At night some experts on television explain that the consequences of the tsunami will remain limited for New Zealand. Somewhere in the middle of the ocean, a 20 centimeter wave has been detected. This can become a 3 meter wave close to shore, but only in the north of the north island.
I check the television again a couple of hours later, just in case things change, because my motel is very close to shore. But there are no further significant reports. The devastation in Japan is complete.
I wonder what has happened to Claire, the lovely girl I have met a few days ago at the Inferno Crater in Waimangu Volcanic Valley. She is supposed to land in that mess today…
Around 06:30 it is completely clouded, so there is no reason to go outside for the sunrise. I stay in bed until 09:00 and return to the beach of yesterday evening. It is so close. If here is good light, it will be very easy to shoot some nice photo’s.
Close to the beach I am being hold up by a film crew. There is a fast car covered by a sleeve. On it’s right side there is a big camera arm and along the left side of the car there is a large transparent tube. No idea where that is needed for. There is also a cute blond that apparently has to drive, funny.
There is nothing worth photographing at the beach in this cloudy morning light and I return once again to the movie set.
The West Coast
Then I continue in the direction of the west coast. The first half of the route is nice but not super. The hills are much wider here and are covered by trees intended for logging. The trees are ordered in patches of artificial rows differing in age. Some slopes are completely barren. The road follows the canyon of the Buller river, that can be seen very clearly in some places.
From a viewpoint, Hope Saddle Lookout, there is a nice view to take in the surroundings. Here is also a reference point for altitude measurement of the landscape.
Halfway by Lyell there is pioneers burial ground that I happen to find by accident. But this is not worth a photograph.
A Funny Couple
On the coast at Westport, I take a short detour to the beach to eat and rest a bit. The road to the beach is a dirt road ending in loose sand, where I stop. There are some other pickup trucks and there is a lot of drift wood on the beach. Some surfers are on the water. I park my car close behind one of the pickup trucks.
When the owners return, I ask them whether I am in their way. ‘No, that is not a problem’, for them. The moment he tries to drive away, he digs in big time. After some driving forward and backward he shoots out backwards only to cross the road and to land in the loose sand on the other side. I am thinking, ‘Oh dear, now he definitely has to dig’.
After some wiggling back and forth using a lot of gas, he bumps over something and can not get out anymore. It appears he has crossed a big log that is now stuck under the underside. I ask once again whether he needs help, but he says he does not. He drives further into the sand and the log is now free from the underside. He is able to kick the log away a bit. With close to maximum throttle he hits the log once again, which desintegrates under the impact.
This all happens right in front of me, while I am eating my chicken sandwich. Quite entertaining!
Now I continue to Cape Foulwind for a photo of the lighthouse.
From here it is another 3 kilometers along the coast to the seal colony. But it is quite hot and the sun really burns. It is regularly advised to stay in shadow between 11:00 and 16:00. The sun is very strong here. The colony can be reached by car as well so that is what I am going to do in a minute.
I notice a weird kind of bird snooping around. A kind of mix between a female pheasant and a female duck. I ask people what this is and they tell me it is a Woodhen. They are very keen on glittering objects and are very bold. He (or she) disappears quickly into the shrubs. There is a lot of broom flowering as well. You can see some of it in the photograph above.
On the parking lot of the seal colony I notice 5 of those Woodhens wandering around the cars. A girl is hit in her foot a few times for food. Her friend scares them away, but everytime they disappear under the car only to reappear after seconds. One time he is so fed up with them that he chases one of them with a fork (-;
I feed some of them and let them jump as the ducks did a few days ago. But you have to be careful though. They have a very sharp beak that flies upward like a spear when they see food.
The seal colony is quite empty. First it’s like it is completely empty. But you see them once they move. There are some 10-15 seals I guess. Some are very small. The light is really horrible and the few photo’s I take are so ugly that I will not publish them.
Hereafter, I follow the coast in the direction of Greymouth. The vegetation changes gradually to rainforest. At Irimahuwhero Lookout I shoot a couple of photographs of the surroudings.
From a distance it seems to be the same forest as on the north island, but from close up it is completely different. The palm ferns are there, but there is a lot of flax as well. There are also a lot of plants I have not seen earlier.
At the sign ‘Truman Track Coast Line’ you can venture into this forest and walk to the sea in 15 minutes. First I thought the Pancake Rocks are here but these are a few kilometers down the road.
Along this path I can shoot some detail photographs of the forest.
This is a real jungle, quite open in places and very thick in others.
Even the trunks are covered with all kinds of organisms.
Here I meet backpacker Sandra from Zwitserland and we talk a bit. She has been traveling for two months now and has another five and a half in front of her. First she has been a month in Thailand followed by a month on the north island. Now she stays for a month here followed by two months in Australia. I tell her it will be autumn there. West Australia is really spectacular in spring. But she tells me that there will be basking sharks in autumn. This, I did not know, and I make a little reminder for the future. In the end she will go to Indonesia for a month, to return to the north of Thailand and Laos. She does a lot of multi-day trekkings and sleeps in a tent once in a while for privacy. What a guts for such a girl!
Around 18:00 I arrive at the Pancake Rocks. I have already seen that these are not that spectacular but I do want to photography them. The light is already better than earlier today, but it will take another two hours for sunset and there are far too many people around here now. I decide to gamble a bit. I need to drive 35 minutes to Greymouth where I intend to stay tonight. I can go there, book a motel and come back here for photography (84 kilometers total). If I don’t, I run the risk to arrive in darkness around 21:00 to find out that all motel desks are closed.
This coastway is really beautiful and runs straight through the rainforest. Arriving in Greymouth it appears to be a different kind of city than I hoped for. It is a typical small city with a lot of commercial buildings and very few motels. After driving around a bit, I only find one, but there is no place to park my car. There is also a big bus unloading waves of Japanese people. Looking around further does not bring up alternatives and I decide to return to the Pancake Rocks for photography.
The Pancake Rocks
Around 19:10 I am back, only half an hour before sunset. One kilometer before the Pancake Rocks, the light falls nicely onto the forest. Here I take a quick one.
Then I continue to the rocks. As already expected, they are not really spectacular and are partly in shade. The angle to the sun is far form perfect neither.
Zooming out a bit reveals the surroundings. The whole sky is full with salt been blowing in from the sea. This provides for some weird lighting conditions.
There are some paths here and on the other side of this area I find a rock that is being lighted much better.
Walking back towards the pancakes I notice the impenetrable forest.
Further down the path, I arrive at the stairs I already noticed earlier. With the sun just above the horizon, this provides for a nice picture. The processing takes lots and lots of work, because the photo is literally covered with flares. There are still some imperfections to improve on in a future version, but for the time being I can live with them.
Vertical and somewhat closer, I can exclude the sun completely for better definition.
Back at the starting point I have to wait for the sunset, that doesn’t take long.
Sadly, the sun does not set really as it hides behind a cloud layer just above the horizon.
I would like to stay for another half hour in this nice light, but I better start looking for a motel. I am a bit worried though, about the amount of fuel left in the tank. Driving to Greymouth and back consumed too much time and I had to choose: refueling or missing the light. I choose the latter naturally. In the end I really had to race to be back in time, consuming more fuel even. I am not completely comfortable to be honest. That is by the way another reason to leave now. I return to Greymouth, driving slowly to save precious fuel.
Around 20:45, driving on fumes, I am back in Greymouth and return to the first motel. The desk is still open luckily and I find my room for tonight. Pffffoeeiii, what a day.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file gpx file here.