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Finding Christina Helene

My first drive down the West Coast was in winter. It had been raining in New Zealand since Nushaw and I landed without hope of letting up. As Nushaw slept in the back row of the bus, I was glued to the window in awe of waterfall after waterfall pouring down the sides of tall mountain faces that were covered in tropical green ferns. When the Tasman Sea finally came into view I leapt out of my seat and tried to wake up the Nush (unsuccessfully.) The waves of this gray sea were crashing against each other without order, rhyme or reason. This was the wildest body of water this California girl had ever seen. I was soon to learn how much the wildness of the Tasman Sea reflected the wildness of the land it crashes against and the people who live within it.

Over my 6 months living in Hokitika, I’d taken the 6 countless times. Each trip I’d discovered something new. On the bus, I usually ate at Pancake Rocks Cafe, too hungry to take the short walk and preferring to stuff my face instead. One ride up in the campervan I had time to actually explore this area in more than a 30 minute time frame and found one of those give a book take a book libraries – inside a painted fridge next to a swing bench. I joyously dug in this fridge and pulled out a book about a love story between two shy humans written from the eyes of a squirrel. Perfect van life reading.

On this same trip, Jordan and I walked to caves only 10 minutes up the road from Pancake Rocks. Walking against the tourist traffic, we found ourselves in an amazing hide away deep within the towering cliffs – all to ourselves. I promise some day when I find those photos I’ll add them to this post for you.

We really wanted to do the Truman Track, hearing great things about it from Claire at Drifting Sands where I was working. Jordan and I were disappointed to find out that the Track was closed. They were building a new ramp.  Also closed were the caves in Cave Creek to the Ballroom Overhang. This one was due to flooding. We had met someone at our campsite the night before who was talking loudly at dinner about how he had done this hike that day, but Jordan and I weren’t prepared for a heafty river crossing. Ok…. so what to do?

We decided upon the Pororari River Track. This has been one of my favorite walks on the West Coast. (One of them guys, don’t get too excited.) It’s a gorgeous walk along the river through the tropical fern rainforest. We went on a gorgeous day. Again, when I find the pictures I’ll add them, I promise. For now, enjoy a Nikau Palm from the walk. Can you tell the difference between the Nikau and the fern in the background?

On a road trip in the Sugar Cube (Claire’s adorable little gray car) for New Years, the Truman Track was open again! Tiger, Geoff and I set out for an excellent walk. This is an easy walk that I would recommend to those of all ages.

Geoff taking a photo of a beautiful tree along the Truman Track

First view of the beach after a short jaunt through the rainforest

Claire stayed in the car with her injured ankle while the three of us went along the track. She asked me to take a picture of the new platform for her. I don’t think I ever showed her. Here you go Claire bear, I know you’re reading this!!

View of the new platform from below

Have you ever seen such rock formations? The stairs led us under the rock shelf and onto a beach made up of tiny pebbles. Tiger and I joked that we were at the spa getting a $300 foot treatment.

I took a walk along the beach to find only amazing caverns and rock formations around every corner. I hear this part of the beach is inaccessible during high tide.

And of course the shoes have to make their appearance!

I walked over to a waterfall on the beach and stared at the patterns in the rock above. This would be my dream outdoor shower, I thought.

One bus driver called the West Coast the Land That Time Forgot. I love this phrase, because it feels so true. A different driver told us a story about a wedding he attended in a cave that you can only access by going through someone’s backyard (which he pointed out to all of us.) It was a costume wedding and the bride and groom were dressed as the Flinstones. They had bonfires and braziers alight in the cave. Only on the West Coast, let me tell you.

Below are pictures from the Pancake Rocks Blowhole Walk.

I have named this rock the Millennium Falcon.

They say geologists are puzzled how these rock formations were born, even today.

To me, it looks like model sets for a science fiction movie of another planet. I almost expect tiny aircrafts and wild animals to come out of the crevices.

There is only one road on the West Coast of New Zealand – the Motorway 6. There is so much to see and do along the way.There are caves, walks, and rainforests. This motorway will take you all the way from Karamea and its amazing caves down to Franz and Fox Glaciers. In between is Graymouth, where the Tranz Alpine Train will drop you off after seeing beautiful Arthur’s Pass and you can stop for a pint at Monteith’s Brewery. Jordan and I stopped along the beach on a beautiful sunny day. To get there we had to climb over a fence that is there to protect the penguins. Then of course there is Hokitika – voted the best Christmas lights in New Zealand in 2017! I’m lucky enough to have spent six months on the West Coast and was able to explore so many of its beautiful corners.

Secret spot – a place to stay that you can’t find online unless you really know what to look for

On our road trip to Takaka for New Years, Claire had us stay at the old Slaughter House. Once a real slaughter house, it is now an amazing place to stay. There are 4 rooms and space to camp as well. The guest kitchen and living space is open and welcoming, as are the two who run the joint.

View of the main house from Claire and my room for the night

When you get to the Slaughter House, you have to call the owner, who will drive down the hill in his little 4-wheel caravan to pick up your bags and one lucky passenger who is brave enough to straddle the back of the bike with him. The rest of yous get to make the long walk up the mountain. It’s not a terribly long walk, but it is steep. At the top there are beautiful views of the ocean. I was reminded of Thailand so much on this trip and where Nushaw and I stayed on Koh Tao.

View from the deck of the main house

Claire and I planned to make my favorite dish for dinner there and I had picked fresh parsley from her garden before we left. Of course when we got to cooking we noticed that we left the parsley down in the car at the bottom of the mountain. I offered to go down and get it. The owner’s wife gave me a flashlight and off I went. On the way I saw breathtaking views of the Tasman Sea under the moonlight (maybe I was just out of breath….) and closer to the bottom of the hill was a flurry of glowworms living in the foliage on the side of the mountain. These are the small adventures that travel is about to me.

Care for a coffee or a wine with a view?


One of two cats who live at the Slaughter House

There is, of course, an old slaughter house down by the campervan spots at the bottom of the hill. One of the workers lives there now, enjoying his historic space and outdoor camping shower.

The old historic slaughter house and the beautiful Tiger sporting her punamu


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