The West Coast of the South Island is rugged. A constant pummeling ocean, rolling and smashing into the jagged rocks. When you get to the West Coast, you can hear the thunder of the ocean long before you reach it. In pockets where the cliffs give way to sandy beaches, surfers can be found on a "calm" day. Unlike surfers around the rest of the world, on the West Coast, they wait for the calmest days they can find to have a great surf. Normally the water pulls too hard and the rips are too dangerous for swimming or surfing. Even the landscape here is shaped by the wind. The trees grow in a thick blanket sloping away from the ocean, every one of them leaning inland.
This weekend Jeremiah and I made the trip down to Greymouth to pick up a sea kayak and we made the most of our West Coast trip. On our way down to Greymouth we stopped off in Tauranga Bay. We didn't have much time in the waning light, but we were able to walk out to the seal colony and watch the Fur Seals snuggling down for the night on their rocky beds. In Greymouth we enjoyed staying at the Global Village backpackers and we watched the rugby match at a local pub. Of course the All Blacks vanquished yet another unworthy opponent.
After picking up the kayak the next day, we made our way north to Punakaiki. We stopped up the Pororari River Track for a hike up the river gorge. Out in the bush we spotted glow worms and Wekas browsing for grubs. Giant cliffs on either side of us were our constant companions as we walked upstream. Impressive limestone cliffs and formations greeted us at every bend. I liked to imagine what it would be like to climb up one of those cliff faces. We also enjoyed ducking under trees whose roots created archways over the path.
After a snack break we made our final stop at my favorite spot of the trip, up the Truman Track. This short track leads you out to an ocean cliffside and to a beach that is only accessible at low tide. Jeremiah and I had fun running around the rocks, dipping in and out of the coves between the wave breaks. I was a bit slower because I've injured my knee, but I still managed to get around to the dry cove without getting my socks too wet. The beach here is one of my favorite spots in New Zealand for many reasons... but mostly because it is so wild! The waves are enormous! Standing on the beach you watch the ocean barreling towards you. I loved watching the water foam as it smashed into the pebbled beach.
Part of the magic of this beach is that underfoot it is completely covered with pebbles smoothed and rounded by the ocean. This is not a golden sandy beach like you would find in Abel Tasman. This is a rocky, worn, pebbled beach of the west coast. Lining the beach are seaside caves and waterfalls spilling onto the rocks. Jeremiah and I were the first to venture out onto this beach, newly exposed by the ebbing tide. Following our footprints, you could see where we had to run across the lower portions of the beach, trying to beat the next wave as it raced back in. A pattern of footprints, ocean smoothed pebbles, and reappearing footprints told our story.
I am so thankful that we had the chance to get away and revel in the ruggedness of the West Coast. Nelson is beautiful, but certainly not as wild as the tracks of Punakaiki. It's a good reminder of the places we have yet to explore in this beautiful country.
|Fantail posing for just an instant|