From Fox River to Punakaiki Then Greymouth

Our next fabulous freedom camping spot, Sunday 7th February, was near Fox River – across the road from the beach. This amazing place even offered free WIFI courtesy of the locals – sadly though it wouldn’t connect. I had work to complete, so we considered moving on. We’d sadly missed their summer Sunday Market earlier in the day, and a couple of men were still sat in that area. Walking to chat with them, a most amenable man called Bill offered their WIFI to use. I graciously accepted and was able to do what I needed to – then relax. Thank you, Bill!

I took a short walk around the area before the sunset, while Barry toiled away editing the days’ photos. An old wooden bridge crosses the river, which is under renovation. There’s a new road adjacent to it, right by the mouth of the river. As the tide came in the waves were crashing wildly on the shore. It truly is a world of its own on the West Coast.

One Walk Of Many

Near the campground, we discovered the beginning (or end?) of the ‘Inland Pack Track‘. This, and the ‘Croesus Track‘, were recently combined to form the 55.7km ‘Paparoa Track‘, to become the 10th Great Walk of New Zealand. There’s also a side trail to the former Pike River Mine, where 29 miners/workers died in 2010, which should be opening soon. We walked a small part of this track on Monday morning, before continuing south. We had (have!) so much to see, we didn’t venture far. It’s tough choosing what to experience and what to leave out. But that’s a tiny challenge in comparison to the rest of the world sitting in lockdown. We do appreciate this.

The Tantalising Truman Track

Our next destination was Punakaiki – affectionately known as the ‘Pancake Rocks’. However, before we reached there we stopped for yet another walk. The Truman Track features as one of the AA recommended ‘Eight Must-Do WalksTo Check Out Around New Zealand This Summer‘. Deservedly so. It was amazing.

An overview of our route and walks

DoC (Department of Conservation) describe this walk far better than I could:

Truman Track is a walk through unspoiled subtropical forest where podocarp and rātā trees tower above thickets of vine and nīkau palms.

The track emerges on a spectacular coastline with cliffs, caverns, a blowhole and a waterfall that plummets straight onto a rock-strewn beach. Get spectacular coastal views from a viewing platform. A stairway provides access to the beach.”

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/west-coast/places/paparoa-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/truman-track/

Along the native bush section of the walk, there were many helpful information boards for the nearby flora and fauna.

The rocky beach was incredible. Thankfully I still had my walking boots on. Barry wore his jandals and found the sloping shingle rather difficult to walk on. He managed admirably though. And of course, took tons of superb photos (they’re in his slide show below).

More Of The Paparoa Track

Before getting to Punakaiki, our destination aim of the day, we got side-tracked to another walk near a handy car park. This was the start of the Paparoa Track. I think! It seems there’s a variety of options for the track – this one ran adjacent to the Paparoa River. Stunning.

I’d have loved to continue on this track – it was stunning. But we had so more to see and do …

Breathtaking Punakaiki

It’s not easy to describe how otherworldly Punakiaki is. I recall visiting The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland in August 2004, with my dear kiwi friend Therese. It’s not known what made those rocks the shape they are, though it’s postulated that it’s the aftermath of volcanic crashing, burning and cooling over around 60 million years. But why only there?

The Pancake Rocks have similarly been formed. Limestone formations began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay (https://punakaiki.co.nz/about_punakaiki/).

The walk around this superb natural spectacle is superbly planned, giving time and space to gaze in wonder at the shapes and patterns below. The tide wasn’t high enough for blowholes during our visit. If you’re interested, watch the video below to walk the track virtually and see them at their best:

Barry did a spot of leaning over to get some shots but wasn’t daft enough to climb over any of the fences. It seems others haven’t been so sensible in the past.

Punakaiki Cavern

After such a breathtaking spectacle, we turned back to see Punakaiki Cavern, as it had been recommended in the NZ driving tour book. We were glad we did. Not that it was huge; just interesting. I loved the poem on the board at the entrance.

The Punakaiki Cavern is a Karst cave, formed with water and carbon dioxide, carving out the cave from the Oligocene limestone. It’s fascinating stuff the geography of New Zealand.

From there, we headed to Barrytown. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot there, and we missed taking a photo of the sign! A freedom camping spot was advertised a short distance from there, before the climb up a hill. All we found was a car park by the beach. So we pulled in there wearily, after our massive day of walking and watching. Another campervan pulled up a short time later, asked us if it was the free campground, I said we thought it must be, so they said: “Well if you’re staying here we will too. Safety in numbers!”. The only disturbances overnight were from the nearby road, the wind and the waves.

The view from our ‘Barrytown’ overnight stop – note the homemade ‘flyscreen’ to try and prevent sand flies invading

On Tuesday 8th February, there was a drastic change in the weather. Cold, wind, rain. I was thankful to have heaps of work to do, so it wasn’t a problem to stay inside. We found ourselves yet another free camping spot near (a very grey) Greymouth!

More in the next post.

Barry’s Slideshow

Here’s Barry’s take on our adventures. Click on the first image to begin the slideshow:

P.S

Remember, if you want to see where we are in real-time, rather than a week or more late, ‘Like’ our Facebook page where I’m posting four photos a day when we have Internet – https://www.facebook.com/nbareandare

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