Short Day to Paradise

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31/01/08
Hi gang! Well, it’s hard to believe, but yet again I find myself a day late in my blog postings. Sorry folks. The main reason for this is that I’m still not feeling 100% at the moment, but more accurately, it’s because I’ve been a bit lazy. Basically, once I get done with titling all the pictures, and creating the custom map, I sort of run out of steam. However, I’ll do my best now to fill you in on yesterday and today’s details. I started the day yesterday in the little town of Westport, and made my way out to the true West Coast, and down along to a village called Punakaiki, home of the world famous Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes. Upon arrival here, I decided that this was basically paradise for me, as I’m right on the beach, surrounded by great limestone cliffs, and have some great walking tracks. As a result, within 5 minutes of getting here, I trudged back to the office and plopped down a second night’s payment. I’ve decided that rather than stop in Greymouth, I’ll just blow past it and head straight to Hokitika, another 40km down the road. Capital idea I figure. Anyway, read on for more about the ride, and don’t forget to check out the map.

The weather pretty much immediately promised to be another scorcher, so I decided that taking my time might be okay. The road down to Punakaiki had very little in terms of civilization. By the looks of my map, there was one place I might be able to pop in for a break, and that was a place called Charleston. Luckily, the entire distance was only 65km or so, which meant a relatively short day in the saddle. I had an option of stopping in a place called Tauranga Bay for a seal colony, but after realizing it would add probably another 15km to my day, I decided to skip it. After all, I had already seen some fur seals in Abel Tasman.

Once fully underway, the road seemed like it would cooperate with me. The riding was generally flat, with only a few undulations. Although I felt a little crappy, My average speed still seemed to be pretty good. I didn’t actually get underway until after 9am, allowing myself some well-needed rest. Even with the late start, I still managed to get to Charleston by 10:30am. A little early for lunch, but I still decided to take a load off and have a steak and mushroom pie and some pleasant conversation with a delivery guy who was there reading a paper. He gave me some trip tips for the west coast, and confirmed that Greymouth was a place I could skip. The pie was delicious, the conversation illuminating, but I had to be moving on, so off I went.

After a little further down the ‘coast road’, I finally saw what all the fuss was about. I came around a bend in the road, and there it was… the West Coast! And what a sight it was. The surf was huge, and the waves breaking on cliffs far below me. I had one of those moments where I realized why it was that I do this stuff. I just had to stop and take it in for 10 minutes. It was a hot day, and the road had been far from flat to get here, so there was a good reason to pause here. I was pretty much awestruck. I immediately knew that the route choice of the west coast was the correct one for me.

By this time, I was only about 15-20km from my end goal, so I slowed my pace even further. As I progressed along the coast road, I came down from the high passes and ended up right beside the ocean, which meant there were quite a few beaches to stop and oogle along the way. I’m not sure if it was the cyclone off the coast or not, but the waves coming in were pretty massive! I remembered the Lonely Planet’s advice on the west coast. Under places to swim, it just said “Don’t even think about it.” I could see why. The riptides were obvious even to a casual observer. There was no way I was going to venture more than ankle-deep in this water. However, it did make for an impressive sight while cycling.

The scenery certainly helped me forget about my worries and my failing health, and I was just able to enjoy the ride for the time being. Before I knew it, I was in Punakaiti, and checking in to a beautiful hostel right on the beach. They even bake fresh organic bread and muffins on premises for sale. This would turn out to be a blessing, as there was no where to buy food around here, and I had nothing to eat. As a result, I bought a loaf of bread, and some baked beans from the owner for supper. There was a tavern, but I didn’t really feel like eating out.

Since it was early, I had the time to check out several of the local sights on the first day, including the pancake rocks and blowholes at high tide, which is the best time to see them. I also had some more speliological fun after supper, in the Punakaiki Cavern, which is a 130m tunnel system just up the street from the hostel. I dragged a couple other people from the hostel with me, and we had a pretty fun time poking around in there. There were even some glow worms to entertain us in the dark. Oh, and did I mention the outdoor Spa tub on the beach? Yup, I got to soak in the hot tub as the sun went down, watching the waves crash on the beach. Now can you see why I chose to spend two days?

I think I’ll leave you all with those thoughts, as I still have another post to write up before I go to bed tonight. Please don’t hate me because I’m in paradise. As I keep reminding Jody, the road to get to these places isn’t always that easy, so I think I deserve it to a degree! Anyway, hope you’re all doing well, and I’ll check in with y’all again soon!

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