A Pile of Pancakes!

Trip Start Apr 02, 2012
Trip End Jul 26, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, July 15, 2012

Throughout my travels many people had suggested I visit the famous Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park, north-east South Island. This would be a tricky proposition to drive to as I was still in the Southern Alps and I wanted to drive through at least one of the two main mountain passes before I left for the South Island (Arthurs Pass & Lewis Pass). 
If I didn't do it now I never would so I decided to drive back to Christchurch (not into the city itself) and take Arthurs Pass to get to Punakaiki. This was supposed to take about 6 hours.
The weather was poor with mixed showers and storms and an unhealthy dose of more showers and storms (you get my drift).
For me 6 hours driving is nothing as my average driving times have been 3-5 hours in mostly good weather and wonderful scenery. Unfortunately, this particular drive lasted 8 hours and was most uncomfortable
The extra 2hrs consisted of stopping every 5 to 10 minutes almost all the way because I was overcome with dizzy spells and near black-outs, which if you're driving could be quite harmful to your health!! I had a bit of warning each time so could comfortably pull over and recover which only took about 30 seconds each time. Luckily, all the highways were pretty clear of traffic. As time went on the dizziness did subside but I wasn't feeling very perky but carried on regardless cos underneath my increasing and alarming Kiwiness I am still British!!!
Arthurs Pass is a very famous highway through the southern Alps from East to West (750m above sea level). During the Winter it is often closed due to the bad weather there, but this day it was open as there wasn't much snow or ice. I could see why they close it as it gets extremely high and steep in places. The scenery all along it is spectacular and varying with open fields, mountains and rivers. 
There was quite a lot of traffic (heavy lorries) and it was raining most of the time. In my state of unhealthiness, I wouldn't say I was scared but it was a bit hairy in places! The tiny village of Arthurs Pass itself is just a short street with things in it, but my windows were all steamed up and I wanted to just get on!
On arriving at Punakaiki, on the West coast I checked into the hostel (2 nights). This had the essence of a commune/hippy-like building called the "retreat" (say no more), pretty but with strange smells in the air! Also there wern't any keys or locks on the doors, I was told that everybody trusted everybody here! NOT ME MATE!!!
Anyway, I was so tired and grumpy I just laid on my bed as soon as I got to my room. lucky I still had my clothes on cos the door quietly opened and a little boy stood there staring at me! He had wide kaleidoscopic eyes and was silent. After a moment I asked him his business but got no response, I said goodbye and shut the door on him! I then dragged the sofa and wedged it under the door, I never saw the strange little boy again................spirits anyone????
I only had one day here so next morning I had a coffee in the high street, this wasn't a village but just the entrance to the Pancake Rocks tourist bit as this is just about the only attraction here along with the Truman Track. They had done a good job of conserving the site and still allowing the public to see them. It was raining hard and very grey so there wern't many people there at all. 
I must say, I was more impressed by the limestone rocks than I was expecting. They were formed over millennia into multiple layers and do look spectacular. The tarmac path leads you all around them and you get great views of the Tasman sea and rocky outcrops etc. Although the sea here was very rough, it wasn't enough for massive surges of water through the blow-holes which this place is also famous for but was still very good!
After this, I drove to a very blustery Cape Foulwind (about 20k out of Punakaiki) to see the lighthouse and seal colony (not another bleedin' one!) but only saw 2 seals. The place was very dismal and gloomy but I didn't mind. Unbelievably (or believably thee days) there was a great cafe/restaurant right there in the middle of nowhere and it was open! I had a flat white and a revolting chorizo and gelatine scone thing and made my way late in the day back to Drugsville at Punakaiki. I went straight to my room, put the sofa back under the door handle and left very quietly early in the morning.
My next destination is Nelson once again, but this time only for 2 nights as I will be heading back to Picton to catch the Cook Strait ferry to Wellington.
I am saying goodbye to the South Island as I make my way back to Auckland via a couple more stops. I probably have 1 or 2 weeks left of my travels which means I only have a handful of blogs left. 
Stay tuned for my next one in a few days. 
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sheri on

I hope you're feeling better Clive. I don't like the sound of those dizzy spells and blackouts Look after yourself! xxxx

clivehugh125 on

Hi Sheri
I'm fine now, I think it was a virus.....in Wellington now, one of my most favourite cities in the world!

sheri on

Glad to hear it. I'm now going to look back at your photos of Wellington :o) xx

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