Friday, January 18, 2013

Holiday post 3: West Coast Adventure

Hi everyone, hope you have all had a good week.  Here is the third installment in my holiday series: theWest Coast of New Zealand.

After the heat of Marlborough we headed across the land (literally from one side of the South Island to the other) via the amazing Buller Gorge.  Due to the weather conditions taking photos was very difficult.  Thankfully the weather cleared enough to get a shot of me on the shore of a beautiful lake - the name of which escapes me at present.  Below left is one of the buildings in the grounds of the Murchison Museum, which was unfortunately closed.  Also there was a memorial to those who died in the Murchison Earthquake in 1929.  

Murchison had an amazing second hand shop called "Somebody's Treasure" where we spent a happy half hour or so gazing in wonder at all the items.  I particularly liked the sign with Jiminy Cricket and the Murdochs Orange drink bottles.  I took several photos inside but only one was clear - isn't the lamp cool?

Murchison had quite possibly the trendiest public toilets with a cut out figure of a punk-ish woman figure at the entrance.  An old shop also had a great display of old packets and tins. 

 The plaque commemorating the original Murchison Courthouse reads: 

The original Murchison Courthouse once stood on this site and had its walls smashed in and the whole building shifted 2 inches off its piles, in 1905.  A certain gentleman farmer was taken to court by his neighbor for alleged cattle stealing and he became so angry at the whole proceedings, that he tied dynamite around himself and threatened to blow up the judge and the courthouse.  
Luckily, he was persuaded outside before he was able to detonate the charge.  The farmer killed himself, appearing to be here one moment and completely disappearing the next and two policemen were badly injured.  So ended an interesting but sad episode in Murchison's history.

Our journey continued across huge rivers (photo below - top left) and through beech forest until we arrived at our next destination: Westport.  After disgorging all our luggage at the motel we decided to explore a place called Cape Foulwind.  This headland is very rocky and had a pleasant short walk to the lighthouse.  There is also a seal colony at the nearby bay.  We enjoyed the view back towards Westport of the limestone rock formations (photo bottom right).  To my delight several weka were in the carpark at the base of the headland/walkway (bottom left). Weka are flightless birds and very comical.  They are like a swamp hen or rail, and there are four species.  I had saved some stale bread with the intention of feeding ducks in Westport so I spent a very happy time feeding four or five birds.

Westport was not a town I felt endeared towards - the only artistic feature which appealed to me was the art deco town hall (top right).  

After an eventless night in Westport we headed off down the coast towards Punakaiki and Shantytown.  Due to a camera malfunction I did not take any photos of the rock formations at Punakaiki - I suggest looking here.  The weather was less than ideal when we left Westport but as look would have it, the clouds parted and sun shone while we enjoyed the spectacular rock formations at Punakaiki.  There is a purpose built walkway around and over the rocks so you can see down into the chimney stack and blow hole formations.  As we left the weather closed in again and therefore our visit to Greymouth was not long.  We walked along the river and I spent several sombre moments reading the names of some of the more than 400 miners who have died in the coal mines, in 2010 Greymouth lost 29 miners at the Pike River Mine.  The memorial was officially opened today and featured on the news.  

For my 11yo daughter, Shantytown was going to be the highlight of the trip.  Shantytown is  a collection of old buildings (some original) made to look like a mining town with walks and historical activities and a steam train.  There are recreations of a Chinese Mining Camp, an old theatre showing a holographic movie, a sweet shop, tea rooms, barbers etc.  We went to the gold panning area first - excitement levels were so high it was almost impossible to restrain her and she practically ran along the walk.  The guide, Charlie very kindly showed her the correct technique and set her to work with a pan filled with gravel.  I read many of the interesting historical signs and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.  Again the clouds parted and the sun came out.  As finding gold is guaranteed it was just a matter of patience and time.  When she was down to the last few grains of sand the sight of a few small sparkles of yellow made her day.  Charlie put the gold in a little bottle of water and it is now one of her most precious possessions.  

We all loved Shantytown - for my Dear H the train was the highlight (top right shows the interior of the cab).  I enjoyed all the old signs - the one for hair cream was my favourite (top left), and also the recreation of the first Hannahs Shoes shop.  

We left after about three hours but could have easily stayed longer.   Our drive continued down the coast to Fox Glacier which was our final destination.  It was New Years Eve and pouring with rain.  We snuggled up in our motel and watched The Time Machine which was on tv.  I think we turned out the lights at 10pm and were lulled to sleep by the continual pouring rain.  It was still raining when we left in the morning, and continued to do so for another 24 hours.  When we finally got home we were dry and warm because we drove across the South Island from Haast on the West Coast, through the pass to Wanaka, through the orchards of Central Otago and then finally to our coastal city Dunedin.  However, some travellers only 12 hours behind us were stranded when a river not dissimilar from the one in my photo above breached its banks and washed away the road.  If we had been one day later we would not have been able to get home and would have had to retrace all our steps.   It was a great trip and we are planning to go again!  

Hope you enjoyed reading this and I will be posting some more op shop treasure in a couple of days.  


  1. Yah! I love the South Island! I agree with you about Westport - I didn't really enjoy it that much when I visited. It felt a bit like going back in time, but not in a good way. Rich and i stayed a few days in Punakaiki once and it was the best time. I loved all the Weka! We didn't go to Shantytown though - which I am seriously bummed about. Sounds incredible xoxo

  2. Oh the "somebody's treasure" is a treasure trove of cool stuff. I wanted so many things but space was the issue. This part of your trip is a great one, the west coast is amazing.
    We are so lucky to have all this in our backyard.
    Love V

  3. Wow! You did enjoy your adventures with me on this trip, I was able to enjoy the taste of salt! Beautiful photos! Enjoy a lot!


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