...or like the Kiwis say Wespor
15.11.2010 - 20.11.2010 25 °C
From Abel Tasman our journey takes us south-west past just a few mountain ranges, including Hope, Braeburn, Lookout, Muntz, Lyell, Marino, Gordon, Lyell, Pinchback, Brunner, Mount Williams, Paparoa, and Matiri. Too bad clouds completely cover the views of the mountains. We crash in Murchison for the night, which was a very quiet, farming town with little going on. Julie's belly, still in a damn crazy rumble, keeps us up in the night and we didn't get the rest we needed. From Murchison we travel the road which follows the massive Buller River, that has cut itself deep gorges over the years. By noon we find ourselves in Westport on the wet west coast. This town was first a gold town and then a coal town with New Zealand's only bituminous coal mining still in operation.
Our afternoon was pretty chill after a stop at the Westcoast Brewing Company for samples of their line of beers. They brew a tasty organic lager named “Green Fern”, but I opted for their dark brew to quench the wwoofing thirst. We took a short walk to Cape Foulwind, Julie's new nickname, to stretch out on the rocks and catch up on travel planning. The area was named in 1977 by Captain James Cook, not as a result of odour but as a result of experiencing particularly bad winds.
Later on in the afternoon, we head over to Jeremy and Ruth's house, our next wwoofing hosts. They have 3 children Timo, Cauiva, and Lennox (5, 3, and 1 year old). After arriving, and before even getting out of our car, we are greeted by Timo, who gives us the grand tour and shows us where we would be sleeping. He is an eager, excited, and very intelligent boy. He leads us into the kitchen, where we meet Jeremy and Ruth, who are about our age and love to cook with fresh whole ingredients. During our stay we are treated to some of the best flavours we have had in a long time, including a fabulous Pad Thai. One of the reasons why the food here is so good is because they use raw grains like whole grain rice and buckwheat along with their stone grinder to make amazing fresh flours. The grinder is quite impressive, as it was originally a hand grinder but has been made into an electric grinder using various engines and gear boxes. They have 9 hens and a rooster, which means fresh eggs every day. In exchange for feeding us, most of the work we tackle is garden related and it is very rewarding to help prep for the season ahead. Julie also gets some lessons on pruning native Flax.
Gardening on the West Coast is different because instead of trying to get water to the plants, its all about methods of removing water from the plants. The West Coast receives such high amounts of rainfall that Jeremy and Ruth have built each garden on higher ground, with drainage ditches between. Their compost requires a roof because it gets too moist and will not breakdown. It's interesting to learn how each wwoofer specializes their property for ideal garden conditions under their climate.
There is a ton of sightseeing in the area, so we work two, so very long and tiring eight hour days in order to get 2 days off. On our first day off we cruise up the coast through Karamea to the Opara Basin to check out the limestone caves in the area. Moa (a native New Zealand bird, now extinct) bones still remain in a few caves but they can only be seen on a crazy expensive guided tour. So instead we explore the primitive rainforest surrounding the trail to the caves. The rainforest is lush and diverse with layers of native mosses, lichens, ferns, tree ferns, and huge trees such as Rimu. We explore the Moria Gate Arch, which is a huge limestone formation arching over the Oparara River. We also explore Crazy Paving and Box Canyon caves.
Another stop includes a walk down an old railroad route called Chasm Creek trail, near Seddonville. An amazing wall of thick moss, dripping with moisture and radiating with colour, climbs the steep cliffs. This short walk also provides us with amazing views of the Mokikinui River.
Heading back to Jeremy and Ruth's we make a stop in Denniston, an old coal mining community located high in the hills. It was NZ's largest coal producer in 1911 until the industry dried up. Part of the town is a historical reserve with walking track around old mining relics. Today the town is a ghost town, consisting of only a handful of homes.
On our second day off we head south to Punakaiki and the popular Pancake Rocks. These magnificent natural sculptures are limestone formations carved into intricate caverns and columns as a result of millions of years of weathering and pounding by the Tasman Sea. There is supposed to be a huge blow hole here but the winds aren't blowing from the right direction to create the action in the caverns. There are endless choices for sightseeing and trekking in this area within the Paparoa National Park. We follow Ruth's advice and take the short Truman Track through subtropical coastal rainforest to find a gorgeous beach with a waterfall, and unique rock formations.
We are still feeling energetic and so we make our way up the Fox River on the Inland Pack Track, heading for the Ballroom Overhang. The trail winds back and forth over the river with eleven river crossings on the way to the Overhang. The crystal clear, cold water gave us goosebumps as we crept across the streams, some section being more than knee-deep. The steep cliffs on either side of the river cast large shadows over us. This limestone gorge is indescribable and our pictures just don't capture its beauty. After two hours we reach the grand overhang that was formed by the scouring river winding through the limestone cliffs. After a ballroom dance under the cliffs, we head back down the trail.
Wwoofing and eating wholesome gourmet meals at Jeremy and Ruth's was great. Besides from having a 24 hour bout with the flu, and being laid up in bed for a day, it was very rewarding. Their children are bright and full of knowledge about everything from gardening to playing cricket. I must mention that Jeremy and Ruth are home-schooling them and we think they are doing an exceptional job. We really enjoyed the good conversations about music, organics, permaculture, and gardening.
The West Coast is a pristine place with more protected land than in any other part of NZ. So the next few days we are tourists again heading down past the Southern Alps to check out some amazing landscape. It's back to tenting for a change of pace.