The room looked like a laundry mat drying room except for one difference, nothing had been washed. Wet apparel was a combination of perspiration and mother nature. The quicker you drifted off into sub-consciousness, the faster you weren’t sucking in the fumes of stench. Keeping a window open invited the nightly blood sucking monsters and somewhere amongst it, we gained an hour of shut eye through day light saving! All part and parcel of ‘life on the road.’
Watching the sunrise on the West Coast in reality is more about watching the moon set. A fellow backpacker aged 10 years rose early to share the experience. That and a couple of games of Genga with BClaire before other souls fronted. Short sleeves, sun block and shades were the barometer for the days ride ahead. More insect goo to hide the pleasant smell of clothes re-worn.
Punakaiki is a must destination to visit on a travel itinerary. 30 million year old towering limestone formations form the renown giant Pancake Rocks. Dolomite Point gives the best views and when the tide is at highest ebb, the blowholes shoot sea spray metres into the air similar to a whale exhaling air.
Shags with wings spanned open to catch the rays and dry feathers, rest before they swoop and plunge into the ocean swell. I wonder if they stink if their cloaks don’t dry properly?!
The approach to carrying and eating meals went wonky after the first spoonful of soup touched the taste buds the day before. So keeping with tradition, eggs and bacon from the cafe opposite the pancakes were gobbled down as we witnessed the hordes of tourist traffic arrive and depart. This meant contending with passing buses on the narrow road south with similar coastline ridden, also as the day before.
The Barrytown settlement (population 15) had an old pub turned backpackers for sale. Photo’s of nudity and frolicking collaged walls not leaving much to the imagination. A Fantail bird flying around the rafters made for uneasiness, Maori folklore would have one believe it signals death.
Coal mining surpassed gold mining to sustain the economy on the West Coast and for a small part of the year, the Tasman sea is awash with the scrumptious delicacy – whitebait. Transparent beady eyed 2inch fish when cooked in batter turn white and when dipped in tomato sauce, turn the colour of yum!
Runanga was the last township cycled through before we hopped off the bikes for the last time. Another coal mining township, a coal bucket statue pays tribute to the many that have forged deep into mountainsides or down mine shafts to extricate the black gold. There was something reflective about the smell of coal burning wafting through the air bringing back childhood memories of an open fire, a red glow and hot heat. Runanga too has had its share of being a hot spot – it was the last place in the South Island to execute a convicted killer by way of hanging; and in 1967, 19 miners lost their lives due to a mine explosion.
The Great Coast Road has so much more to offer – caving and tramping, horse trekking, surfing, gemstone hunting, heritage sites, art and craft activities, glow worms and gold panning to name but a few. Attractions left open for a future time.
And although Greymouth was our destination, we peddled a few more kilometres to Dobson where friends Lloyd and Vivien hosted us at their batch they are renovating. Before the tools were downed and the cork of a wine popped to salute the two days bums on seats, Lloyd cut and nailed a bed together for Alannah. It was positioned in the kitchen beside the stove, a nice way for Alannah to switch back into suburbia the next day.
We too started the transition; the dozen sausages carried by BClaire from Westport to Greymouth by bike, were at last eaten.