder the roadsign
suggested it wasnt suitable for MH. I certainly needed the toilet stop at the
road end. We then took three of the walks on offer, in increasing drizzle, but
it didnt mar the views of Oparara and Moira Archways. Spectacular would be an
understatement. Shame they are so large, my camera couldnt take it all in. Three
hours later we returned to the MH then drove to Karamea for a Mothers Day lunch
at The Last Resort cafe. In the afternoon, we drove here to Westport in
torrential rain, surface flooding everywhere.
Tuesday evening and here we are at Amberley Beach domain along with a dozen or
so others, parked up and inside as its cold & breezy outside, clear though and
most importantly, not raining.
We departed central Westport, Monday morning, under grey clouds, stopping first at Inangahua Junction, ostensibly for a coffee fix but the country store didn’t
look up to very much in that department. Luckily we parked beside the local
community hall, which was open, advertising recent local earthquake history. So
we poked our noses inside and read through the numerous panels and displays.
After 45min or so, we turned around and followed highway 69 to Reefton, where at
least the sun was kind of peeking through the clouds.
By chance parked outside a local hotel, where we were all (Lilly White included)
invited in to meet the three staff and sit down inside to a coffee. We couldn’t
chance Lilly not leaving her calling card, so dined outside and decided what to
next. A tour of the town & Info centre, then lunch by the park. The weather was
improving so we took the Powerhouse walk, returning an hour or so later. It had
clouded over now, we had fulfilled our goals travelling the extreme south/north ends of the
West Coast (Cascade Lookout to Kohaihai) it was time
to move on. Springs Junction where everything was still wet so onwards to Marble
Hill campsite, no better wet, muddy and puddles everywhere so we took the chance
and headed to Hanmer Springs, arriving around 4pm to dry roads, grass and
Tuesday morning, after walking the business district and chatting to business
owners (two of whom came outside to ask about Lilly - business must very slow),
then drove to Waiau where we turned on to the Leader Road heading east to SH1.
Plenty of low hanging & dropped fruit along this route.
I had hoped to impress Helen with the mouth watering delights of the Domett
Railway Café but it was not to be, closed until spring. Well at least they had
an excuse - a new family member had arrived and not the downturn in travellers.
We drove south stopping at Mudhouse Wines for a late lunch, very nice too,
reasonably priced and nice surroundings. Our Chch friends were not at home so we
turned east for tonight’s stopover.
Did I mention we have Tourist Radio keeping us company on the trip. It’s a GPS
radio that plays horrible squealy 1980s songs (a 10hr replay time) but makes
announcements about places your soon to pass through as well as general NZ info.
That as well as adverts of course. Its been interesting and at $40 per time (we
will have had ours for four weeks) its good value I guess. We turn the volume
down to barely audible then turn it up as announcements are always preceded by a
distinctive ding dong.
Here we are, Thursday evening parked up at Victoria Park, Waimate. The suns
gone down marking the end of a very nice day, Lilly White chewing her bone
Two nights back we were parked at Amberley Beach. On Wednesday morning we
departed, stopping first at Rangiora for a look about as we’d never been there
before. Helen bought a replacement knitting needle, the original parking itself
at the dash/windscreen junction and unable to be retrieved with the tools we
have onboard. At least it doesn't rattle, or if it does its hidden in the
cacophony of rattles and bangs from allover the MH as we move down the road. We passed through Chch
stopping at Lyttelton hoping to part some cash into this devastated community, but
very little was open, most of the retail area has been well & truly trashed.
Onwards to Diamond Harbour where we met an Australian couple looking for the way
to Akaroa. They took off over the low saddle while we travelled to Port Levy
then a cattle track over Wild Cattle Hill to Pigeon Bay where we stopped for
lunch. I must stop taking on these remote gravel roads as we could have been
seriously compromised had we met oncoming traffic. The weather was cool and
threatening, mist hiding the views from the Summit Road to Akaroa, then parking
up at the Top10, though I won’t be giving it that many points due to its poor
lighting, mismanagement of shower blocks, non working plugs and grubbiness
creeping in. We had a good enough site though, nice & quiet and away from the
main body of campers.
Today, Thursday, we had probably the 2nd best day weather wise, blue skies, warm
NWesterly and easy flowing traffic. I stopped at Chch Jayco to pick up the
recalled heat deflector, then ambled down the road to Ashburton for Lunch. We
stopped at Winchester hoping to stay at the Motorcamp, but it was closed to
everyone but the couple staying in a caravan while their vehicle was being
repaired. So onwards to Waimate where we originally planned. Its supposed to be
a POP but I cant workout where that is, so here we stay. Not to bad price wise,
the facilities are modern, grounds clean & looked after, very nice.
Tomorrow we travel home, expect to arrive around midday. Ive txt the kids as
much so expect to come home to a spic & span household, we will see.
OK, the highlights & lowlights of our two weeks away.
Glow Worm Dell Hokitika, Oparara & Moira Arched Caves, Salmon Farm near Ross,
Fox Glacier, Lake Mathieson, Okarito Lagoon, Karamea Mcamp, Kohaihai, Lake
Kaniere, Bushman Café at Puke, Southern Cross Jnr display at Harihari, Hokitika
Gorge, Blackball Pub and the travellers we came across.
Gillespies Beach – reeking toilets and very late night arrivals of
campervans, the POP at Fairdown, and the mossie (who really only troubled us south of