Monday, November 2, 2009

Tasman Sea (NZ part 10)

(NZ part 1 here)

We continue along the Buller River towards Westport, the first town we will hit on the west coast. We're now on Highway 6, which will take us most of the way down the west coast as there are very few through roads that follow the general route we are planning. We've also been warned about how wet this area can be, so easier riding might be fine.

In Westport, and ready for a rest. I need to get the front brake bracket on the borrowed bike fixed as the rough riding has cracked one of the arms. I find a shop that does marine welding for all the fishing boats in the area, and they do a solid looking fix for a very reasonable price. We take the opportunity to do general maintenance on the bikes as well - cleaning the drive components, checking pivot points, etc. I also took apart the whole front fork hoping that it will reduce the pounding on the brake bracket.

We head south out of Westport on Highway 6, even though we've been warned that the wind will be against us the whole way and we will be soaking wet the entire time. We didn't know either when we decided to take a left and go counterclockwise. Westport has reminded me of Negril Jamaica - the way it sits at the intersection of inland and coastal roads, with it's hills dropping down to a large plain stretching out to meet the sea.

I see the signs of rainforest starting to crop up the farther we go. The forest is lush, the ferns and trees are grow bigger. We have left the rain shadow of the Southern Alps and are now riding as exposed as the island itself, facing the storms that blow off the pacific. But the weather holds, and we are making great time with little head wind. We spend our first night out of Westport on the Punakaiki River, and our second on a beach strewn with logs just north of Hokitika. A man surf casts in the evening as we lounge around camp. He walks past with his dog when he finishes, empty handed. The are both thin and deliberate in their motions.

(Beach campsite north of Hokitika)

We find ourselves in Hokitika the next day, to check in with the world beyond our daily riding. The town was a hub during the gold rush and signs of that history are conspicuous, clinging to the glamor it must of had at the height of it. Jewelry shops, gold and jade shops, and NZ artisan window displays can be found on most streets. We sit outside at a cafe that serves fancy desserts, and pedal on before the end of the day.

We find a glorious campsite south of town, at the convergence of the Kakapotahi ("One Kakapo") and Waitaha Rivers. We camp at the end of the sand bar stretching out into the confluence. Rains in the mountains bring the Waitaha River up significantly on a much appreciated rest day (we get no rain down near the sea). I watch throughout the afternoon as a gravel bar disappears, then is back by the next morning. The Kakapotahi is a lowland river, and does not come up much at all. the Waitaha begins beneath the glaciers of the Southern Alps, and is full of glacial flour sediment and is very cold. The Kakapotahi is much clearer and not so cold - I bathe there.

In the evening we get a visit from Mark, who lives nearby. He invites us to stop past for breakfast before we head further south. He shares the most delicious honey with us, his own, and I have not recovered from the addiction to this day.

No comments:

Post a Comment