From Kohaihai we returned to Westport, staying overnight on Thursday 4th February en route at the Seddonville Hotel. Run by Graeme McKenzie since 2003, the premises are currently for sale. I’m not surprised! Graeme was the bartender and cook in the evening, swapping one role for another seamlessly. Doing that seven days a week must take its toll. I had work to do so we had a delicious meal in the pub; then I sat in the van while Barry stayed on for a few ‘handles’ (they don’t do ‘pints’ here) with Graeme. We parked in the back car park for $8 each, including a toilet and hot shower. The latter of which was much needed!
The position of the pub is close to several local short walks. The Charming Creek Walkway which we did a part of a few days before our stay, the Chasm Creek Walkway (which we wanted to do but didn’t have enough time), and The Old Ghost Road Tramping and Biking Trail. It’s astounding how many short and medium walks there are around this area.
Kawatiri Beach Reserve was our next location, staying for two nights as work continued to beckon for my time. It amuses us when people ask how we’re enjoying our ‘holiday’. Barry, of course, is now officially ‘retired’. But for me, this is just my normal life and work. Our normal life in the UK is travelling, as it is here in New Zealand.
The beach reserve was brilliant. A short walk to a beach strewn with driftwood, as are most of the West Coast beaches. In Gisborne there’s a beach clean every six months I believe – it would be pointless here with the amount of rivers flowing into the sea, and the wild weather.
While parked up, a friendly face arrived, in the form of 94-year-old Noel Palmer. He knocked lightly, and offered to chat to us about local sights and offerings. We welcomed him into the van (no COVID restrictions at that time, Saturday 6th February), and he brought out his bag of information. He chatted amiably for about half an hour, recalling many a story. Including one about his memories of the UK in 1953.
Noel told us was a member of the ‘Small Bore Rifle Association‘, and represented New Zealand in the World Championships (we think that’s what he said!) in England. The New Zealand Air Force flew the team of 16 to England, taking ten days to get to England! I can’t actually recall all the stops they made on the way. Melbourne was one. Then Perth. We think Borneo may have been one of them. Somewhere in India. Along the way, they all suffered from a stomach bug which delayed them considerably.
He was such a charming man – and I’ve just found this fascinating story about his father’s Gallipoli war diary being returned (entirely blooming rightly!!) from Leeds University to the family.
“Hartley Valentine Palmer is among three Gallipoli veterans whose diaries returned to New Zealand this week.
It was an emotional day today for Mr Palmer’s son, 91-year-old Noel Palmer.
For the first time in 44 years he can hold his father’s war diary and read the original transcript of the day he arrived in Gallipoli on the 25 April, 1915.”https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/369826/diaries-of-gallipoli-war-veterans-return-home
Noel keeps a record of all the people in the campground he chats to. He said in previous years there was all manner of nationalities. However, in the last eleven months, it’s been mostly kiwis who’ve been travelling, which is actually fantastic, as they normally leave their stunning country for other places which are probably far less gorgeous.
Thank you Noel for sharing your local knowledge. Now THAT’S how to stay young, rather than thinking life is over when you’re over 90!
More Walking And Watching
After I’d completed enough work to satisfy my conscience, we had a walk along the part of the nearby cycle and walking trail to the river mouth.
At the end of the walk we watched a number of courageous surfers. Waves were crashing all around, but the surfers carried on getting up looking like it was so easy! We saw the above surf boards being used – they were amazing. Once up, the surfer moved up and down bobbing along the surface on the lower section. It appeared to enable them to stay up longer and go faster.
I’ve since discovered these are called ‘Foil Surf Boards’:
“Hydrofoils are the future of water sports. They allow us to access new waves and offshore surf breaks that had never been explored before. Basically, foils redefined what we considered to be a rideable wave.
Foil surfing is an exciting experience, and it may not require waves to get going. Hydrofoil surfing is somehow like controlled aquaplaning. It’s all about gliding effortlessly and smoothly above water.”https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/the-beginners-guide-to-foil-surfing
Foulwind and Seals
Our next stop was a walk to Cape Foulwind. Strange name you may think? It was originally called Clyppygen Hoeck aka ‘Rocky Point’ by Abel Tasman in 1664. Then when good old Captain Cook came along in 1770, the weather was atrocious with high winds, so he decided to call it Cape Foulwind. This was one of the AA Newsletter 14 Must-Do Short Walks recently, along with Charming Creek Walkway. It sure is beautiful on a fine day – and far more like ‘Rocky Point’ than Cook’s version.
We walked up to the new lighthouse, and another ten minutes along to the lookout, then headed back to the campervan rather than walk all the way to the seal colony and back. We’re acutely aware of time constraints on our travels – sadly we can’t do everything.
The seal colony was a real treat. The pups will have been born a couple of months ago, so were very playful. There were about half a dozen playing in a pool below the walkway, sounding and looking like young human children. With seemingly not a care in the world.
What a delightful spectacle.
Beginning The Punakaiki Coast
There’s no shortage of travellers guide books and leaflets available to anyone exploring this breathtaking country. I’ve still got a book I purchased in 2001, called ‘Explore New Zealand – Over 60 Scenic Driving Tours’. Published in 2001, it would’ve been hot off the press! There’s an updated version from 2005 now available. Mine is fabulous as it is. It’s got lots of writing in it, and dates of when places have been seen.
One of these on our recent journey was Nile Hill Cemetary, Charlestown. It’s not featured in any other information, with a sign to ‘cemetery’ off the road but nothing else.
At the height of the gold rush, Charleston was the largest of the West Coast gold settlements, with shanties located all along the pack horse route into the town, which boasted 80 drinking houses, a hospital, a library and a population of 12,000, most of whom were gold diggers with claims on the Nile (Waitakere) River. Charleston was one of the few towns that grew and died within a few short decades during the gold rush years on the West Coast. Today what remains of the town has disappeared amongst the scrub, but a 5-minute walk will take you to a fascinating old cemetery on Nile Hill where gravestones bear the names of many early settlers. Many of those laid to rest here came from Unit in the Shetland Islands to spend their final days searching for elusive gold in the sands of Nine Mile Beach.”Page 101 Explore New Zealand 60 scenic driving tours (2001)
The graves were old and unkempt, many couldn’t even be read anymore. But what a stunning spot to be laid to rest. Some of the locations and people were Gilbert Harper, Marion and Barclay Mount from Unst Shetland, John Fairless from Durham, Matilda Henry (nee Armstrong) from Southsea Hants, some from Brighton (I didn’t take their name sadly), Leggetts from Yarmouth, William Fox and his sister Sarah from Devonshire, and many more.
Through Barry’s Brilliant Eyes
With so much going on, there’s been a bit of a mismatch of recent posts. Barry has some stunning ones below from our walk to Scott’s Beach on the Heaphy Track last week, which I’d told you about in the last post. His images are gorgeous. Then there are ones of our road trip to Westport, the walk on the cycle track, and superb shots of the surfers and ‘hydrofoiling’. Finally stunning images of Cape Foulwind and the cute seals.