Friday, 2 December 2011

New Zealand Tour. 22nd September 2011.From the West Coast to Nelson.

The weather was not as nice today, gone were the blue skies, replaced by dark grey clouds. But, it was not raining, and in that respect we had done well as this stretch of coast is one of the wettest in New Zealand. In the popular guide books, the ‘must sees’ on the West Coast are Cape Foulwind and the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki. 'Punakaiki is a spectacular  must see when visiting the West Coast. The drive up the coast was great despite the grey clouds, but I have to say I was underwhelmed by both the walks to Cape Foulwind, it was a very long drive to look at a lighthouse and two New Zealand Fur Seals! At The Punakaiki rocks, we did get the tides wrong, the tide was low that may have been the problem.
The rocks are supposed to look like large stacks of pancakes and are a major NZ attraction. The rocks were formed over 30 million years ago from fragments of skeletons and shells. the facilities to look at the rocks were good, with steps and boardwalks leading you to the best viewing spots and looked like you could get a wheelchair along them, but I was disappointed...sorry!
However I was very impressed by a walk just 2.5KM North of the Pancake Rocks, The Truman Track, signposted from the road. This easy walk led us down through Westland Rainforest to a beach with a small waterfall pouring from massive wave eroded limestone formations down onto the black sand beach, this was very impressive.

Now we turned inland a drove on the SH6 towards Murchison and the Buller Gorge. The road follows the Buller River, the coasts largest river. The road winds it way through scenic gorge after scenic gorge between Westport and Murchison. There are many adventure activity companies located in this area and many walks to do. We only had time to visit The Buller Gorge Swingbridge. This is New Zealand’s longest swingbridge, over the bridge (you have to pay to cross) there are a few walks, the best one was to see the White Creek Fault line, the epicentre of the earthquake in 1929. If you don’t want to walk across the bridge to get back to the road you can use the ‘Flying Fox’, a zip wire type thing.
From Murchison we followed the SH6 through the Richmond Ranges, countryside that looked increasingly like rural England. The small towns also had English names, Wakefield, Belgrove and Hope for example. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Nelson.