Travels on the South Island West Coast

November 2022

    Kia Ora. Back from the USA and still homeless I spent a bit of time in Christchurch catching up with friends then jumped into the campervan for a bit of touring and tramping on the West Coast of the South Island

  As usual, if you want a bigger view of an image then right click and "open in another window".

  Paparoa Track

  I started by walking the Paparoa Track - the newest addition to the NZ Great Walks. The walk starts in the west coast rainforest passing through lots of old gold mining history. It then climbs through the beech forest and dracophyllum to reach the open tops.





  Every Great Walk has at least one Great Day - and for the Paparoa Track it is the day from Moonlight Tops hut to Pororari Hut. I like the fact that you can see Pororari Hut from Moonlight tops Hut - 6 and a half hours walk away. I like that Moonlight Tops is not named for the brightness that illuminated my nighttime ramble, but rather for George Fairweather Moonlight who discovered gold in the area and packed a lot into his 52 years. I like the variety for the day, open tops, old growth bush, stunted bonsai forest at the treeline, views across the escarpment, and more.



  I like the fact that weka plumage is more like another flightless bird - penguins - than flighted birds.


  We had a superb sunset glow from Pororari Hut as the sun was enveloped in the sea mist. The back into the ferny rainforest.


  Pancake Rocks

  The principal attraction of Punakaiki is the small outcrop of oddly layered limestone. The geologists haven't completely determined how the rocks were formed, but, however it happened it makes for an interesting little walk. Better that the rocks was the White Fronted Tern colony which was full of courting and pre-nesting activity.





  The courting behavior involved the male coming back to tempt the female by circling while showing off the fish that he has caught. This poor fellow worked hard, but in the end she just flew away.

  Cape Foulwind

  James Cook called it the cape of foul winds, but my visit was in blue skies, full sun and a light sea breeze. Unfortunately it was too early in the season for any real activity at the seal colony.



  The west coast has been mining both gold and "black gold" since the early days of European settlement. The old coal mining town of Denniston is mostly in ruins on the plateau just inland from the coast. When it was active the coal was sent down "the incline" railway, and the people went up in the empty carriages until the road was built. The locals have done a good job of bringing the past to life with excellent photos and interpretive signage.



  Old Ghost Road

  The Old Ghost Road, like the Paparoa Track, is a newly constructed dual hiking/biking route linking existing historic miners' pack tracks with a modern constructed stretch in the middle. Both require a shuttle to link the endpoints. For the Old Ghost Road I inadvertently left my camera in the van when catching the shuttle. The weight and space saving was appreciated on the 85 km (53 mile) 5 day/4night walk, but I learned again that the phone is not an adequate substitute - for me at least. The highlights for the OGR begin at lunch on Day 2 when the climb to the tops is complete. Some of the track engineering is quite remarkable. Old Ghost Hut is perched on a ridge overlooking the river valleys full of morning mist.




  The track crosses ridges and valleys including some quite untypical NZ terrain, then drops back into the ferny bush for a delightful river walk on the last day. Day 4 set a personal high for South Island Robins in a single day.




  Heaphy Track

   I had intended to walk along the beach into the Heaphy Hut from the Karamea end of the Heaphy Track but, after getting 4 fine days on the Paparoa Track, and 5 fine days on the OGR, my luck with the weather finally broke. The forecast was dire, but I at least had a nice morning walk at the road end. The rainforest here is particularly fine and verdant with the Nikau Palms near the southern end of their range. The sun/shade/frond shapes made for fun photography, and I was glad to have my camera back.






  Queen Charlotte Track

   The West Coast rain just wouldn't quit so I finally gave up and headed north to the Marlborough Sounds. During a pleasant stay in the sleepy seaside town of Picton I did a day walk from the southern end of the Queen Charlotte Track. The QCT is another long walking/biking track - so well benched and graded. Walking the entire length requires multiple stays in commercial lodges - no DOC huts. So I caught a water taxi and did 2 days/1 night from the northern end. This had the advantage of getting me to Ship Cove - the site of James Cook's first landing in New Zealand in 1770. So much history here and I have long wanted to visit. The walk was nice - including the panoramas from the headland viewpoints.





  Still it rained, so I headed back to Christchurch with a stop in Kaikoura - where the showers continued. As on the west coast the seabird cliffs were alive. The Shags turned to the sea, the Terns were gullible and the Red Bill Gulls were shagging! It was much quieter at the fur seal colony.






  That's all folks.