Friday, January 27, 2012

The Wild West

January 15th – 17th
 As we left Golden Bay in our rear view mirror, we saw storm clouds on the horizon and then rain splattered the windshield.  The West is known for its wild and wooly weather! It is also known for the 1860’s gold rush.  We stopped at Buller Gorge and crossed a 110 m “swing bridge” to see the fault line from the 1929 earthquake (magnitude 7.8), and remnants of the gold mining in the area.

Darrell on the "swing bridge" over Buller Gorge
There was an overgrown path to see a giant white pine (not the same species as our N.A. white pine) of which only about 2% remain in NZ…  We were accompanied by a Tui, the friendliest bird here, with the most melodious song. I’m not a great bird photographer but I did manage to get a picture of this handsome guy with his white wattles showing.

We camped along the river in the old gold rush town of Lyell, which has no buildings left standing and is now a DOC campground.  We were the first to arrive and it was already after 5 pm so we thought we’d have a quiet night of it – until other camper vans descended on the campgrounds, as well as a group of 4-wheel drive vehicles filled with fathers and sons out for a 4x4 adventure. Yikes! They were actually reasonably quiet but there were 25 vehicles now altogether!

The next morning I walked in the misty forest along the river to visit the old cemetery and see some remnant gold stamping equipment.

Sunlight filtering through the forest near Lyell
We followed the river to the coast, and went to see the seal colony near Westport. The seals were fairly scarce but the wekas, like rugby balls with legs, were all over!

We used the library in Westport and then drove to the far north of the West side, to a darling town called Karamea, and then to the DOC campground at Kohaihai. This area has some of the mildest and sunniest weather on the West side, and we really did get nice, sunny days! We stayed two nights here as we were camped right on the beach and there were great walking tracks for me to explore while Darrell worked.

Arch at Scott's Beach along the Heaphy Track
I headed out early the first morning to head up the Heaphy Track, one of the Great Walks of NZ. This track stretches 78 km all the way over to Golden Bay, but I just went two and a half hours up the coast. This southern bit of track follows the beaches with views of the ocean through the Nikau Palms.  It was easy walking and just spectacular!

Nikau Palm along Heaphy Track
Darrell took a run to Scott’s Beach later and we got our first use out of our solar shower. It is just a heavy plastic bag filled with water that can drain from a shower nozzle.  You place the clear side to face the sun, and the bottom black side absorbs the heat, so the water heats fairly quickly. It worked great!

The major down side of the West are the SAND FLIES! They are small, exceptionally evil black flies that especially like ankles, but will take other skin as available. Their bite feels like they are taking a chunk from you, and if you can’t stop yourself from scratching the bites, you are doomed to itch for days and days afterwards.

We went out on the beach to enjoy this last sunset view, but the sand flies quickly drove us back in our van again!

Sunset view from our van

No comments:

Post a Comment