On The Road Along The Tasman Sea, Pancakes & Hokitika
May 19, 2005
|Leaving Dood & Heather's feels scary - as though we'd forgotten in eight quick days what it meant to be travellers. Back in the van I didn't know what to do, but after a few moments of confusion inspired facial expressions I remembered that the left pedal was the clutch, the middle one the brake, and the right was for propelling us forward, back towards Motueka, and onward on what continues to be the journey we had hoped to have.
After completing a few necessary errands in Mot we pointed the Possum firmly in the direction of the Tasman Sea and by nightfall were firmly convinced that we would be better off to be more firm about it in the morning. All that wwoofing and erranding had tired us out and we made camp a few rest areas east of the Owen River. In the morning we had a very nice breakfast shared with the company of very rude sandflies. They think they have dominion over your ankles and porridge. Especially fond of Mandy are these sandflies - sugar and spice and everything nice is their favorite.
Sufficiently annoyed, we are back in the van to have a look at this wonderfully named river. It is a fog heavy morning on the Owen, but it is strong, handsome river (a bit giggly sometimes) but Mandy enjoyed seeing it very much and we both miss it now, not to mention the many tributaries associated with this particular river. And, like the river, we were soon flowing towards the coast.
The Tasman Sea stretches grey green and half rough to the Australian Coast. On a clear day you cannot sea the Aussies. But, what's better, they cannot see you not seeing them. The coast is more jagged and dramatic than the other New Zealand coasts that we have seen. She reminds us, as do many aspects of NZ, of places in Northern California. The kiwi's, like the californians, know how to build a coastal road and following Motorway 6 makes for a pleasant day behind the wheel of a two wheel drive converted van.
Mid-afternoon finds us wandering the visitor center for the much visited and well-established Punaikaiki National Reserve area, famous for its pancake shaped rock formations and explosive blowholes. The wandering continued down the well manicured footpaths to the rocks themselves and because the blowholes are only active during a full hightide with a westerly swell we were only fortunate enough to see pancake shaped rocks framed by fellow tourists disappointed in the blowless holes. They would, I think, have demanded their money back if they had been asked to pay any. Like all parks and reserves, however, Punaikaiki is free so they resorted to mumbling that they wouldn't be patroning the giftshop as reprisal for the tide's behavior.
Onward - sunset looks to be spectacular over the Tasman (and you all know how much we like a photograph of a sunset) - and we hurried to find an apt spot for the night that would also offer us a prime photograph. The clouds on the horizon, like the tides, felt little like cooperating and by the time we parked beachside at Hokitika they had swallowed the sun and her pinks and oranges as well. No worries, though, having found a great free spot and met some nice neighbors to boot.
Martin and his girlfriend, er..well, begins with a 'K' or an 'H' or maybe an 'M' - she was very nice, let's say. They, our neighbors came over to borrow something (as neighbors will do), we get to talking a little, and decide a bit later that we should, thanks to our lucky proximity to town, wander in and have a pint. Or six.
Hailing from the north of England these fellow campervanners, as we are not known but could be, had been travelling about NZ for several months. We had a nice evening swapping stories and hopping from disappointing bar to not-so-disappointing bar. Along the way we picked up Robert (Robbie), an ex-con and ex-Australian scaffolder who had a bag full of dirty jokes and a pocketful of ganga he wanted to share (and sell). We declined, of course, these offers but enjoyed his jokes and company for the last few rounds.
Close to midnight - which is late when you live in a van down by the river - we made it home, and fell asleep to the sound of the Tasman crashing near our doorstep.