Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Okarito, Greymouth and Punakaiki (The Pancake Rocks)

We drove back north from the glacier country, and stopped in Okarito, a small coastal town back from the main road, that we’d heard has a nice lagoon with kayaking options and much bird life.  Okarito also happens to be the home of the author Keri Hulme, whose novel “The Bone People” is a New Zealand classic that Paul was just reading.  Well, in winter Okarito apparently goes from quiet to dead – the kayak rental business was “closed until Thursday” (we were there on a Wednesday), there were no open shops or stores, and the only people we saw were two workers in a city park.  We walked around the edge of the lagoon, and while there were some birds, it wasn’t exactly a nature reserve.  We soon headed back to the highway.

Oystercatcher on shore of Okarito lagoon
Duck on an old pier post
Old boat house at Okarito

We stayed overnight in Greymouth.  This is the largest city on the west coast, but is mostly a coal town with a fair number of businesses closed in the downtown.  We found a wonderful backpackers hostel there called Global Village, which is decorated in African arts and crafts.  They did everything right, from providing free desserts and sandwiches in the evening to having sharp knives in their kitchen. 

Our room at the Global Village Backpackers in Greymouth
There is one attraction in the Greymouth area.  About 30 minutes north along the coast is Punakaiki, the pancake rocks and blowholes.  As our Lonely Plant tour book says, “through a layering – weathering process called stylobedding, the Dolomite Point limestone has formed into what looks like piles of thick pancakes.”  When the tide is in, and the ocean is stormy, the water roars through the blowholes in the rocks.  We checked it twice when we drove out, and then the bus out of town stopped there for half an hour the next day.   This third visit was the charm – given the rougher seas that day, we got to see the blowholes in fairly good action.

Pancake Rocks
Blowhole at Punakaiki
Kiwi crossing...
Followed by a penguin crossing not too far up the highway...

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