The West Coast

When driving from Abel Tasman National Park to the West Coast, you get the feeling you have reached the end of civilization. The last town has signs like "Last petrol station for 150 km" , "Last dairy for 200 km" and "Last raspberry garden for 150 m". We suppose the neighbour started a raspberry garden too, making him the last for 150 km, but he didn't put a sign at the road.

A bit after passing this last town before nothingness, Mirjam had to pee. And exactly at that time we passed a parking place with a toilet. As it lies at the end of civilization, a door isn't really necessary.

Toilet at the end of civilization

At Westport we went to see the fur seals. Really great animals, which you can observe from pretty close, although not as close as the 30 meters the brochure from the tourist office promised us.


This signpost shows why New Zealanders are afraid they might fall from the earth and nobody will notice. Everybody else lives on the other side of the globe. Only a couple of Kiwi-places (Dunedin, Christchurch) are somewhere close by.
Driving along the West Coast, you have all the way a good view of the beach and the sea. It should be possible to see penguins or dolphins, but we were not that lucky. The Maori used to like the West Coast for another reason: you can find here jade or, as they say, greenstone. They use it for necklaces and so, and as tools. As the way to the West Coast was not very accessible, especially in the south where the most jade is found, it was expensive as well.

 Coastal views

Pancake rocks

Punakaiki or pancake rocks: the name is easily explained. The soft rock between thin layers of hard rock is eroded away, leaving the pancakes. The pictures a friend of us made of those rocks were one of the reasons for us to go to New Zealand. We weren't disappointed. And at the restaurant you can order pancakes to eat.

At the beach you find large dead trees, probably casualties of the rain, which derooted them and brought them via a creek to the sea. And, of course, there are pebbles.

Leon had noticed pebbles just like these before, on the camping in Greymouth. This camping was very close to the beach. What looked like a nice place to put your tent, was in fact infested with pebbles, just beneath the ground surface. Those cursed pebbles made it almost impossible to find a place for your tentpegs.


Tourist train

A weka

Doing it standing up

Between the gold miner's huts stands this little brothel. When we looked inside, we were surprised to see it has a lobby, a waiting room and three 'working rooms'. If you wanted to fuck here, you'd have to do it standing up. For the gold miners, that wouldn't be a problem. They never take there boots off, anyway.

Shantytown is an open air museum of a gold miners place. Around 1865 there was a gold rush, and New Zealand is still a producer of gold.

Shanty town has three different areas:

  • The bush where the huts of the miners are and where you can try gold panning yourself.

  • The city with the banks, bars and shops.

  • Chinatown.

A steam train brings you from the city to the bush.

Budget accomodation

It's raining (just a bit)

The West Coast has one big disadvantage: it rains. Clouds form above the sea between Australia and New Zealand, try to pass the mountains and loose all their rain in the process. We had one really wet day, it rained from lunchtime to sometime in the night, and all this time with an intensity that can last about half an hour in Holland. This does explain how the West Coast has some 8 to 14 meters of rain a year (and Holland only 3/4 meters).

Unique are the glaciers at the West Coast, the Franz Josef and the Fox glacier. The glaciers themself are pretty standard; it's their location that makes them special. They really come close to the sea, and on both sides of them you can find rainforest.

Our plan to do a heli hike (go to and from by helicopter and walk a couple of hours in the glacier in between) didn't work out because of the weather: we could be brought there, but probably not picked up.

Traffic jam on the glacier

A rock hollowed out by ice

Instead, we walked to the face of the glacier. The people who booked a half or full day walk on the glacier were lining up to get on the glacier. When you do the half day walk, you can probably return directly just after reaching the ice.

These trees are huge

Just before leaving the West Coast at Haast we did a swamp trail, leading along some of the Kahikatea trees. This is the largest native tree, reaching up to 60 meters. As they happened to grow on very fertile land, which was great for agriculture and gave good timber as well, almost all the woods with these trees are cut down.

Swamp: 1 meter water, 3 meters of mud