Woke early this morning in the hopes that the weather might still be great, but having heard the rain again through the night I really held no hope for the flight over the glaciers! However I was down at the helicopter office at 8.30, knowing fine well that they wouldn't be flying!
Anyway that at least meant I could get an early start on my next step. Have to say the windscreen wipers were working double time nearly all day and the camera remained deep in my pocket most of the time! I took a few to show what the weather was like, but they're not too clever! I stopped first at Lake Mapourika, then at Lake Ianthe. Nice views but nothing like this colour.
In between I had to stop at the Maori Gallery in Whataroa, as last time I was there I talked to the owner, of Maori descent but with a bit of Scots thrown in, I reckon. Well, with the surname of Armstrong..... The gallery is also a museum of Maori Art and displays carved work by Mr Armstrong himself. I remember he gave me an "off-cut" of a piece of greenstone that he was carving, but his daughter who I spoke to today said he didn't ever carve the greenstone! Mysterious!
Onwards to Ross where gold was discovered in 1865, I think it was. The town grew from tent town to a proper settlement with weather board houses and the facilities that serve a town, but then the gold declined so people moved on. However, the discovery of lead helped keep it gong for a bit. Now it is a small residential village with mining still going on in the old areas. The town is sitting on millions of dollars worth of gold, they say! In the picture the old miners are sluicing out the rock that contains the gold. Hokitika was my next stop, a biggish town, and once the biggest in the area, being the place where boats came in and out of. It reminds me of an American frontier town with its weatherboard buildings, boardwalks and canopies over the walkways. This pic is of the entrance to the Wool Station, under reconstruction today I think, and next door is the area council offices. which looks very dilapidated inside, and is in fact for sale because the council obviously can't afford to do the necessary work to bring it up to standard. There was a book sale there that I went to browse through. I know I can't bring books home, but would you believe I dropped the car keys, right on a pile of magazines I hadn't noticed on the floor. What mags were they? Only NZ and Aussie scrapbooking mags! So I bought the NZ one for $2! Amazing! This is the war memorial in the centre of the town, which had several beautiful wreaths laid out in front of it, last Sunday being ANZAC day. No poppies, but roses and lilies, etc. Very beautiful they are too.
I passed through Greymouth stopping only to fill the petrol tank. All I remember of it last time was the station where Jan and I arrived from the trip over the stunning Arthur's Pass. It seems to be a reasonably sized town, but I don't think I missed anything by not stopping! If the weather had been good I would have driven up to Arthur's Pass and back, but there was no point. The rain was on for the day! It was on the next stretch of road that I came across roadworks - not for the first time. Over here, they don't work on one side of the road and leave a good bit of single track road operated by traffic lights. The whole surface is removed and you just have to drive over the rough road, which has been flattened by a roller. What really made me laugh though was seeing one of the roadmen walking along the roadside with his stop/go sign... and a white plastic garden chair!
Not far along the way, the road began to climb, twisting up and up round the top of a cliff with the sea directly below, then dropping down again to sea level, twisting in and out of the bays. There were loads of sea stacks where there must have once been headlands separating them.
At one point there was a memorial to miners who were killed in a mine explosion in 1967. Apparently Strongman mine was found to have breached safety rules, I read later. Next to the monument was a roadsign - Beware of penguins for the next 1km! I didn't see any.
I have been fascinated by the names of all the creeks I have driven over. Every little stream has a name and I wonder who Roy, Jamie, Joe and Red Jack etc, were, or Evans, McLean and McMillan for example. There was also Hare Mare Creek, depending on how you read it! I guess it's Haaray Maaray but it looks like it could be a Maori/English pun by some long ago Glaswegian miner, who named it after Hairy Mary! (Those two words rhyme in Scottish English). Remember I mentioned the two American hippies I met at Te Anau? No, haven't met them again, but they reckoned the New Zealanders drive very aggressively. Don't know how they came to that conclusion because for one thing most people really do stick to the speed limits which are slightly lower than ours - big penalties if you are caughtspeeding even by a little. You can lose your licence in a moment if you go too fat over the 100kph 100 kilometres an hour is the maximum speed on the roads, with 50kpm being town driving. 70 and 80 are edge of town speeds, and when it comes to those roadworks I was telling you about it's right down to 30 and sometimes even 15, and for another thing there's hardly any traffic on the roads down here, and most of that is campervans: the Mauis, Kiwis, Britz, Jucy's, hippie painted Escapes....! It may be different further up, but the population of the whole country is only about 4 million and Glasgow and Edinburgh alone have more than that. Mind you, I heard it said today that one out of four folk in NZ are actually tourists, and I tell you what, the Kiwis are excellent at customer service! "Hi, how're you going?" they all ask as you step through the door of a shop, the bank, the cafe.... to which the reply is "Good, thanks!" They want to know where you are from, where you've been and where you are going and often give information on places to go, things to see, etc. Well, I guess I like it that way.
Anyway back to my journey! I finally reached Pancake Rocks which is an outcrop of rock that has been so eroded by the weather that they look like piles of pancakes stacked on top of each other. With the right conditions - high tide (guaranteed twice a day), the wind from the south west (variable) and the right swell on the ocean (also variable) the water bursts through the eroded tunnels and geos resulting in the most thunderous sound and great spumes of water shooting up into the air from the blowholes. It wasn't quite the right conditions today but the waves and the sound of them booming into caves and holes in the rocks was still pretty impressive! However, there were more thunderous sounds - preceded by lightning - so yours truly wasn't too happy! I did seem as if the storm was a few miles away, but I was back at the car before long and heading off through the township of Punakaike (Poona-ka-eeki in my phonetic Maori!), and on to find a hostel I had read about! TE NIKAU! It is just so lovely, a pretty picturesque little house - could make an excellent family house - with vines growing along the top of the verandah. Inside it is SO cosy with sitting area, computer and reading room, kitchen and dining room. Stairs go up to the bedrooms, but I have a wee chalet all to myself as the dorms were full! Suits me! The last two nights have been quite noisy with folk coming in late and going out early in the mornings. My wee chalet is just a few seconds walk from the hostel itself, and is tucked away in the bush that surrounds the whole complex. A thought occurs! Hope there are no beasties (insects) around! I got bitten by sandflies yesterday despite ladling on the isect repellant! Should have brought the Avon product I had at home! Even the army use it to deter the midges etc back home! Anyway, there is more greenery around the whole place now. These photos must be a few years old now.
Getting to the end of my time here though I could extend it by another $4. I am working on the 40p dollar here! So $4 is one pound 60. (No pound sign on the keyboard here!) The computers all seem to work on $2 per 20 minutes! Some are coin operated and others work on a sign-in name and password from the hostel office. Here is coin operated!
So, tomorrow I will go back down to look at the rocks again. The tide will be going out (high tide at 4.50 something in the morning) but I want to see them again before I leave. Not sure where I am going to stay tomorrow night. I'll study the map and see where I could go, still leaving myself time to get to Maureen's in Motueka by the evening of the day after tomorrow! Is it Tuesday today? Well, it's Thursday I am due to reach Mot.
So, talk again soon!