West Coast and beyond…20/12/18

Setting off from Murchison we headed West to Waimangaroa where we had decided to do a walk up an old miners track to Denniston.  The walk itself which was supposed to be the old miners track was unfortunately cut short after about a mile as there had been a landslide so we continued up hill on the windy road getting some good views out over Westport but turned around before we got to Denniston itself unfortunately.

The whole of the North of the West coast is famous for its mining, historically Gold – which is what many British people came over here for in the 1800’s – and more recently Coal, mostly premium quality and therefore it is exported and not used for the local market.

We had headed north of Westport following a recommendation from Chris and Karen (friends of John and Lorraine from Auckland) as there is a short walk called ‘The Charming Creek’ which was supposed to be spectacular, taking you up the old mining track alongside the river so we decided to give it a go.  We had found that we could park up for the night at the Ngakawau Tavern which is about 300m from the start of the walk so after sorting ourselves out we headed in for a drink or two before dinner.  The owner and the regulars were amazingly friendly and we learnt a fair bit about the area, the mines …. and some of their personal life too!! There are still several active coal mines in the area, one just out the back of the Tavern where one of the guys was working, industry is still strong. Having made some friends and of course tried some local beer, we headed back to the motorhome for dinner to watch a spectacular sunset … I am sure the first of many on the west coast assuming the weather holds out for us!

Woken early by the cockerel – he did wake up just before 5am, did his chant until 7am and then I swear he went back to sleep again – we were actually out reasonably early, getting onto the Charming Creek Track before 10am.  The track is reasonably flat and the first hour runs along the line and the tracks are still in place… except where they had been hit by a boulder or fallen into the river at least!  After about an hour you get to a swing bridge and then a lovely waterfall where most people turn back, we decided to continue on and do the whole route to the mine and back which although they said it would be 3hrs each way, ended up being about 4hr 10 in total.  We were surprised (and happy) as we didn’t see anyone until we turned back and then came across a cyclist, then managed to get back to just before the waterfalls where we stopped to eat our lunch and from there on in there were small groups all the way back.  We did however meet a park ranger en route who was doing some repairs who gave us some insight to the track and a few other suggestions further down the coast that we shouldn’t miss.

A lovely walk with a huge amount of history and varied scenery – well worth a trip if you are passing through Westport.

Back at Ava we packed everything up and after a quick supermarket stop, headed over to Cape Foulwind which is the other side of Westport where we parked up at the Star Inn for the night.  Not that we make a thing of stopping at Taverns all the way along the route but we had wanted to come this way and fancied eating out, so once again headed in to the bar and were welcomed as though we were locals.  We ended up eating fish and chips …. I had Rig (which is a type of Shark) and Keith had Turbot – both were lovely.

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Instead of cockerels, this morning we woke to seagulls on the roof – no rest for the wicked apparently – but having scared them all away we got on with our morning routine and then set off on the beautiful walk around Cape Foulwind.  It is only about 3km each way but if you didn’t know which country you were in, you could have easily been mistaken for being in the UK in Devon or Cornwall.

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We walked round to the seal colony and then back before heading south to Fox River where we had hoped to do a lovely long walk up the valley and back.

Once at Fox River, we parked up in the Camping area as we had planned to stay the night, setting off en route only to find that the original path had been shut and roughly 2.5km in you had to cross the big river which would have been a pretty hefty wade.  Unfortunately as I have precious feet that don’t like rocks, we decided to turn back and continue down the road … a bit of a disappointment but we did see some baby Weka’s and they were all cute and fluffy.

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Next stop was another 15km down the road at the Truman Track which is just a short walk down to the beach through the forest but pretty impressive.  The native trees are huge and the pancake rocks and beach are beautiful.

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Jumping back in the motorhome again we did another quick drive to get to the main Pancake Rocks themselves which are part of the reserve.  It used to be pancake rocks and blowholes but the blowholes don’t appear to exist anymore which is a shame and although they were lovely, the Truman Track was definitely superior and with far less people which is always a bonus!

Enough interim stops for the day we headed to Greymouth where we parked up at Jellyman Beach randomly overlooking the speedway track which was fantastic for a late Saturday afternoons entertainment before we settled in to cooking some Steak on the bar b q for dinner.

By the time the sun set the car park was full of campers of one type or another and at around 10pm a few cars joined us looking to have some fun which made us a little apprehensive – thankfully it was all calm by about midnight, just the sound of the waves to keep us awake.

A complete change from the previous day as we woke to grey skies … although still dry to be fair!  We set about our morning routine and by the time we were showered and breakfasted the sun had started to come out … obviously just doesn’t like Sunday mornings, I can understand that!

We headed South again, stopping en route just beyond Hokitika at Mananoui Lake where we decided to do the tramline walk which was another old mining track.  Almost at the other end we got diverted and headed down to the Mananoui lake where we had our picnic lunch before heading back on the road.  A couple of hours there and back, nothing too strenuous but at least we got out to stretch our legs before the drive to Franz Joseph.

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We had been planning to do a heli-hike but over the last couple of days as we have been looking at the weather forecast we decided not too, so today we walked Frank Joseph Valley Glacier walk instead before heading back to Frank Joesph itself to find the NZMCA site.

I hadn’t realised that when I was here 20+ years ago the Glacier was actually still growing – unfortunately in the last five years alone it has shrunk more than 800m due to the climate change – quite scary when you see the signs as you walk up to it showing where the glacier used to come to …. when I was here last time it wasn’t too far from where we were standing when I took the photo above, very sad.

The NZMCA site was set in a great location on the edge of town with views up to the Franz Josef glacier in the distance.  We were surprised that we were only one of four on the site as we settled into our BBQ for the evening but happy with the tranquility of bird song and nothing else!

After a beautiful day on Sunday we woke to very low cloud – gutted for our neighbours who apparently had booked on a glacier heli-hike as it had obviously been cancelled.  I headed up the valley for a short run and couldn’t see anything above about 400m as it was covered in cloud – very pleased we did the walk late yesterday afternoon rather than leaving it until the morning.

We hit the road and headed South, hoping to make it over the Haast past before the strong winds came in stopping for a quick walk round Lake Matheson which is a spectacular Mirror Lake with the reflections of both Mt Cook and Mt Tasman when there is no wind or low cloud. Unfortunately for us there was both, therefore it was a pretty circular walk around a lake but without reflection and only the odd glimpse of Mt Cook or Mt Tasman when the clouds parted briefly …. still pleasant and a nice stretch of the legs.

A few miles further and we had a quick stop for lunch looking out over Bruce’s bay … Bruce – we were thinking of you!! Then we worked our way twisting and a turning into the mountains before stopping briefly at the Blue Pools for a very quick walk (due to the nasty biting insects… and too many people!)… although they were very pretty and begging you to go for a swim!

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We finally arrived at Wanaka after a very beautiful journey and parked up at the Wanaka Club which is affiliated with NZMCA, deciding to hanker down for 4 nights as there is a fair amount of walking and things to do here.

The Club is just outside the center of Wanaka (above it to be fair) and looking through the trees you have a great view of the snow topped mountains.  It was an incredible tranquil night despite the wind being fairly high and although we had expected rain in the early hours it was only a light shower.  We headed into Wanaka after breakfast for a bit of a look around and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the shops … definitely somewhere to spend money if you are having a day or two off from some kind of activity… Keith is certainly doing a reasonable job at transitioning some of his outdoor gear over to New Zealand brands!  We did however also pop into the Tourist office to enquire about options for Milford Sounds and Doubtful Sounds and appear to have booked a bit of a treat….

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Having spent all our money we headed out for a walk around the bay, which if the cloud was slightly higher would have been spectacular … although we were just glad that it was dry.

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Wednesday was supposed to be a little greyer and cloudier and it was, but again it didn’t really rain as much as they had forecasted so although there were a couple of light showers – and it was a little moody – we managed to get another lovely walk in

9A9A0815-FE6A-4DF9-81B3-EE18D3F0F73Earound the other side of the lake passing briefly by someone playing around with a jet pack which was amusing and impressive, especially when she did dolphin dives in and out of the water!!

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Due to the orientation most of the higher mountains and glaciers are on the South West side of the lake so the views from each side were hugely different. Tuesdays walk was a much flatter one on a wider track with views over to the snow topped mountains, Wednesday’s views were a little more subtle and the route itself was a little more wiggly and rough once you got a couple of kilometres out of town…. or to be fair, a little past the Wanaka Tree …

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All in all a lovely walk, much more tranquil than Tuesday as the route was further out of town.

Today we had a few chores to do so we have stayed a little closer to Wanaka to catch up on washing and also go to the Farmers market and get some food in before we move on.

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We did however manage to head up Mt Iron which sits about 1.5km outside Wanaka, providing an amazing 360 degree view over the area.  It is only 548m high but we struck lucky and although it was cloudy it was definately the best day out of the three to get the views….

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