12/5/09 12 °C
After a late start, we headed up to Punanaki to see the pancake rocks. It’s Chrissy’s turn to drive and Tom had his fair share of panicked moments along the way. The Pancake Rocks & Blowholes are best viewed at high tide so we waited about 30 minutes for the show to begin and then sat back and watched. Nature really does supply some cheap entertainment sometimes and the DOC did a nice job of making them accessible to everyone while retaining the natural elements. The favourite blowhole was the ‘Chimney Pot’, which was exactly like a kettle on the stove when it’s boiled. It was also much more active than the other two blowholes while we were there.
After the pancake rocks and a deep craving for pancakes, we headed towards the coast and to Cape Foulwind where the NZ Fur Seals have a colony. After the short hike to the top of the lookout we watched the seals below for quite some time. There were a lot of pups as they had just been born around February and they were busy playing/sleeping/swimming around their base. They were absolutely adorable!! We also found a distance post with cities around the world and they had Vancouver so the mandatory photo op was a must.
We were feeling especially adventurous today and decided to try out some of the things we bought on our first grocery trip: Wattie’s Macaroni & Cheese and NZ Mr. Noodles. The Mac & cheese was the most revolting thing this side of the planet and should be used to make concrete while the Mr. Noodles were not that bad surprisingly enough. On a trip to the bathroom, Tom was followed by a local bird (who’s name has been forgotten but starts with a ‘w’) that was quite curious and came incredibly close to him!
We continued our drive and must to Chrissy’s thrill, three separate penguin-crossing signs were spotted but alas no penguins were spotted. We filled up in the town of Westport and continued the drive onwards. This next part is not for the weak-hearted and should be avoided by those with a weak stomach.
For those who have driven the Hope-Princeton, the Buller Gorge Highway is 150 times worse. And Chrissy was driving. We were hugging cliffs like it was going out of style, climbing steep hills and trying not to look down, oh and the ever mandatory one-way’s were still involved. These were operated by stoplights that controlled which side had the right of way although we are both sure of the reliability of such. The first crossing was easy enough as it was a bridge, on a corner, and everyone paid attention to the correct right of way. The second was a bit more terrifying as it involved a road that had been literally carved into the side of cliff and had barely enough clearance for a bus to get through. The next terrifying moment came as we rounded a corner (on a section with no guiderail between us and the cliff) only to see a large motorhome barreling towards us, half in our lane. Our mirrors were millimeters from the others and there was a moment of sheer panic in our little van-a-ram. Soon after this incident, Chrissy declared defeat and scurried into the safe confines of passenger much to the relief of Tom.
We stopped at an old mining village called Lylle, which no surprise here, was built into the side of a cliff. The old establishment is long gone but a DOC campsite now resides on the land and it was quite serene although it took a lot of imagination to imagine the town there a hundred years ago.
After deciding that we wanted to get as far to the north as possible, we stopped in Motueka where we decided to pick up some takeaway. Chrissy is happy to report that the ‘Flammin Chippie’ serves their fish & chips wrapped in paper and its delicious! Tom’s cheeseburger was also wrapped in paper and equally delicious as was evidence by the lack of remnants.
As if we hadn’t decided to torture ourselves enough, we embarked on ANOTHER road from hell, this one leading to the DOC site for the night. It’s a good thing it was dark or else there would have been some frazzled nerves. The road leading to the turnoff for the DOC site was nothing, however, compared to the road INTO the DOC. This one had a sign proclaiming that the road was narrow, windy, and impassable at points. Narrow was an understatement; it was one lane. Windy was also an understatement and impassable?! We encountered one car coming towards us but someone took pity on us and made this meeting occur at the corner of a cliff with a pullout spot which the oncoming vehicle gladly took advantage of. There was a car in the cliff which was not a good sign and when we eventually reached the site (11km of bumping along), we both agreed it was better we didn’t eat our dinner before we left.
Our fun times with the roads were not at an end yet however as we learned our toilet was inoperable. This led to the tinkering with it until it was discovered the change in pressure (we went from sea level to 741m above sea level) had caused the pressure to build up and “seal” our toilet shut. It was easily fixed and we only had to worry about Orks coming to kill us during the night.
Orks you say?! Well yes, we camped in the middle of LOTR’s Chetwood Forest and so yes Orks were a major concern for us. And hobbits. And talking trees. It’s time for bed; the stress is getting to us…..