Day 6 – Lake Rotoiti (St Arnaud) to Punakaiki, via Westport

Glad I took the photos yesterday because this morning it was grey and rained on and off, which made for some spectacular misty low cloud over the mountains as I descended towards Murchison. Dappled among the farmland and countryside were blossom trees, pink or white, and when small groves flashed by with the mountains behind, I could only gasp in joy. It is really difficult to take the photos you want, 1) when you are driving and 2) when there are no bays to pull over in to. Take my word for it. The photos I took are not the best I saw.

After driving this spectacular Buller gorge for about 45 mins, I came in to Murchison. I absolutely needed the sausage roll and coffee I purchased in the cafe near the end of town.

From Murchison we descended even more windy cuttings and followed the beloved Buller River through its twisting concourse towards the coast. Soon after Murchison I encountered a captivating sign entreating me to walk the ‘longest swing bridge in New Zealand’. Why not? At least I would be assured of a decent photo. It was. . . Exhilarating.

Once there I decided to get some exercise and actually walk the loop track, taking in a gold miner’s hut and some horrifying drops to the deep flowing waters of the Buller. Worth doing. AND I had to pass a small family negotiating the swing bridge towards me when I went back.

Back in the van, I turned left and carried on towards Westport, an endless twisting section of road following the river and at times going down to one lane around the bends with steep cliff on the left. Only once did I have to back up to allow a car to pass me on such a road. Almost like Scotland! Eventually the road turned either to go south to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) or north to Westport, and I wanted to see the latter, so I veered up to the sleepy little town and parked. It was a grey drizzly day, which did not enhance the town’s delights, but it was somehow rustic and endearing. I lunched at a place called the Denniston Dog on a very nice Buddah Bowl of rice, salad and chicken.

I chose this town to fill up with diesel – not being sure when the next spot would be, and so headed out with a full tank. Decided to check out the aptly named Cape Foulwind (although my Apple map commentator insisted on calling it ‘Fall Wynde’). It was in fact so windy, that I declined the walk to the lighthouse and shot a picture of the rocks in the ocean from the van.

Then I turned south and followed another meandering road up into the hills twisting and turning on tight bends, until finally we found the ocean and followed the coastal path until we reached Punakaiki.

At the visitors centre I met another of the many Weka’s who had darted out in front of my van in the Westport area. They seem prolific in the south. Crossed the road and did the circle track out to the Blow Hole and the Pancake Rocks. A fabulous and unique bit of landscape.

Satisfied with my endeavours today, I turned back for the tiny township and the holiday camp sign I had passed. Sure enough, a friendly woman took $24 from me for a powered site and let me choose which one I wanted. I am now cosy and replete, with the sound of the sea and the rain outside, and the wind gusting against the walls of the camper. The signal is not strong here, but so far I’ve managed to upload some photos to this blog and hope it posts.

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