A few months ago a group of friendly folks gathered together to explore a few of the caves and other sites along the West Coast. That trip was such a success that another trip to the nearby area of Punakaiki was organized. We were informed there were several backpackers available for us to use as our home base, and several people mentioned they had stayed at the Punakaiki Beach Hostel. What sold us on this particular backpackers was the fairly accurate description that it was “only a stone’s throw” from the Punakaiki Tavern, one of the better restaurants in town 🙂
The Punakaiki Beach Hostel is also only a “stone’s throw” from the beach, especially after a particularly harsh set of storms battered the area last year and promptly removed 30 meters of beach!
Gaby and I left Christchurch early on Friday so we could see Arthur’s Pass during the day and arrive in Punakaiki in time for dinner. As it turns out, the Punakaiki Tavern offers some great food. When I traveled through this area last month I stopped here for a healthy dinner of fish & chips. Let me tell you, this place really knows how to cook fish & chips! The lusciously battered fish was delicately fried to a mouthwatering crispness and the chips (that’s Kiwi for French fries) were perfect: crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. After a long hard day of bushwhacking I was definitely up to the task of cleaning my plate.
It was with thoughts of wonderful food that we arrived at the backpacker early enough to register for our room and unload our gear – I was hungry! For dinner I convinced Gaby that we should eat at the Tavern (she agreed: she was hungry too). We both decided to order the big, juicy stake with extra savory rosemary & garlic butter – outstanding!
With a full stomach I was able to clear my thoughts and concentrate on the task at hand – visiting with friends we haven’t seen for a while and determining what we were going to do this weekend. I had to put Gaby on the disabled list as she had injured her shoulder on a previous trip (as it turns out, she injured her shoulder on our previous trip to this area.). One of my goals for this weekend was to follow up on a lead for a cave in the area we explored on a previous trip. Unfortunately, with Gaby’s shoulder hurting she didn’t feel up to whacking through the bush for hours on end looking for new caves, so she decided she would go for a great day hike on one of the many tracks around Punakaiki while I went exploring with a determined group of cavers.
I gave the camera to Gaby to take with her on her hike while I bashed through the bush. She was driven to the carpark (that’s Kiwi for trailhead) at the end of Bullock Creek Road where she decided to hike a loop trail back to Punakaiki. She hiked east along Bullock Creek until she met up with the Inland Pack Track, then turned south and hiked to the Pororari River, crossed it, and back out to the coast and Punakaiki.
This area of the West Coast has a few karst areas, and while the tracks (that’s Kiwi for a hiking trail) are maintained, the bush is dense. Trampers (that’s Kiwi for hikers) who wander off trail without paying attention run the risk of falling into one of the many grikes (solution cracks) in the limestone – ouch!
The trail was fairly straightforward, and Gaby was easily able to hike the entire route. And while the Pororari can be a challenge to cross when the water is high, she found the river to be low and was able to ford it without incident.
When Gaby finished her hike she walked along the beach near our backpackers.
The coastline is scenic all around Punakaiki, even near our backpackers.
While Gaby enjoyed the loop track around to the Inland Pack Track and back, I headed off to finish exploring an area I visited on a past trip. This time we even managed to collect a few more accomplices. We geared up early and made a mad dash for our goal because we wanted to get there early enough to explore it. Forty five minutes later we arrived and began rigging the entrance drop into the cave.
Unfortunately, this cave did not go. While there are many holes and fissures in the rocks, few go anywhere. So, after satifsfying ourselves that this cave probably didn’t go, we ventured through the bush again, looking in any potential dark holes. After a few hours of fruitless bushwhacking we gave up the hunt to head back to the car before nightfall. Such is the life of a ridgewalker: hours and hours of bushwhacking in the hope that one day something interesting will be found. Oh well. There will be other days.
I worked up an appetite bushwhacking all day and after I returned to the backpackers and cleaned up, I eagerly awaited Gaby’s return so we could go eat dinner. We decided to head back to the Punakaiki Tavern to eat more of their great food. This time I ordered three fish sticks and a bowl of chips – that was a lot of food. It was heavenly. The fish was hot and delicate and the crisp chips really hit the spot. I had to work to eat it all, but it was such great food!
On Sunday we slept in 🙂
When it was finally time to pack up and check out, Gaby suggested we hike down the Truman Track, as I had not seen it the day before. A forecasted storm hit that morning, but the wind and driving rain only added to the scenery of Te Miko. The tide was rising but still low enough to allow us to hike along the beach for a bit and see what this part of the coast looked like.
Just a short distance north along State Highway 6 is the Truman Track. This easy and beautiful fifteen minute walk takes you from the carpark along State Highway 6 through native bush with several nikkau palms and cabbage trees to a picturesque beach called Te Miko.
The dark clouds and isolated blocks of rock along the beach made for some dramatic scenery. The beach at Te Miko is dramatic. At low tide you can walk along the sandy beach amongst big blocks of sandstone that have been broken off and scattered around by the waves. You need to keep an eye on the tides though. At high tide you get stuck, which is alright if you planned it that way.
By this time the storm was raging, and we stopped at Pancake Rocks to see if the ocean swells were big enough to make the blowhole spout. Through a driving rain and blasting wind we worked our way along the trail to the beach. Unfortunately, the situation was not quite rite for the blowhole. The tide has to be near high tide and the swells need to come out of the west or west south west for it to blow. Next time.