I was leaving the West Coast, that always makes me sad, and it would be all new territory. I had no idea what to expect and no idea what the countryside would be like.
My ‘all new territory’ was added to by somehow ending up in the wrong lane and going to Cobden on the other side of the river and at the Grey River mouth at Hill Quay. A bonus! The beach was lovely and it was nice to see some sand instead of all stones.
The road followed the Grey River along the wide, fertile river valley. There were many mining towns, villages really. Mining used to be the main industry of the West Coast, now there are only 5 coal mines in operation on the West Coast, two of which are in Reefton. There are no operational gold mines in the area but you can go and pan for gold in many places on the West Coast.
Coal was discovered on the West Coast by Nelson surveyor Thomas Brunner and the mine named after him. 1847, and mining started there in 1864.The mine steadily produced coal for over 40 years. On 26 March 1896, Brunner coal mine disaster, 65 miners killed by an explosion or by poisonous gases following the explosion. This is New Zealand’s largest death toll from an industrial accident. 186 children were left fatherless, 37 women were widowed, and 14 elderly parents were deprived of their sole financial support. The main Brunner mine was closed in 1906, but other mines started nearby. After the Dobson mine closed in 1968 there was no further mining in the area.
Next time I go this way I’ll go over the bridge and explore. There are also walks in the area. Mining is one of my newly acquired interests 🙂
http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/tranzalpine/?servicename=TranzAlpine There is a lovely video on the link.
On the afternoon of 19 November 2010, an explosion ripped through the remote Pike River mine on the West Coast of the South Island, killing 29 men, two men survived. Their bodies have not been recovered and remain in the mine, which is now sealed. The report of the subsequent Royal Commission of Inquiry revealed a combination of errors within the mine, including inadequate methane drainage, non-functioning gas sensors, flawed electrical and ventilation design, and inaction on hazard warnings. These failings were compounded by the failure of government regulatory authorities to effectively inspect the mine and act to remedy the problems.
As I passed the turnoff to Pike, I knew there was a protest by the families of the miners and I would like to have gone and given my support and respect. I didn’t and wish I had, I didn’t want to intrude. This was a recent disaster and was close to the hearts of many Kiwis (New Zealanders). I remember hearing of it in Australia, where I was on holiday and when I flew back to New Zealand we would have flown over the area. We have since seen the memorial service for the miners on TV, followed the Royal Commission enquiry, been with the families wanting to get their loved ones back, heard that the mine is safe to re-enter but the company that owns the mine wants to permanently plug the mine.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11747378 an excellent article on the disaster.
I was happy to get to Reefton though I managed to get lot again. I was looking for the main street and missed it. I pulled over to look at the GSP and this elderly lady pottered out to have a chat. She was very sweet and helpful and we chatted for a while.
Reefton (population 1026) is a mining town and there has been a restoration of some of the historic buildings; this is a town with character.
I really like the main street and there was a great range of shops, many artists appear to live in the area. I bought a lovely bronze/copper piece for my table.
Reefton was the first to have a public supply of electricity and the town was the first to switch on an electric street lighting system in the Southern Hemisphere.
There was a great exhibition of Reefton’s history at the iSite, I would recommend a visit. I spend ages there and the staff are really friendly and helpful.
I discovered this free example of Reefton as it was , again I recommend a visit.
Colourful (and one that is somewhat rude). There are many of these that young tourists (I have yet to see an older tourist in one) that provide a bed and basic coking facilities. Most do not have toilet facilities which causes we Kiwis a lot of angst 😦 ‘R28’, the Single Engine Fairlie’, is the sole survivor of a batch of locomotives built in England during 1878-9. New Zealand Railways, barely born back then, operated it throughout Otago and Canterbury until 1934. On-sold several times for harbour work in Timaru and collier work in Reefton, R28 finally retired in 1948. Later, gifted to the people of Reefton, interest in its restoration gained momentum driven by a unique sense and enthusiasm for its engineering and international significance.
The motor camp was pleasant, with running stream. I was able to park where I liked and I did. Then the owner came back and apologised for her (elderly) mother’s instructions and had me move one park down with her holding my power cable while i completed the move. She was adamant I didn’t need to unplug so I drove slowly and she ‘walked it’, I found it really funny. She wasn’t too impressed, I felt, by my less than perfect alignment.
The reason for my moving one space along was because a nurse arrived on Friday in his camper van to be on duty over the weekend, when there was no Doctor. I was parked in his space 🙂 He was a nice guy, we had a conversation or two.