A Wet and Wild Weekend on the West Coast

The forecast was for rain and wind so we were prepared with snow chains, tow ropes, food, 2 thermoses and extra clothes.  Early Friday afternoon we headed off in a westerly direction. The weather here in Christchurch was a little gloomy with the promise of much-needed rain. Somewhere through Arthur’s Pass we met the rain – but no snow or high winds so the chains and other equipment happily stayed in the back of the vehicle.

The rain increased as we neared our west coast destination – a chalet in an isolated spot somewhere between Greymouth and Punakaiki.  And it increased even more, as it would, being the west coast of NZ, when we arrived at our chalet.  There was a large puddle at the bottom of the steps making the entrance rather hazardous, not to mention the buckets of water let loose from above. I made a dash for the indoors while hubby, Jim, took the umbrella and proceeded to unload our bags. Ten minutes later he is standing in a welcome hot shower – his rain-drenched clothes in a pile on the floor!

A further ten minutes and I have a warm and dry hubby playing cards and enjoying a drink and nibbles before tea. And, although it’s only 5pm, it is dark outside – that is, until a lightning bolt attracts our attention, followed by the rumble of thunder not far away. A second or third lightning bolt lit the sky and the accompanying thunder was so loud it shook the chalet. Having experienced many earthquakes over the past few years, this was not dissimilar – with the addition of a massive boom!

Saturday morning arrived bright and sunny. “Check the tide times to see if it’s worth going up to the Pancake Rocks.” We have seen these a few times and, unless the tide was high, we thought we’d drive south to Hokitika instead of north to Punakaiki.

“Wow! It’s high at 10.45 – let’s go!” No debate here. With the seas raging after last night’s thunderstorm there was bound to be an awesome display!

We weren’t disappointed – the best display of blowholes and surge pools we’ve seen. Altho_MG_6540ugh it wasn’t raining Jim thought he’d be wise to wear a raincoat… mmm, he was right!

Wise man in his raincoat!

He avoided a second “wetting” though it was only

First time we’ve actually seen droplets of water coming out of the blowhole.

spray from the massive blowhole.

We enjoyed a coffee at the local cafe then headed south, calling in at a beach on the way to take some photos of the powerful waves at high tide.

Lunchtime at Greymouth… “Let’s eat on the breakwater and watch the waves.” Another photo opportunity… and another soaking … or two!

“Jim, stand over there and I’ll get a photo of you with a wave breaking behind you…” That wasn’t too bad – just a few salty drops to brush off…

Look closely and you may be able to see the water droplets heading directly for me! Those little dots in the sky and on the rocks…

Lunch eaten and cleared away; Jim relaxing with his book; time to take a few more photos… “I’ll get close-up of a wave breaking in front of me…”

Well, I hardly had time to focus the camera and …”Wooooo… I’m drenched!!” I didn’t see that coming… salt water all over me… I wonder if I got that photo?

I wanted a photo like this – only closer…

Time for me to change… right down to my underwear! I had packed a couple of towels in case we got to swim in the hot tub at the chalet (we didn’t), so pulled one of these out, dried myself as best I could, then Jim held the towel so I could change discreetly (we weren’t the only sight-seers!)

Next stop – The West Coast Treetop Walk, south of Hokitika. I had bought a couple of vouchers for this as it seemed a great thing to do while we were in the area. It wasn’t until I actually stepped off terra firma and on to to metal walkway that I suddenly remembered “I don’t like  heights!”

But I’ll just back-track a little to the path leading up to the start of the walkway… As Jim does, he was “inspecting” some posts loosely driven into the stoney ground on the edge of the path. He stood on some loose gravel that formed a sort-of step on the edge of this path and I heard a cry and turned to see him lying very precariously on the edge of a bank – probably a 30 metre bank. That could have been serious – no one else in sight, no cellphone coverage, I’m still not 100% recovered from my recent hospital visit… However, the man picked himself up, blamed the loose stones and carried on…

Now, back to my fear of heights… I had paid for this visit, I wasn’t going to back out now so onward and upward I went. It really wasn’t too bad… in fact, the views of the alps, snow-covered too,  were amazing. I just avoided looking down as much as possible as I repeated over and over, “I do not have a spirit of fear…” To be among the tall miro, matai, totara, rimu and kahikatea and to hear the birds calling was sure worth overcoming any apprehensions I had. And then, to cap it off, I made myself climb the 40 metre (250 steps, I think) tower.

A rather nervous smile!

My biggest fear on the way up was an earthquake… but Jim assured me that we would be in the safest place if that happened (sure, bud!!) Actually, the cantilevered path I found more disconcerting but I conquered that as well – but Jim had to take the photos!

Treetops tower.

Night in a motel and on Sunday morning we set out to explore Hokitika.  First stop, “Let’s go to the beach to see the waves…” I am forever hopeful that I will capture that “perfect” shot.

Well, it was not far from high tide. There was debris strewn over the road and the end of “Sunset Point” was barricaded off as waves were still crashing over.  We ventured on to the beach littered in driftwood and logs. Such a violent sea… so many photos… “Come and take one from this angle”. Jim is getting into the swing of things… “Watch out! Run!!” A wave surges up the beach and nearly gives his feet another dousing!

The wave that nearly got him!

And then the rain returns, so we head into town to do some “touristy” things.  David, at the museum, is very absorbing and enthusiastic and persuades us to part with $6 each and venture in – a visit well-worth the time and cost. We run out of time to continue our explorations but decide we’ll visit again and tick the boxes we weren’t able to this time.

Home is about 4 hours away … I am not looking forward to what I know will be waiting for us…  You see, we have this elusive leaking roof (well, the leak is elusive) and I know there has been a considerable fall of rain in Christchurch (much needed) while we’ve been enjoying our weekend escape… and I forgot to put the bowl under said leak…