Post Mortem


Nothing is ever set in concrete, plans change and flexibility is good. I pack far too many possibilities into the planning blog and that’s great, it not only gives me options but also ideas for the next adventure. Some days I am inspired to go out and conquer mountains, other days lying around and reading with lovely views sounds really pleasant.

Then there is the weather. November is a fickle month in New Zealand; it can be amazing, it can be awful. November 2016 was infamous for being mostly cool and wet on the West Coast and windy inland with the occasional spectacular day included. I noticed how grey it was as I scrolled through the thousands of photos I took, comparing them with April, a far more settled time of the year. I planned this one for spring as a time of birth for both animals and birds.

Then there was the earthquake. I think we all know that while we can look at an epic event and think wow, how terrible for those involved, but it’s until we have experienced it or have actually attended we don’t really get the true feel for it.  Maybe the earthquake deserves it’s own blog page.


What I had planned . . . . .

What I did . . . . . . . .  back tracking!

These 3 factors were the reasons for my plans being different to those planned but I also have an excuse to go again 😉 It also meant I backtracked up the West Coast and added around 400 kilometres to my travels. I could have gone over Arthur’s Pass but then it was too soon after the earthquake for me to feel confident. My choice, but not one I regret. I’m saving that until next time (next year/this year?).


The grey route on the right, with the two crosses (in between the crosses the road is not functional), is the pre-quake route, the blue one the current one. The centre one is the aircraft route.

I kept a total of all my expenses, an interesting exercise.

Expenses Accomodation Food Entertainment Diesel


5 November

























Ponamu/Jade search
















Okarito Bird Sanctuary














Doubtful Sound Cruise
































Dec 1















I was surprised how much I spent on diesel but I did travel over 3000 kilometres. Food, well, I was on holiday and while I still work I do treat myself. When I travel after I retire I will be more thrifty. Accomodation was reasonable and I did get 3 nights at $10 each post the quake in Hokitika instead of $30 per night. That was so kind of them.

Karamea, my first visit. It’s a beautiful place, has it’s own microclimate. Unless you are a whitebaiter go outside the season, the residents are busy as whitebait command a high price. A return visit is planned to visit the caves.

Okarito white heron (Kotuku) bird sanctuary, the only nesting place in New Zealand with the bonus of a jet boat ride. Awesome for a bird watcher.

Hokitika for it’s lovely beaches, sunsets, stone mats, ponanu/jade search (Arahura Greenstone Tours), Hokitika Gorge, artists and the town has a lovely feel.

Doubtful Sound overnight cruise for amazing unspoilt scenery, amazing food (especially if you like lobster (crayfish as we call it), venison and more lobster. Birds, penguins, dolphins and great fishing.

Glentanner at the bottom of Aoraki/Mt Cook a birdwatchers delight, lots of native birds, lovely scenery and close to the mountain and the beautiful blue waters of Lake Pukaki.

Reefton, my first visit and I will return. A mining town that is creating it’s own identity through tourism (gold mining and history)

Westland (referred to by me as the West Coast), because it is a beautiful region of New Zealand, quite spectacular in scenery and a region where I feel at peace.

They may not all be places tourists on a tight itinerary would go to but a must for all Kiwis and backpackers.

My regret is not getting to Kaikoura. When I got to Picton, on day one, I spent some time deciding to go east or west first, mainly because of the weather forecast. I really did want to save Kaikoura, a special place, until last. It was not to be.

I have a wonderful four weeks, I could have done the same trip all over again and not come home for another month but I have responsibilities. 🙂

It was a test too. I had only been away in the Ducato for a few days at a time and didn’t know how I would feel living in it for four weeks. It was a success. I can’t think of one thing that didn’t go well.

I love going solo ❤

Back to Westport

If the weather forecast had been better, I may have stayed longer but I do know I will be back to Karamea. I love it’s isolation and uniqueness (like I love Golden Bay’s) and I am so pleased I went, I nearly didn’t when I found I couldn’t go to the caves and I suspect I wouldn’t have made the attempt again.


New born calves


Last glimpse of Karamea

As I started over the hill (420 metres) the drizzle started and then I heard on the radio (before I lost reception) a weather bomb was a possibility and there were many slips further down the West Coast.

Going over the hill I thought I saw a Kiwi. It definitely had a long bill, was brown and had feathers and was different from a Weka. All the way over the hill I kept saying “I saw a Kiwi”. It was very exciting. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop as it was by a one way bridge and there was a car coming the other way. I also saw a Mama Weka and her babies on a rather narrow and windy section and am happy to report that all made it safely across the road!


About to go over the Mohikanui bridge.

I stopped at Mohikanui to walk along the beach and see the wreck of the Steamer SS Lawrence that was grounded on the Mokihinui bar 28th April 1891 and the tide was low.






Not long after it started to rain heavily and continued until Westport, where I went to buy some provisions for a few wet days.


The motor camp in Westport is lovely: surrounded by bush, lots of bird song, wekas too and with good facilities and very clean. There are also 2 cats, chickens and some exotic birds in an aviary.



Nap time was essential, I have been busy and although I am sleeping very well in my comfy bed I’m at a “certain age” when naps are welcomed, occasionally ;)

 As I was hearing on the news, and seeing on Facebook that the American election outcome was close, was getting interesting, I succumbed and put up the satellite dish and turned on the TV. I really haven’t missed it. I watched a programme after the special election news, feeling a little shell shocked at the result.

~~ 9 November ~~


It was great to sleep in and listen to the birds, listening to the rain and not needing to rush. I do well from not rushing to be out by 10am, the mornings are my slow time.

On my agenda was organising the inside of the Ducato. It was away for so long and back just a few days before I left that I didn’t have a chance to set it out for practicality and ease of movement. A good example was needing to use the loo and having to remove several bins so I could get in :)
 I was surprised that I hadn’t brought TOO much that was unnecessary; I used to be prepared for every contingency!








That done, I walked to the supermarket to get the breadcrumbs I had forgotten for my lovely fresh fish for last night’s dinner. It was raining but not windy or cold. I took photos of flowers and buildings for the lack of touristy things I would have done if it was fine. 

After I walked back and dropped the few things I had purchased in the Ducato, I walked to the Orowaiti lagoon, hopeful of seeing a few interesting birds. Don’t you love it when you realise the map isn’t drawn to scale and it is much, much further than it looked and the rain is getting heavier? 😉 The birds didn’t seem impressed either and the solitary Black-backed Gull and Royal Spoonbill were the only occupants. I did see a trio of White-faced Herons fly over . . . . . lovely!


It’s been an uneventful few days, though I did walk 10 kilometres today and I enjoyed the solitude and peace. I’m certainly not complaining. “Loving Life”

~~10 November~~

Heaphy track and the Karamea estuary.

As I was going to sleep last night I could hear the sea thundering and crashing. When I woke it was silent. I am still deciding if it is the tides. The difference in the high tide and low tide height is huge and the sea gets very deep very quickly so there is a shelf for the sea to bounce off, if that makes sense. I am used to sea you can wade out for a considerable distance before it is too deep. I was pondering the effect of a tidal wave and didn’t like the result! Coincidentally there was a moderate earthquake  early this morning but no tsunami 🙂



The sea was calm today, it can be really wild.

I was going to go to an area called The Fenian. The young German tourists had been there yesterday and showed me the gold they had found. Part of it is quite a hike and I’m working on fitness and energy 😉 so  I changed my mind and went to the end of the road (sealed all the way, I was told. Yeah, right!). One of the nice things about being here is there are few people. I can stop in the centre of the road and take a photo, maybe even a video, and know the likelihood of another car is minimal. I also have the commonsense to stop where I have a clear view both behind and ahead.


It was already only a single lane. When I saw this I gulped but it was OK!

The end of the road is a D.O.C. (Department of Conservation) managed part of the Kahurangi National Park with  great information boards, nice toilets and for a small cost, available for freedom camping (no power). It’s also the end of the Heathy Track, a 4 or 5 day hike from Golden Bay; self managed, no sherpas. It was a dream and now one I won’t realise but I had to go just a little way.


I thought these were cabins for the hikers, they are toilets!



There is a lovely swing bridge a little way in over the Kohaihai river which is stained brown from the natural organic tannins released into the water by several of the plant species in the area. Leaves and other plant matter on the forest floor releases these tannins as they decompose – this eventually leeches into and stains the water, with the shade and intensity varying depending on rainfall and season. There were remnants of huge trees that had been brought down in floods.



Pretty reflections in a pool.


A RAT (ratus ratus) It looked at me, I looked at it and it finally scuttled off!

The bush had many nikau palms (Rhopalostylis sapida endemic to New Zealand and our only palm) and many old endemic trees. I wondered if this may be original bush. The early settlers felled and burned much of New Zealand to make way for crops and animals though a few original stands do remain. I was surprised that the trunks of the nikau were wet. I met groups of “proper hikers” who were finishing their hikes (most seen to go north to south doing the steepest section first).


He was finishing grooming after taking the people’s lunch. You can see they do have wings but don’t fly. Kiwis don’t fly either but their wings are minuscule.



I think they look amusing front on, their eyes look weird.

I spent some time on the beach and at the D.O.C. site chatting and watching the birds. There were few in the bush. The Weka was comical and obviously a local resident. I watched a couple unpack their lunch on the table, he went and had a pee by the tree (I had to avert my eyes, lazy man, there was a toilet close by) and 5 minutes later I saw the Weka racing across the grass with part of their lunch in his mouth. They left, good job Weka! They are well known for their thieving nature and, although flightless they can run really fast.


Karamea is colourful!



After the girls go to the milking shed the road has to be cleaned 🙂

I called into the store to get a drink and a pie (steak and mushroom) and went down to the estuary to do some bird watching. I saw a Fern Bird, endemic and often heard, rarely seen. I got a few photos but had the wrong camera with me. I also was amused watching the Tuis feeding on the nectar from the flax bushes.



A Tui has a black beak, this is the pollen from the flax (phormium tenax) flowers


A Fern Bird, well camouflaged. They look similar to a Thrush but sound quite different.

I had a visitor when I returned though by the time I picked up the camera he was on his way. I missed the shot of him with his head in the Ducato, begging  (almost 🙂  Last night I had a visit from Cassie, a very nice kitty. I miss my Phee ❤


A cheeky visitor.

I nearly forgot, the neighbours had been white baiting. They have been scarce this year and they are expensive: up to $100 a kilo (about 2 pounds in a kilo) or more!!!!!


~~8 November~~

Getting to Karamea

On good recommendation I bought a satay chicken sandwich for breakfast and because it looked nice, a lamb and kumara (sweet potato) pie.


I stopped a little further on by the river to eat it. What a perfect choice. Not only did I see a Weka but a flock of Keruru (native wood pigeons) feeding on the broom bushes. There was also a beautiful little waterfall, cascading down the mountain to a big waterfall (which I couldn’t see as I was high up from the river).While I was there a group of Spanish tourists were also taking photos and when I went to take the waterfall they all started laughing. One of the ladies needed a toilet stop and had ducked down on the side of the road, in the bushes. I couldn’t see her 🙂






One of my most unfavourite (short) places to drive.


I only paused to take a photo, I wasn’t “No parking”, honestly!

The road from Murchison to Westport is mostly through the Upper and Lower Buller Gorge. A very scenic but windy and hilly road, with many one way bridges. I was lucky there wasn’t too much traffic on the road. I wonder why each little stream got it’s name. There are lots of Stoney Creeks and (insert number) mile creeks, some were named after people. There was a section that were Dutch names, another German and often Chinaman Creek after the hard working men who came to make their fortunes in gold mining. I was thinking of our pioneers who forged the trails in immensely difficult terrain: some had settled along the way to provide stopping places and water and feed the men, some found gold and many returned to the newly established towns. Many died.


Sometimes I include a photo for a memory. It may not be a good photo 😉


I like the poem about a glow worm’s bum!


I turned on to SH97 and reached Westport, where I planned to get some food (always food) and diesel as Karamea is in “the back of beyond” with one store and no fuel. I called into the iSite to book an excursion to the limestone arches and was disappointed that they have yet to commence for the season as there are few tourists. I can go by myself, no problem, though it was on my list of treats.





There is a railway track running through the middle of the iSite office!

It was exciting to sea the Tasman Ocean again. The coast here is quite different to where I live, not too far north (. . . as the crow flies). Mine is a wide sandy beach, where cars can drive for miles, here it is stoney, gets deep very quickly and is often wild.


Old miner’s houses in Granity (or perhaps railway workers).


Possibly a coal train?

The road hugged the narrow coastal plain for a while, past the coal mining settlements, the mines now closed. Coal is not economical to mine (and we lost 19 men a few years ago) and is not a clean fuel. In winter, though, you can still smell it, it’s a romantic, old fashioned smell.

The road over the hill, was long and slow and we went up very high, quickly. Fortunately there was nobody going my way and few the other way. I frequently drove in 3rd and even 2nd gear. Going down didn’t seem so long and I was amused to go through the town of Cobyvale where there was nothing. Only paddocks; no old houses. Zilch!!


At Karamea, at last.

On being a Kiwi. Last night I went to do the dishes in the camp kitchen. I do that sometimes if I feel like a chat. There was an American guy, very pleasant and a keen fisherman. There was an elderly Kiwi guy who thought he knew it all. The American was really polite and listened intently, smiling in the appropriate places, even after saying he had been to New Zealand many times. I occasionally spoke and was almost ignored by elderly Kiwi. He repeated himselff, made huge mistakes I knew the American was aware of. It gave me an insight of what it is to be a Kiwi with tourists, a valuable lesson (never let me be like that please!!).
ON NZ TV news: I watched the news tonight for the first time since Friday and there were 4 young German tourists there. Looking through their eyes I couldn’t believe how boring our news was. In the 25 minutes I watched, there was the American elections, the bombing in Syria (I may be wrong about the location), the American mass murderer and what the NZ government is going for your homeless people (they have already bought a motel and plan accomodation for a small number of people.

~~7 November~~