Heading N along the coast, we saw a signpost for Pancake Rocks and just had to stop. We walked down to the coast line and walked around a small bay, formed by an undercut allowing the sea to surge in to form several blowholes. The rock structure really was like a stack of pancakes – quite odd – and as the soft rock eroded so the coast resembled endless small canyons. There were several sizable blow holes too. It was well worth the stop.
Whilst we had been heading N, some of our favourite people had been heading S from Auckland, having finished converting their van which they collected at Christmas.
We met up with ZigZag at Westport, a small town close to Pancake Rocks. After sitting down for lunch, we persuaded them to follow us an hour back N to the wonderfully named Gentle Annies’ Campsite which sits at the mouth of the Mokihinui river. We had been told about it in passing conversation by another traveller and what we researched after that, pleased us. Voted third place in a national pole of campsites, we thought it must be good and so it proved. It is a lovely set up. A central house with a small cafe, a long communal room with a fireplace, fish tank and decent internet, surrounded by sheltered camping areas, split up by hedges and flower borders providing shelter. And right beside the sea with the gentle rumble of waves providing a night time soporific. Lovely! The ground was soggy in places as the site had been subject to the deluge we had had but the weather stayed dry for us and the ground slowly drained itself.
The current “managers” of the camp sight are a couple of Brit travellers, working to replenish funds. He is a gardener back home and he has got the gardens looking terrific. And of course, a big trampoline for the kids is a great attraction.
The other great thing about the camp, unlike most of the rest of NZ, was that there were several fire pits which we were able to use. All you needed to do was to collect wood from the beach, where there was a huge supply, to run either a pit by the tents or as we did one night, to heat the pizza oven up by the main house. The pizza turned out well! As the evenings were still a little chill, the warmth of the fire was greatly appreciated.
We had planned to stay a night or two. In the end we stayed four. It was a great place to base ourselves and there were some wonderful places to visit close by.
There was , the longest wire bridge in NZ at Buller Gorge. Pointlessly expensive to get in to, we looked at it, announced “it is big, isn’t it?” and drove quickly on. ZigZag did go in and took this snap. For us it was not worth the $15 a head to spend a minute crossing it. I understand the NZ requirement to make money from tourists but as a traveller rather than a bone fide tourist with the holiday cash to burn in a couple of weeks, it is a bit annoying being asked to put your hand in your pocket for not unsubstantial sums for most activities. It just means that we have had to concentrate on the free to do stuff.
A case in point. We visited the Charming Creek railway line that supported a coal mine and logging operation back in the days. Some of the rail is still there and it is a 18km walk from end to end. We did the first 6km which allowed us to visit a great waterfall, go through several tunnels sparkling with glow worms and cross another long wire bridge built by the NZ Army after the last one washed away. It was a good walk even though the smalls found it tiring as proved by Mia collapsing on me as we walked back to the car park. I got a good workout carrying her wrapped in my top, her in complete floppy mode for a couple of miles!
We also visited a cave system at the Moria Gate Arch. It was a little like going down the rabbit hole but the caves were impressively large, echoed wonderfully as proven by the smalls and were a good explore. Pickles came too and Mia was a very responsible carrier!
Georg had a pleasant time playing around with the settings of his camera, far grander than our little pocket one. Some of the shots turned out very well.
We separated again with Starcharger and Skylark heading towards Abel Tasmin, the NW corner of South Island which is a huge National Park. ZigZag headed south to carry on their explore of the South Island. We have loved the time we have had with them in NZ. Unfortunately it doesn’t look as if we will get the chance to meet up with them in 2017. They have decided to limit their sailing this year due to the wonderful news that Irene is pregnant again. With Fiji and Tonga providing a high risk of exposure to Sika virus, they have taken the sensible decision not to travel there and will be concentrating their time in NZ and maybe New Caladonia. We will, I am sure, manage to meet up with them again but it will be a little further down the road than we both expected. We look forward to seeing the photos of the new arrival later this year and perhaps in the flesh in the Caribbean in a few years time!