Dashing South

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Takaka: A town with its own toymaker; my kind of place.

I was really enjoying Golden Bay, but I’d found all I needed to find, I’d caught up with some friends, and a window of opportunity was opening.

The forecast for the South Island, West Coast said there would be three days of fine weather… beginning on Saturday.

On my last night in Takaka I wanted to catch up with friends, so I’d moved on to a campsite in ‘town’. There was nothing wrong with the place, it had everything I needed… hot showers, hot water in the kitchen, flushing toilets, safe, flat, … it just had no… ‘wow!’.

I am used to staying at places that are quite out of this world. I am used to ‘OMG’… ‘OK’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The place was just fine apart from one thing… mud. The ground was wet and soft, and it was nearly (but not quite) impossible to keep the mud outside… so I was pleased to leave that behind.

The furthest South I need to get to is Gillespies Beach; it’s on the West Coast near Fox Glacier, down by the Southern Alps. What I need to film there requires clear weather; I have scenes that need me on the beach, with Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the background. Days like that are fairly infrequent through the winter… so now’s the time.

I was on my way by 10:00, and pleased to be off the mud of the campsite, but sad to be leaving Golden Bay. If they’re ever in need of new residents they can give me a call.

I wound my way back over Takaka Hill and soon enough I was looking back down the other side, across Tasman Bay. I’m still a bit miffed about that one. It’s called Tasman Bay, and they even have a fine statue of him… but he never went there.

Instead of going back to Nelson I now turned right… inland, and South.

After an hour or so the road meets the road to the East Coast at a place called ‘Katawiri Junction’. The Maori name for Westport, and the river it sits by is Katawiri. From Westport, the local population could travel up river 150km returning with Moa, Argillite and Greenstone.

traffic lights

You’re kidding, right?

Unexpected bridge

Oh! I see.

The descent down the Buller River was a wonder. I’m surprised it’s not promoted as one of the things to see and do in NZ. The top of the river is steep, narrow and turbulent and the road clings to the steep sides, weaving its way through cliffs and gorges. In time it changes, to a broad placid flow. It’s still tightly held by the towering hills, but has a slow and lazy flow.

Suddenly, the plains open up, and minutes later, there is the West Coast… wide and wild.

west coast beach

The West coast at snudown

I was driving this coastal section with the setting sun… always my favourite way to see this the West Coast… and what coast this is.

The land pushes hard up to the ocean here. Huge bush covered hills punctured by limestone cliffs run straight into sea with piers of rocks coming up to join them. The whole scene was covered with a spray haze, which, in the setting sun gave an appearance of warmth, but the air was sharp and pure.

Tonight I have gone as far as Punakaiki. I’ll be back here again soon.


‘Pancake rocks’ at Punakaiki, looking South

Hereabouts is where Tasman first came to the coast, and so this is where my story starts in earnest… but first, I have a myth to dispel… and for that I have to go further south.

I have no signal at all here, and don’t know quite when I will get to post this, but as I sign off I’m once again listening to the reassuring rumble of the West Coast.

Tomorrow… Greymouth, Hokitika, Fox Glacier and then, Gillespies Beach.

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