Monthly Archives: January 2012

Punakaiki – Pancake Rocks

Our last stop for the day was the famous Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks and Blowhole. This place was famous and well trafficked by the tourist crowd. Alongside the road there was an information center, gift shop, toilet facilities and even an ice cream and coffee shop. I suppose that’s one way to make some money since the actual site was free to the public.

Ever since arriving in Auckland, I’d seen postcards and pictures of Punakaiki everywhere. I was a bit skeptical about whether it would live up to the beauty captured in photos that were no doubt photo edited. Also, after seeing the Twelve Apostles in Australia, the bar to blowing my mind with some rocks and water was admittedly very high at this point.

But once I started walking around and seeing the limestone rock formations, I found that Punakaiki was special in its own way. It’s unique formations were made millions of years ago by combining limestone deposits, sand and clay. As the Earth shifted and water levels changed, the rocks were exposed to the air, wind and rain above sea level. They carved and eroded the rock into the layers upon layers of rocks we see today. And when the conditions are right, the ocean pushes water through small fissures in the rock and creates dynamic water spouts.

At Punakaiki, I was able to continue my viewing of the battle between the storm and the sun. By the time we arrived, the storm clearly had the advantage with dark clouds looming overhead and shielding the sun’s rays. However, the spunky sun didn’t give up and revealed itself through every crack in the clouds. This phenomenon, in addition to the power of the ocean, was really beautiful.

By the time we arrived in Greymouth it was getting dark, and the people who signed up for the brewery tour really had to hustle to make it there on time. Alba and I were booked into the YHA, which was a bit far from where the rest of the Stray passengers were staying. It was nice to have a bit of time away from the group. The YHA Greymouth reminded me of a big old house and was quite comforting after semi-camping in Abel Tasman and city life in Wellington.

We checked in and met our roommate Lynn from Korea. She was one semester away from graduating university and was traveling through New Zealand before completing her studies. Lynn had already spent some time in Canada and was planning to go to Australia next. After chatting about our South Island travel plans, we realized that we were headed in the same direction and would probably bump into each other at the next couple of destinations. We agreed to try and meet up again as best we could.

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New Zealand’s Wild West Coast: Truman Track

Driving south along New Zealand’s famous wild west coast, beautiful natural landscapes surrounded us. On one side, mountains loomed high above. The contrast between their hard, rocky faces and the lush greenery that covered them highlighted how isolated and alone we were out here. It seemed like nature was untouched and untainted by man, and it reminded me again of why so many people love this country.

On the other side of us, waves pounded the shore for miles. Their strength generated a spray that covered the coastline in a foggy haze. The wind whipped the crests of the waves and surging white wash covered the sand. It reminded me of Oahu’s North Shore during the winter, but the oddest thing was that it was completely devoid of people. There weren’t any surfers, casual wave watchers, professional photographers or carloads of tourists making their way up and down the coast to catch a glimpse of Mother Nature. We were completely alone out here except for the rare camper van or tour bus that passed us.

We stopped at Irimahuwhero Viewpoint for a photo opp and the view was incredible. You could hear the surf hitting the sand below us and smell the salty sea air with every breath you took. The light shining off the water created dazzling crystal-like effects.

Farther along, we did a short hike at the Truman Track. At this point, we were racing against the weather as dark clouds were rolling in off the water. The Truman Track was an easy trail that led you from the road through a forested area to a rocky lookout. Here you were able to get an up-close and personal feel for the waves and the power they generated.

Being from Hawaii, I definitely have a healthy respect for the ocean and am more familiar with it than many of people with whom I traveled. It was really interesting to see how people reacted to the swells as they tumbled over rocky outcrops. Many were simply amazed by it all and couldn’t seem to take enough photos.

I, however, was more interested in watching the battle between the storm clouds and the sun. Just like in Australia’s Red Center, the sky here seemed to go on forever. With nothing to obstruct your view, the horizon stretched on for miles and seemed insanely far away. With this backdrop, I stood transfixed and simply watched the storm advance across the sky and prepare its siege against the happy sun.

Before I could really watch the action unfold, it was time to return to the bus and make one last stop before pulling into Greymouth for the night. So, with a heavy heart, I said farewell to ensuing battle between the sun and the storm.

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Cape Foulwind and the Seal Colony

We left Old Mac’s Farm today and headed toward Greymouth. Along the way we did a short 3.5 km hike at Cape Foulwind to see the large seal colony in residence. The weather was nice for most of the way but still very cold. I was glad I carried my winter coat throughout Australia as I think I’ll need it every day from now on.

When we arrived at Cape Foulwind, the place sure did live up to its name. The wind whipped violently off the ocean and over the land. It felt as though we’d blow right off of our feet if we weren’t careful. Battling the wind made the hike much more difficult than it should’ve been.

When we reached the seal colony, there were more seals than I expected. They were doing what seals do – lying about completely oblivious to the cold. Many of them had pups beside them that barked loud enough for us to hear. They were simply at ease in their environment, and I wished we could go down for a closer look. Unfortunately, the lookout was perched high above the colony on rocky cliffs. We continued on the track and met the bus at the other end. The chilly air seemed to sink into my bones so I was very glad to get back onto the heated bus.

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