Today we are saddling up the bike and heading further south, down to Franz Josef. Before we leave Punakaiki, I head back down to the beach for one last look. It’s such a beautiful view, so wild and untouched. Sometimes I become a little obsessed with getting ‘that perfect photo’ that I spend all my time taking pictures from different angles and on different cameras, viewing the sight through a lens rather than my own eyes.
So while I do take some photos, I also try to stop, soak it all up and take some ‘memory photos’. Shutting my eyes, imprinting the image in my mind, the hypnotizing sound of the ocean tide, the cool breeze on my face, the smell of fresh ocean air. Photos are great, but being in the moment is even better.
This is why I love travel.
A short distance down the road from where we have been staying are the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. This is part of Paparoa National Park and the start of the walk is right in the heart of Punakaiki. Here you can follow a well maintained track that leads you around massive limestone rocks. Their very distinctive layers giving them their ‘Pancake Rocks’ name.
Over many, many years, the limestone has been slowly eroded away by the waves pounding against them, creating blow holes and surge pools. The sights are affected by the tides, (I didn’t realise this at the time, although thinking about it now, it makes total sense) and is best views at high tide. I am not sure what the tides were doing when we were there, but regardless, it was still pretty impressive.
Its a fairly short, easy walk, it took us maybe 30 minutes (with photo stops at the many viewing platforms.) Some of the rock formations look like people and animals. There was one in particular with plants, like flax, growing out of the top making it look like a person with spiky hair.
This place is full of natural beauty. I love it’s rawness. It’s a place where you are reminded of how powerful nature is. For a while I watch the sea swirling below me in the Surge Pool. The water pounding against the rocks. I spot a large clump of seaweed dancing about beneath surface of the ocean. I watch it for a while, fascinated at how strongly it much be attached not to be ripped from it’s rock. The sea is so wild!
We continue on to Hokitika and make a stop at The West Coast Tree Top Walk. Its a great opportunity to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. The walkways are high above the ground and allow you to view the forest from a different perspective. Some trees we are looking down on, at other times we are walking alongside giants. I am not a fan of heights, but this is OK for me.
We then get to The Tower. I begin climbing the stairs, spiraling around and around, getting higher and higher. It is 47 meters above the forest floor! I finally make it to the top and am rewarded with some excellent 360 degree views. From here I can see all the tall slender trees moving in the wind. Swaying together in perfect time. Its pretty high and windy up here and while my knees aren’t buckling (just yet!) I do have to hold onto the railing at all times!
We head back down the spiral staircase and continue on, arriving at a Cantilever viewing platform. It’s a long platform, only attached at one end, allowing it to move and sway in the wind, just like the trees I was viewing before. Of course Daniel delights jumping up and down on the thing to make it move even more. (Such a considerate husband)
I reach the end of the platform and look out across the forest with it’s yellowy-green foliage, out to Lake Mahinapua.
It’s time to carry on with our journey so we jump back on the bike. I am loving State Highway 6 on the motorbike. There is such beautiful scenery – aquamarine coloured lakes, tall, lush, ancient looking forest and of course twisting, windy roads that are so much fun on 2 wheels! Every now and again I get a glimpse of a snow covered mountain, peeking out from beneath the clouds. This really is quite a spectacular place.
We arrive at our accommodation and am delighted to find they have given us a room upgrade. We are staying at Rainforest Retreat in a lovely unit that is nestled into the bush. Its very comfortable, the perfect place to relax.
We have no plans for the rest of the day, so I head out for a walk – I want to explore. I find myself at Terrace Walk, the entrance is right on the main road. The walk is through some gorgeous old looking forest. I swear, the colours of the forest on the West Coast seem so much more vibrant than other places I have been. There is bird song and cicadas, they are writing their own melody. Towards the end of the track, the tall trees have grown up and over, intertwining at the top, creating a long, fairy tale like tunnel.
If you need to step away from schedules, technology and reconnect with yourself, you wont have any issues doing that on the West Coast.