Motueka Valley Road, sounds magical doesn’t it, well it was. This is the route we chose to take from Motueka and eventually met highway 6 which took us to the West Coast. Don’t be deceived, despite the fact that I say we travelled on Highway 6, it is as unlikely a highway as ever there was. Mostly single lane each way but there are sections that you will never forget. At the Buller Gorge the road actually cuts in under a cliff (it’s not a tunnel) and winds around a couple of corners like this. No joke, it is only wide enough for one car and you can’t see if anything is coming. There is no warning signal, you just have to keep honking your horn and hope if anyone coming in the opposite direction hears it. You feel like your in one of those reality TV shows “The Worlds Deadliest Roads”.
We had given a young German backpacker a lift earlier in the day but he only lasted in the car about fifteen minutes before informing us that he had decided he wanted to hike down to the river. I’m sure it wasn’t my driving that freaked him out but I’d hate to have seen how quickly he would have tried to get out of the car if he’d been with us when we went around the gorge.
The river side park where we stopped for lunch was charming and I went for a swim in a mountain stream. It is amazing how many people stopped to stare, it seemed amazing to them that anyone would want go swimming. Before leaving Claire went to use the toilet, she undid her jeans and pulled them down, then lifted the lid to sit down. The moment she lifted the lid hundreds of wasps flew out of the bowl. Poor Claire she had to try and get out the door, while trying to pull her jeans as she went and fell out the door followed by a swarm of angry wasps at the same time.
The South Island’s West Coast is unique due to the fact the Mountains run like a crooked spine it’s full length. Being the west the sun doesn’t rise till later in the morning and the sky is covered in clouds ninety percent of the time. All I can say is it is a very moist environment. We decided to stay at Punakaiki for the night. We hadn’t booked anywhere so we took our chances. Arriving at the Punakaiki Caravan Park we paid for a cabin. which was $65 a night but it was awful. There wasn’t any linen, bare thin mattress, a peeling chipboard bench and it smelt like it had been closed up for eternity. Needless to say we got our money back and went 1 km up the road to the Punakaiki Beach Backpackers, booked the last room (which was the same price) and was knocked out by the cleanliness of the place. Situated right on the beach and a nice walk up to the Pancake Rocks it was awesome. Clean white sheets, spotless well equipped communal backpacker kitchen and stunning views for about the same price. I would suggest you book though we were just lucky and got the last room, there were still travellers arriving after us that couldn’t be accommodated.
view from the verandah of the backpacker
We walked up to the rocks after unloading a bit of gear and will tell you that this wasn’t a place I had honestly wanted to visit. You know, ho hum, rocks by the beach, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The rock formations are amazing and the NZ national park have done a terrific job of making the area accessible for every type of traveller. Lucky for Claire there enviro toilets do not come with complementary stinging things.
Which brings me back to sandflies. The west coast is rife with them and again make sure you have your insect repellant.
It was late when we arrived back and the accommodation so we just cooked a simple meal. I had bought a few pack of vacuum packed indian style veggie dishes a few days before. These are so yummy and they only cost a few dollars NZ. Mixed with a pack of pre cooked brown rice and served with natural yoghurt it was a great meal and it only cost in total about $3 each. The other nice thing about backpackers accommodation, they usually have a few herbs in the garden that you can add to your meal.
* Make sure you arrive by at least 4.00pm as you want to enjoy Punakaiki cause you will probably head south first thing in the morning.
* As I mentioned in this story I went to an Indian Shop (Actually in Wellington before we left for the ferry) and bought packets of vegetable dishes in vacuum pack. They were so cheap and no nasties like preservatives in them. Have something quick to prepare is really important when you are getting back late, your tired and there are no shops around. This particular location is a little isolated so this rule definitely applied here.