The weather report said it wasn’t going to be raining on the West Coast for a few days, so I hoofed it over there to visit Sis in Westport.
Rain and the West Coast of the South island are inseparable. Rain, annoying though it might at times, is what makes the West Coast what it is – wild, wayward, and beautiful. It’s been about 20 months since my last visit, so it was high time to jump in the car and go west again.
The first afternoon and evening was do-nothing time, and after that a couple of big G&Ts, as you do. A friend of Sis’s dropped in to say hello as he was driving past and saw my car outside. This is the small town way. A side note about this particular guy – he is one of the few non-gay guys that women can truly just be friends with. I don’t know how he does it, but what I do know is that it makes him easy and fun to be around.
We decided to take a trip out to Seddonville the next day, about 50kms north of Westport, to have a scramble around some caves there. We were late getting away on our jaunt, because first we faffed around, and then another friend dropped in, so the three of us chin-wagged for a while. When Sis and I finally got going it was lunchtime. We grabbed some Subway along the way with the intention of eating it al fresco, and ended up perching ourselves on the steps on the Waimangaroa fire station to eat, picnic tables seeming to be a rare commodity in the direction we were going. This particular stretch of coast that encompasses the four tiny towns/settlements of Waimangaroa, Granity, Hector, and Ngakawau don’t seem to run to such extravagances. This is a place of individuality, where ‘struggle’ is not a dirty word. The people who live here, live here precisely because it’s not a city – not city safety conscious, not city pretty, and not city comfortable. They accept that – it’s what they live here for. The state of the houses reflect the individuality of the place, and run the gamut from barely standing, to fairly flash. Everyone lives here cheek by jowl, with nature remaining the dominant force.
Lovely red Rata flowering, and the Waimangaroa fire station – aka our lunch spot.
Because we didn’t bother looking at the map, or asking the lady in the phone, we ended up in Denniston. Which wasn’t a bad place to end up at from going the wrong way. Denniston is an ex coal-mining town high up on a plateau in the hills. It was a harsh existence for the miners and their families, which has apparently been well captured in the book The Denniston Rose. These days it’s a tourist attraction, and although well laid out, avoids being over-sanitised. There’s old machinery, building foundations, and various bits of junk still lying around from the coal-mining operation there after it closed in 1967, and parts of the pathway don’t have a guard-rail. I’m sure if someone went over the edge there’d be the usual hue and cry and finger-pointing, but at the moment it’s case of using one’s brains and not letting your kids or yourself too near it. Yeah, I know – brains aren’t always too reliable.
What remains of Denniston. Even though it was a helluva mission to extract the coal and get it down the hill, the quality of it was so good it was worthwhile.
Then we went onto Granity and hiked along the beach for a bit to check out the unique experimental seawall that’s been built there. Coastal erosion is becoming a significant problem along this section of coastline, and a few years ago a group of people got together – comprising a couple of guys Sis used to work with when she was a driver at Stockton coal mine – to see what they could do about it. They came up with an original idea of using interlocking hexagonal concrete blocks, and between fund-raising for it and getting a government contribution, they finally got the blocks made and put in place four years later. Clever Climate Adaptation Solution Versus Coastal Erosion at Granity NZ (climateadaptationplatform.com) At the moment, the seawall just runs across the front of two properties while it’s monitored for efficacy.
We headed out to Tauranga Bay the following day, an easy 20 minute drive from Westport in the other direction from Granity. Just as an aside, Tauranga Bay is nowhere within cooee of the city of Tauranga in the North Island, although would easily equal it for beauty and stunning-ness, if not surpass it (although I might be a tad prejudiced about that 🙂 ). However, I would guess that Tauranga would easily surpass Tauranga Bay when comparing the cost of properties. There’s a not-too-arduous uphill climb to the lighthouse, about an hour and a half from the carpark, but today we decided to go only halfway. Next time, we’ll go all the way, we promised ourselves.
A “quick drive” out to the Okari River mouth for a look, a wade in the river, and a wee lie-down in the long grass by the river’s edge got slowed down somewhat by an encounter with around 200 cows as they were being moved along the road, maybe to milking. It’s surprising how far cow shite gets up under the wheel arches of the car, I noted afterwards. Cows are big animals, and I wasn’t entirely confident that my (city) car would be the winner if one of them got spooked. Mostly though, I felt sad for them. Dairy cows have a miserable life – don’t let bucolic country scenes fool you – and then they go to slaughter.
Back to Sis’s and another lie down in her lounge chairs before evening, to recover from the rigours of having a good day.
The next day, it was homeward bound to a different life, but with some of that West Coast magic staying with me.
Header pic: the Buller Gorge near Westport.