Thursday, January 6, 2022

West Coast Wanderings

I woke on January 1 to a headache and feeling somewhat queasy. Yes it felt like a hangover, but I'd not drunk a drop of alcohol and had just had 13 hours of sleep! Too much sun and not enough water: the main reason I'm not a fan of summer tramping.

It took me a couple of days to recover, not such a bad thing as I had a few days to kill before getting back to Wanaka for the annual packrafting meetup, and it was far too hot to go above the tree line. So I packed up camp and drove south to Hokitika, where I booked in to a campsite overlooking the beach. The site is an old psychiatric hospital and now houses backpackers and a few permanent residents. There are numerous communal dining areas, a couple of kitchens, a pool room which doubles as a music/disco room, and a small, weird museum. The decor of odd nicknacks and old dolls, and the fact that the buildings are dreadfully rundown, makes the place oddly endearing. It's seriously kooky without quite feeling spooky.

The campsites look out onto the waves rolling in off the ocean, and I'd definitely stay there again.

I went for a drive around Lake Kaniere to Dorothy Falls, and then on to Hokitika Gorge.

I hadn't been to Hokitika Gorge for a few years, and in the meantime DOC have extended the walk up the gorge a bit more and added another swing bridge, creating a lovely loop walk through the forest that is perfect for families and those who can only manage short walks. 

From Hokitika I continued south, veering off the highway at Hari Hari to investigate the Hari Hari Coastal Pathway. This is an under publicised loop between two river estuaries that can only be completed when the tide is low enough. Helpfully, DOC provide the low tide times at the carpark so you can plan accordingly.

I chose to walk anticlockwise, following a 4WD track skirting the Wanganui River estuary, interspersed with whitebait stands, all locked up and pulled out of the water now the season is over. The tide was high, so it was lapping the shore quite close to the track, and further towards the beach were huge rafts of driftwood floating in the sheltered coves. It felt very old world and forgotten, reinforced by the rotten degrading wooden boardwalks over the swampy ground behind the dunes. This track didn't seem to be high on the maintenance list.

Near the beach I met a couple who had failed to get around the Bluff at the southern end of the beach due to the tide being too high. They had also failed to find the track up to the top of the headland on the southern side of the inlet. I hoped to have more luck.

The track to the top was indeed overgrown, but with little more than a good look around I was able to easily find the way up to the top of Mt One One (hardly a mountain!) and some awesome views both up and down the coast as well as inland up the Wanganui estuary. It felt quite adventurous following this neglected path but it was just in need of a good trim with a brush cutter.

Back down at the beach I headed south, the tide now going out. The driftwood piled up into the dunes was prolific, it felt very remote. I had to weave my way through the wood to get to the Bluff at the southern end, and then rock hop under the Bluff, which had signs of recent subsidence. Since it was a warm dry day I felt my risk of the cliff falling down on me was somewhat reduced, but I didn't dawdle.

About three quarters of the way along under the Bluff was the crux, where the waves were crashing over the rocks and I needed to climb up over some fallen scree and debris to continue without risking getting wet. Just as I got there a family appeared, walking in the opposite direction, so I knew I could get through. Over the small slide and then back to the safety of the rocks again, and soon I was back on the sandy beach, and off to explore Pureora River estuary.

The Pureora is a much smaller river, but unfortunately the tide was still too high for me to walk along the shoreline to the holiday baches upriver without going for a swim. I retreated back to the high water track, which I was grateful to have not missed out on, as it wound through lovely lush forest on an easy climb over to the baches that I'd spied from the beach. One of them had a water tank and tap, so I refilled my water bottle for the walk back.

The track climbed away from the river and then sidled along above the swampy ground between the two rivers. A recent slip had to be crossed, but it was otherwise an easy benched track, in much better nick than the one on the other side. The swamp needed to be crossed, but the track was well drained and had some boardwalks so was super easy. There were still some Kahikatea growing, but all were quite young, the area having been logged extensively in the past for timber. Further south at Camp Creek there is still a remnant of the Kahikatea forests that used to clothe the swampy lowlands right along the coast, until someone discovered it made great timber for butter boxes!

A thoroughly enjoyable, lost world type ramble over, it was back in the car and back to the highway for a couple of nights camping at DOC campgrounds before driving over the Haast Pass to Wanaka and a long weekend of packrafting.

That's next...

No comments:

Post a Comment