Saturday, December 31, 2016


First there are some Greymouth photos with the blue skies of yesterday afternoon.





I finished the day with another sunset on South Beach- very peaceful.


This morning was a day when everyone knew it was a waiting time for the rain to arrive- but I still managed a morning of exploration.
After a family visit to Karoro cemetery I found the new Catholic Church. I thought it was a very successful use of the old with the new.

Then I was off on a journey along the Blackball road.

First I spent some time at the site of the Brunner Mine, and NZ's biggest mining disaster. They got all the bodies out. Later I passed a turn-off to Pike River and understood more of the families' angst that their family bodies remain in the mine.

Next I viewed the Blackball Hilton- Formerly. 
I returned to Nelson Creek and did a few walking tracks, seeing lots of evidence that miners had looked so actively for gold here.


As I sat down to eat my lunch, the promised rain arrived. So I returned to the camping ground, and have got both my laundry and my blog posts done... Now I am just wondering if the torrential rain promised for tonight will come to pass, and how my tent will cope!

Exploring the Grey region

Today was a day for exploring the Grey region, with a big dose of my family's past and some childhood memories interwoven.
First I visited a couple of cemeteries where I knew relatives were buried. The plot for my Scettrini family in Kumara has recently been redone, and is now very clear to read.
I also drove to the Catholic Church in Kumara which has obviously had a lot of recent maintenance.

From Kumara I initially took a route I had never travelled on, to Mitchells then Lake Brunner. It was beautiful, past lots of regenerating native forest, and over many small rivers and streams. When I reached Lake Brunner it was very peaceful with just a few fishermen. I doubt the noise from the JetSki would be very welcome here.

The journey became more personal again. As children we had several times come on the railcar and had stopped at Rotomanu, basically a goods shed that felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. There Uncle Arthur was waiting with the car to take us all on the gravel/dirt road journey to his farm at Bell Hill.

I reached Rotomanu and worked out where the road to the station was. As I headed down there, I saw the Tranz Alpine Pass in the distance. There are no more rural stops... and you can't even see where the shed was that carried the Rotomanu label. But I remember.




I continued on then to find Bell Hill, and I found the farm. There have been huge changes. Gloriavale now own it, and they have ploughed it flat to make it more productive- and fenced it. But with my childhood eyes I knew I was at the right place.  The house led back to the shearing shed that we played in on rainy wet days, and the stream was nearby. So many summer memories.

Next I drove down the Haupiri Valley where I knew Gloriavale had their settlement. Another beautiful Lake with native bush all around. I could just make out the sect's base in the distance at the head of the valley, and at one stage I passed a tractor being driven by two men obviously from Gloriavale with their long blue overalls and wide brimmed blue hats.
Truly, they are very isolated. For anyone leaving, it is a long walk down the Haupiri road to the Bell Hill intersection, then even further down to Nelson Creek, and still another 7km or so to the main highway.

And at Nelson Creek I had a late picnic lunch, while watching kiwi kids have adventurous summer fun by the river. And yes these three kids jumped off- in fact a fourth joined them, and they all jumped off together.

Kaikoura to South Beach

I was pleased to sleep through the night in my tent in Kaikoura without noticing any quakes. Worst problem was packing up my tent in the morning rain! My plan was to take the inland route to Wairau, then the inland tourist Canterbury route from Amberley to get on the Arthur's Pass road to Greymouth. Quite a long day, but I had things to do around Greymouth that needed fine weather, and there was wet weather forecast...

On a second road, the inland road to Wairau, I was to find that the road workers had done  more miracles to get the road re-opened. There were a couple of patches where they have re-routed the road downhill towards a river, with a new crossing. Once this was to avoid a hugely unstable Hill, and the other time was to reach a bailey bridge that was replacing a very munted bridge. There were areas of huge landslips along parts of the route, and in one place it seemed remarkable there was even a hillside left to carry a road. 


Despite the tricky bits, I reached Wairau safely before too long, and had a wonderful bacon and eggs breakfast at the cafe there. 
The historic hotel in Waiau didn't fare too well- and neither did one in Kaikoura- but someone had put festive decorations on the fence, a la Christchurch. 

The weather fined up as I headed into Arthur's Pass and I had many wonderful views.


The photo above is of the Waimakariri River's birthplace in Arthur's Pass. The scale of the rivers and the rock-filled hills tells all kinds of stories to a wondering mind about the glaciers that once filled the area.

Here is the engineering marvel that is the Otira Viaduct- made to allow passage in this hugely unstable alpine environment.
And of course there are curious keas in the neighbourhood. 

Late in the afternoon I reached South Beach near Greymouth, and I am staying in the camping ground here. South Beach is where one lot of my great-grandparents lived, starting off here on the beach goldfields. I got to watch the sunset on a calm night. 


After a couple of festive days with friends in Christchurch I decided to head north to Kaikoura, since two routes from the south have now been opened. The NZTA guys have worked absolute miracles. The SH1 road is easy driving most of the way until the Hundalees, though in a couple of places there is a short detour off onto a country road. Through the Hundalees it was mostly smooth going as well, but it is evident how many landslides have been cleared. About ten km or so south of Kaikoura is where the huge problems were, with big rockfalls blocking the route, and blocking tunnels. I am amazed at what has been achieved to clear it all, and there was only one place with traffic lights where we had to wait a few minutes.

As I neared Kaikoura the uplifted rocks by the beaches became evident, with whiteness where they had suddenly been exposed to the air, and with remnants of kelp on them now largely dead.
I parked in town and did a bit of shopping before driving down by the rocky platform end of town. Here you could walk over rock that not so long ago was under the sea, supporting myriad creatures of the rock pools. Now many of those creatures, along with most of the seaweed, lies dead. The waves simply do not reach much of the uplifted rock. It was a huge expanse, and had an eerie lifeless feeling. In time, there will be erosion, and new creatures will arrive to take advantage of the space, but for now it is largely bleak.

There are though still seals, and with my zoom lens I spotted a few young ones, as well as older ones resting.
I am ensconced for the night at Peketa Beach camping ground, just north of where some of the major roadworks are happening. 
It's a lovely camp ground, and my tent is a mere 20m or so from the beach. I could easily stay here longer, but there is wet weather due on the West Coast again at the weekend- oh where, oh where is proper summer?- and I want to make sure I get over Arthur's Pass in fine weather. Now I just hope to sleep through the night without feeling any sizeable aftershocks, but what will be will be...

This post comes with every best wish to the people of Kaikoura. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Westport to Ahaura

Each day has its own surprises on this trip, which is quite wonderful- and though I had a vague idea about what I might do today, the reality turned out to be quite different. Uncle Fred told me today he thinks there must be a bit of gypsy in me!

I left the campground in Westport this Christmas morning reasonably early heading for Punakaiki. The road was very quiet initially, and nobody seemed to be stirring outside when I passed through the historic town of Charleston. There are so many old settlements that used to be bustling towns in the days of the early miners for coal and gold. There was a cemetery just past Charleston, with a large statue of Our Lady at the front, and the old graves inside seemed to be pretty much all Catholic so I wondered if an old church used to stand here. This well maintained headstone must be being cared for by a descendant. I am proud to be one who traces ancestry to early miners, just a bit further south from here on the Coast.

Once you hit the coastal part of the road, there is plenty of drama to see out at sea. 

I arrived at Punakaiki about 9.15am to see several bus loads of Chinese tourists leaving already: they must have had an early start to their day! My first impression at the entrance was of all  the nikau palms. For some reason I had thought their range was only as far south as about Karamea, but clearly they grow ok a bit further south than that.

I have childhood memories of visiting these 'pancake' rocks.
My intention for the rest of the day was to drive over Arthur's Pass to Christchurch and 'surprise' a few people. But Lo and Behold my Aunty and Uncle were filling up at the same petrol station at the same time, and I ended up following them out to my cousin's place in Ahaura.

So for tomorrow I also have plans, but who knows?