New Zealand trip 2009 – Part 5

Previous installment is here.

These notes were written by Eric and amended by Jean. Eric took most of the photos and Jean took others. All photos were selected, cropped, and inserted into this file by Jean. Factual information was taken from various sources including tourist brochures; we do not guarantee its accuracy.

Click on a photo to see a full size version. Not recommended for readers on dialup connections — some of these files are between 1 and 2 MB. Photo album from this part of the trip (more photos than shown on this page) starts here.

Sunday 15 February: Hokitika to Rough & Tumble

The Beachfront Hotel Hokitika had Eggs Benedict available for breakfast, so we indulged ourselves. Did not get away until around 9:45 a.m. As Eric was doing the driving, there were very few notes taken of the trip.

Rough and Tumble country was our destination today. We followed the coastline with the Southern Alps to the east. We took in Strongman Mine Memorial views, a short distance along the coast. While not scenery, we were both taken by the Penguin warning sign at the lookout.

Coast north of HokitikaThere followed numerous scenes of majestic and deserted ocean beaches, or jagged cliff views, or rocky outcrops in the water. New Zealand is so boring. Just endless splendid views, one after the other. Transit times are long, as you keep stopping the car and leaping out to photograph one great vista after another.

Then there are the various wildflowers. Had Eric’s macro photography been better, he would have taken many more photographs of the colourful flowers lining each road. There were also hillsides with great scars where some of the earth and rock had slipped and fallen down the hill.

Alas, some of the beaches were rocky, with pebbles and grey rather than golden sand. However the sheer number of beaches was impressive, as was the amount of driftwood.

Punakaiki Pancake RocksWe stopped around midday for a walk at Punakaiki, for the pancake rocks and blowholes. A ten minute walk takes you though lush greenery to numerous viewing platforms of the slabs of pancake-like rocks. Horizontal layers of grey rock, pounded from below by swells across the Tasman sea. Sculptured rocks, with holes showing the sea beyond. Great natural arches, through which the sea surged. Canyons through which the sea raced.

There was a busy information centre and cafe. However as they were serving a bus load or two of visitors, we did not pause, despite wanting to collect a lunch.

Irimahuwhera lookout, our next stop, is named for the crimson rata flowers. This was another place to view cliffs and sea coast and unspoiled beaches.

Westport is our last refuelling stop. But first we needed to divert to Cape Foulwind. On the way, we drove a street or two to the seaside at Carters Beach. We needed to find some place for lunch since it was nearly 2 p.m. Luckily there was a cafe open there, and it served us some toasted sandwiches. The walk up at Cape Foulwind did not seem justified, so we skipped it in favour of photos from the parking lot.

We finally got back to Westport to search for a petrol station. The first one was full of refuelling tankers, so we continued on. We did not find one before the town exit, so we had to turn around. We eventually found a petrol station without tankers and refueled.

Rough and Tumble Bush LodgeWe passed through Waimangaroa, Granity, Ngakawau, and Hector. The road in to the Rough and Tumble bush lodge is interesting, in a country sense. A mildly obscure turnoff to Seddonville, a small town, through the town and past the farmhouse. About 4 kilometres of dirt track. Shortly after the entrance to Rough and Tumble you come to the ford. Luckily there was little water running.

The resort is a magnificent rustic appearing wooden and stone structure, located on a beautiful spot on the Mokihinui River. Dense rain forest surrounds it. Eric followed several narrow walking tracks where the bright sunlight was soon lost in dappled green shade. Bird life was there, but too fleet for his photography.

Our host Susan met us and showed us the facilities. They gave us the wheelchair capable room, as they had been warned Jean had some mobility issues. They also were well aware of Jean’s allergies.

Rough and Tumble Bush LodgeThe bush retreat is wonderfully isolated. Mains electricity, and wireless internet, but no close neighbours. Naturally we made use of the internet, by both iPhone and computer. Solar heated plumbing. They even put a bathtub a short distance down the path, inside its own little wooden fence, with a view out over the river. Beware of low flying helicopters, which use the river for navigation.

There were only four guests during our stay. Us and a young couple renewing their wedding vows after seven years. They had been hiking and bush camping for much of a week, and this was their luxury finale for their trip.

The retreat has about seven rooms, each with a loft with extra beds. The construction looked deliberately primitive in parts, but was very comfortable.

The food was magnificent. Their chef Dwain treated us to rare crayfish as an starter, followed by salmon steaks, and a rich chocolate dessert. Individual variations to cope with dietary issues were no problem for them. We waddled away from dinner.

This was also perhaps the first time this trip where we deliberately socialised with other people. We tend to be solitary, but host Susan and the other couple there were so interesting that even Jean stayed and chatted for a while.

Monday 16 February: Karamea

We left Rough and Tumble Lodge as late as we could. Maureen appeared early in the morning, before Eric went exploring the kitchen. Maureen was later to produce fine cooked breakfasts of omelette for us all (Eric had poached eggs, as he does not like omelette). Maureen demonstrated some themes of her music on the keyboard of Eric’s iPhone while we were chatting over breakfast.

Later we caught up on email and news from home, to the extent we had time. The other two guests prepared for their fishing expedition. Eventually we could find no excuse to put off our departure from this peaceful scene, so we packed the final bags in the car. We did stop a fair bit for photos of the driveway and the ford. It was about 11:20 a.m. before we were really back on the main road north, the Karamea Highway.

We had a travel time estimate of 55 minutes for the 50 kilometres to Karemea. About 50% more than that would be much more realistic. The road twists and turns diabolically for at least half the distance. Eric tends to drive such roads faster than Jean does, but we averaged less than 50 kph over the twisted section. Jean was on note-taking detail, but she says she spent so much time clinging to the door handle that she could not take any notes.

The Last Resort at Karemea was able to give us our room when we arrived before 1 p.m. Soon after unpacking, we wandered over to their restaurant for lunch. After the large breakfast, some toasted sandwiches were all we wanted to tackle. Fresh country ham, not sliced pre-packed. Very nice.

We walked up the main street to the information centre and the little supermarket and general store. One store was painted horizontally in very bright colours, looking very like a rainbow. We have no idea why. At least we could get some milk at the Four Square supermarket, although not any orange juice. However Jean found all this exertion too much, and promptly went to sleep once we returned to the hotel.

Eric walked the main street the other direction. Eventually he came to a cross road, with a much larger distance to anywhere else, and nothing much in sight. Luckily there was a pub there on the corner, so he was able to get a refreshing ale.

There were some interesting sights along the street. A backpacker hostel done in brigt horizontal stripes of colour. Must be something of a theme to the area. There was a small museum, but although it was open when Eric had walked up the street, it was now closed. We later found its hours were 1-4 p.m.

Dinner at The Last Resort was chicken pieces with camembert cheese, wrapped in filo pastry, and served with a plum sauce, over a salad with mixed fruit included. Thoroughly delicious. We failed to take a note of the very nice wine that accompanied the meal.

Tuesday 17 February: Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi National ParkKahurangi National Park is north of Karamea. After breakfast we took the Karamea Kohaihai Highway north. The Oparara Basin turnoff was dirt and a long way on dirt, so in our hire car we could not go there. We continued north along the narrow bitumen road past dairy cattle and dairy farms. We could tell they were dairy farms from the cows on the letter boxes.

Kohaihai in the National Park has campsites, and a number of walking trails. Some of these trails seemed more than a little excessive to us. For example, in a mere three to five days you could walk Heaphy Track the 82 kilometres to Collingwood. We decided we would instead drive our hire car the 400 of so kilometres of the long way around … tomorrow.

Kahurangi National ParkWe looked at the start of the shorter walks. The tannin soaked Kohaihai River meandered down to the beach, and its dark waters were still … and deep with insect life. The resident mosquitoes noticed us, and gathered in numbers. The numbers would have been far greater had we not used insect repellant. We gathered up some quick photographs, and beat a hasty retreat.

We drove back to town, and visited the beach and the estuary. It seems every river here is coloured black with tannin.

Nothing to do now but have another fine lunch at The Last Resort. Invigorated by her lunch, Jean promptly fell asleep. While Eric had to do the laundry. Since this was another bag wash place, laundry duty consisted of taking a bag of dirty clothes to reception and telling them the room number to which to charge it. As a result of the dereliction of duties by Jean, Eric also got to write up these notes the way he think they should read, rather than accurately… though knowing full well that Jean might edit them later.

Alas, Eric’s scheme to get Jean to visit the local museum went astray rather rapidly when it turned out that the museum was closed on Tuesday and Thursday. Jean seemed to think this only what should be expected. Likewise, Eric’s plans to photograph the cows in the domain failed when the last cow was crossing the road back to their normal fields just as he wandered that way with my camera.

Evening in Karamea featured power fluctuations. Before we went to dinner the power failed for a few moments several times over several minutes.

Dinner was great. Jean had the local speciality, whitebait, which is apparently over $100 a kilogram at the markets. Eric had another of the camembert coated chicken pockets in filo pastry with plum sauce. This time he asked for a small portion. He still failed to have room for dessert.

We had been back in the room for some time when the power failed at about 8:30 p.m. About ten minutes later we heard a small generator starting, probably so the kitchen could remain working, and keep their commercial freezers operating. The power came back well before 9 p.m., but continued to fluctuate at times, though not enough to stop the clock, which Eric had reset

Continued in Part 6.

Page last updated 21 April 2010.