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A Visit to Invercargill - Heartland New Zealand

Posted by Jan Roberts on November 10, 2017

I’m a Southland girl through and through – originally from Invercargill in the deep south of New Zealand.  NZ’s southern most city and the largest town in Southland. We do our best to get back down to Invercargill at least once a year to visit with friends and family.  In typical Jan and Stephen fashion though we can’t go anywhere without exploring – must be in our DNA.  I could go through and give a blow-by-blow of our recent visit down south but it would be pages long and for those of you with short attention spans like myself – well no more needs to be said.  Soooooo……. this is my Must Dos – in no particular order.

A Drive Through Coastal Western Southland

For an easy day trip follow the Southern Scenic Route signs on State Highway 99 out through Riverton to Orepuki (you can go further but that was as far as we went on our day trip).  This is the coastal route heading towards Fiordland – Manapouri and Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park.

Riverton is the main coastal town on the Southern Scenic Route heading North West.  It is a popular seaside holiday resort and is known as the “Riviera of the South”.  It was one of the earliest European settlements in NZ so steeped in rich history in an idyllic coastal setting.

Call in at Cosy Nook, a cute little seaside hamlet set in a rocky cove with a sprinkling of fishing boats and holiday homes (known as cribs).  I’m not sure if the fishing boats are still used or they just dream of days gone by.   In its hey day there were 12 fishing boats based here that fished Foveaux Straight.  It is truly an idyllic looking location.

Onwards to Gemstone Beach just beyond the little village of Orepuki.  We were expecting a very stony beach – similar to what we have at home but it was very sandy.  It may be we had the wrong tide – was pretty much high tide on our visit so we’ll just have to come back to do some foraging for gemstones.

Back to Orepuki and the Orepuki Beach Cafe for our lunch stop.  What a little gem of a place – highly recommend for lunch or dinner, well worth the drive alone.

Then we started the drive back to Invercargill first calling in at Monkey Island.  The Island itself is just off the bay and can only be reached at low tide. There is an impressive stairway leading to the top of the small island and giving great views in all directions. Again so much history here – who’d have thought that in the late 1860s it was a town with numerous houses, three stores, a hotel and a butcher’s shop!  Now it is more of a secret hideaway with camping and picnic area.  Ok so guess with camping options it isn’t so secret but we pretty much had it to ourselves.  We didn’t stop for long – with the tide practically right in there wasn’t much beach to take advantage of.  As Arnie says so well in Terminator “we’ll be back”.

We did a quick drive through Colac Bay but time was against us so we didn’t linger.

Day Trip Catlins – Waipapa Point and Curio Bay

Another easy day trip from Invercargill is the Southern Scenic route towards Dunedin.  First up Waipapa Point and Lighthouse. You often get to see sea lions lazing in the sand.  The power of the surf though coming in and pounding off the rocks is a sight to behold.  After a compulsory photo at the foot of the lighthouse we headed off towards Curio Bay.

We had our timing perfect as it turned out, completely a fluke but the tide was still out enough that we could actually see the petrified forest in the rock formations.  Also there were the most amazing colours in among the rocks.  Mum and my sister Sally spent ages fossicking in the rocks for beautiful colourful tiny little shells.  You could lose so much time just here – but remember to look up now and again and watch for the incoming tide!  Evenings you might be lucky enough to see some Yellow Eyed Penguins but remember to stay a respectful distance from them so as not to disturb them.

Bluff

We love Bluff.  It is the southern most port town in NZ and home of the famous Bluff oyster.  A popular stop for visitors is Stirling Point with its famous signpost and some nice walking tracks.  Another must do is Bluff Hill.  If you’ve got a good day the views here are hard to beat – you can even see Stewart Island.

We also love Bluff for the mountain bike trails.  A nice little network in the back of town up on the hillside.  That does mean climbing but you are rewarded with the downhill to get back to your car.  Also worth a visit is the Bluff cemetery.  Sitting high on the hillside again the views are to – well to die for!  I know, sorry about that…….

Petrol Head Heaven

New to Invercargill and two must dos are Bill Richardson Transport World and Motorcycle Mecca.  Even if you’re not a petrol-head these museums are fantastic.  You do need to dedicate quite a bit of time to these – I’d suggest a full morning for each or full afternoon.  You may even end up going back again for another look – there is so much to take in.  Each museum has a great cafe too – especially Transport World, can highly recommend their mushrooms on toast.  Sounds simple but oh la la – delicious!

Transport World has special significance for me as there is a very special vehicle being housed – a 1946 Bedford bus which was Invercargill City’s first transport bus – more so it was my Grandpops and he used for the Woodlands school bus run up until 1982.  Great memories as a kid out at Gran and Grandpops farm playing in the bus.  Have to admit there were a few tears when I climbed aboard this time – the smell of the leather seats, it really did take me back in time.

Finally a visit to Invercargill isn’t complete without a visit to E Hayes & Sons.  I hear you – why would we want to visit a hardware store – well this isn’t just any hardware store.  It is like taking a step back in time – a hardware, homeware, gift and engineering store all rolled into one.  It is also home to E Hayes Motorworks collection.  This is a collection of classic motorcycles, automobiles and engines including Burt Munros original World’s Fastest Indian motorcycle.  It really is a must do and we visit every time we come down as the display items do change. Not only that the staff are simply awesome – some true Southern hospitality.

Oreti Beach – Otatara

Speaking of Burt Munros Fastest Indian….. you have to check out Oreti Beach.  Follow the signs for Otatara and just keep going.   The road takes you right to the beach – right onto the beach that is, 26 glorious kilometres of smooth sandy beach that you can drive along.  This was my childhood playground and was also Burt Munro’s racetrack where he did his testing and racing and set the NZ open beach records.  A lot of history and I never even knew it growing up – now the whole world knows.

Ok so that’s our must dos when you visit Invercargill.  There is so much more to see and do – I haven’t even touched on the numerous walking opportunities, particularly out at Otatara – Otatara Reserve, Bushy Point, Fosbender Park, and Sandy Point – just to name a few, the Stead Street Wharf walk – gosh so many options.  OK so now I have touched on them.  Each one unique in their own right and worth a visit.  In typical fashion when visiting any region of NZ make sure you allow time.  You can’t see anything in a day…….

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring where ever they go.

 

 

 


Exploring the Wonders of South Westland Mahitahi River Valley

Posted by Jan Roberts on October 06, 2017

Stephen and I are fortunate to see and do some pretty special things in our time exploring the West Coast and a recent visit to beautiful Bruce Bay  is definitely up there and added to that list of special things we’ve done in our lives.

We’d been staying at the gorgeous Mahitahi Lodge at Bruce Bay in South Westland with Jacqui and John – as if that wasn’t special enough in itself!  Knowing we are forever keen to explore John gave us directions and advice to check out the Mahitahi River and valley.  Always up for a challenge we didn’t need much convincing.

Cameras, tripod, snacks and water, warm clothing (just in case), tick, tick, tick, tick, all packed, locked and loaded and ready to go.  First stop was to see the farmer and ask permission to head up the valley.  This is all private farm land and it is imperative you always seek permission before venturing on private property.  With permission granted we were off.

This is a walk of ever-changing scenery – and terrain.  It could easily be something out of a movie set.  Heading off initially on a farm 4 wheel drive track – giving the farmer the access to the paddocks right up the back of the valley.  There are a couple of detours cut through the native forest where the river bank has fallen away thanks to the encroaching river.  For the most part though you are never far away from the river and can hear it burbling as it meanders its way through the farm land and on out to sea.  The waters are crystal clear and sparkling.

Eventually the valley opens out onto the grassy plains – cow country and we’ve been asked to be mindful as the cows are in calf.  After negotiating some electric farm fencing (shame we didn’t capture this on camera…..) and ensuring we stayed well away from a couple of cows we encountered in this particular area, we head down to the river bed.  The mountains are now towering above us – snow-capped after an unexpected early Spring snowfall.  Makes the sights and sounds all the more magical.

We snack on a log by the river – well ok we don’t snack on the log but find a log to sit on and have a snack…… I’m sure you knew that but thought I should clarify cos snacking on the log would be just plain weird…… It is so peaceful sitting amongst all this natural untamed wilderness and beauty.

Slowly we follow the river bed further up the valley towards the mountains – basically as far as we can go without having to cross the river which on a nice summers day would be a great thing to do but today on an early Spring day with the fresh snow on the mountains, we’ll give it a pass.

After a compulsory photo shoot it is time to start our meander back down the valley.  The cows are nothing short of hilarious – like they are the film stars, all lined up waiting for their chance at an audition – showing their best side – watching, waiting just in case today is the day they get their call up.  Not to be ladies but you enjoy your surroundings.

Walking back through the ever-changing scenery again we comment to each other how magical our day has been and just how privileged we are to be able to enjoy such beauty at our door step.

A big thanks to the farm owners for allowing us access to their land and also to John for helping organize and make the suggestion.  Reminder to all please always seek farm owners permission to enter private property.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They love to get out and explore this untamed natural wilderness they’re lucky enough to call home.

 


Striking Gold in Ross

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 06, 2017

Ross is a historic gold town just south of Hokitika on the Glacier Highway.

Gold was first found in the area in the 1860s and thus the town of Ross was established. With a population of around 300 people it is hard to believe it was once more like 4000 in the height of the gold rush days.

Recently we had a couple of nights staying in Ross – at the Totara Bridge Station holiday park nestled at the end of Ross Beach Road.  What a location!  Literally right on the beach you’ll discover this almost hidden oasis.  With accommodation options suiting every budget – we were in our caravan, so there are powered and unpowered sites, dorm bunk rooms, double rooms or self catering units.  Now I say rooms and units but these are more like pods.  They are actually recycled shipping containers that have been converted and to say they are cool well that would be an under-statement, even down to the communal kitchen and ablution block – really tastefully done.

Ross is possibly more known of late as being either the finish or the start of the West Coast Wilderness Trail – part of the NZ Cycle Trial system around New Zealand.  The West Coast Wilderness Trail goes from Greymouth to Ross – some 139kms through some of the most stunning West Coast scenery on offer.  The Totara Bridge Station is a great accommodation option for people using the cycleway.

We weren’t here to do any biking (I know – what!) but with two days up our sleeves we had plenty of time to explore the offerings of Ross.  Compulsory would be a walk on the beach.  Predominately a sandy beach, from the Ross Beach road you can head off in either direction – literally for miles.  Nico and I didn’t venture too far but did enjoy just meandering with the sand between our toes and relaxing in the sunshine.  Stephen and Ziggy headed off to the south – out towards the point.  There is a seal colony out here so you often get seals anywhere along the beach lazing in the sunshine.

One thing I never get sick of are West Coast sunsets.  I know we live by the sea and get to see them all the time  but I just can’t help myself – they draw you in and each one is different and special in its own right – no matter what beach you are on.  I’m obviously not alone in my thinking as some of the locals came down both nights we were here, pulled up, watched the sunset and then headed back home for the night.

For us after we’d seen the sunset,  we headed into Ross for dinner at the Historic Empire Hotel.  Talk about your traditional Kiwi country pub.  This place rocked!  So much atmosphere and history – you could almost feel it oozing from the walls.  The bar was filled with locals and visitors alike.  Quite a few workmen in the area at the moment – for gold mining and tree planting apparently.  Everyone was friendly and eager with a smile.  Maria behind the bar and Christine out in the kitchen were all smiles and the bistro buffet was just what the doctor ordered.  After a cold beer or two by the roaring fire and with satiated tummies it was time to head back to base and hit the hay for the night.

My only regret during our stay was not getting out to take some night photos.  The star lit skies would have to have been some of the best I’ve seen for a very long time.  We get some awesome star lit skies at home but the two nights we had in Ross they were quite out of this world – and you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

Next day after another compulsory short walk on the beach, we headed into Ross to the Goldfields Museum and Information Centre.  While Stephen did a walk about town, I chatted with the lovely lady in the Information Centre who was super friendly and helpful.  Nico and I then went back to base to make a picnic lunch while Stephen and Ziggy headed off to check out the historic Gold Heritage Trail.

This is a lovely walk in the back of Ross, following the water race as it wound its way up the hillside.  There are lots of relics and information boards with a cool old miners hut at the top of the trail before the trail joins with the historic Ross cemetery.

It was here that Nico and I joined Stephen and Ziggy for our lunch.  Something about sitting in among the graves and headstones – we find it very peaceful and therapeutic.  Not bad views from up here either! Peek-a-boo I see you……

Now to give you an indication of how Ross was once a thriving metropolis (remember earlier I mentioned a population of 300 now v 4000 back in the late 1800s) well Ross has two historic cemeteries.  Knowing how we love cemeteries an investigation of the second cemetery was compulsory – aaahh I think we’re in heaven – excuse the pun.  What we did wonder is if perhaps one cemetery was Catholic and the other Protestant – they both certainly seemed of similar age historically.  The latter of our cemetery visits though is also the current use cemetery and again what a location – what a view.  Sitting atop a hill with views in all directions.  Think we’ve found our lunch stop when we next need a place to stop on route to – well anywhere…..

Our afternoon excursion saw us taking a drive further south from Ross (about 15kms or so), turning down Beach Road off SH6 just before the Waitaha River bridge, passing through the little settlement of Kakapotahi and coming out at the river mouth of the Waitaha River.  The beach was strewn with driftwood – as far as the eye could see.  It would be a driftwood sculpture’s idea of heaven – talk about untamed natural wilderness.  The boys and I were content to find a nice log and sit and relax and enjoy the views while Stephen took some (more tee hee) photographs.  Watching the surf pound in against the shoreline is rather mesmerizing to say the least.

Back to base to feed the boys and catch another stunning sunset.  Once again some of the locals turned up – like us they just sat and watched and then headed off again.  I could watch a sunset every night of the week and it was great to see I wasn’t alone in that thinking.  The sun setting into the sea should not be taken for granted, not every one is so lucky. This one set the sky on fire – so much so it made it look like the holiday park accommodation was on fire with the reflections in their windows.  Rest assured a call to the local fire brigade was not necessary.

With the boys tummies satiated – yep our turn and it was back to the Empire Hotel for a traditional country pub feed.  Something else I could do every night of the week – but then I’d be the size of a house so while watching a sunset whenever you like is allowable – and even advised, eating pub food too often is definitely not.  We enjoyed it while we could though and then back to check the boys and settle in for the night.

On a more heartbreaking note – we want to dedicate this blog posting to our beautiful boy Nico who recently passed away.  Our family chain has broken and our hearts are broken with it.  He was one super special dog – our big fella, our gentle giant, so full of love and joy.  So glad to have had this final road trip with him – he loved coming on our adventures, loved meeting new people and exploring new places.  Rest easy our beautiful boy – you will remain forever in our hearts. xo

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Together with their much-loved faithful companions Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and exploring the region they’ve been lucky enough to call home – The Untamed Natural Wilderness West Coast.


Rarotonga - From one Island Paradise to Another

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 20, 2017

There is a recurring theme from many of our guests at Breakers Boutique Accommodation when I ask them how long is their holiday – three weeks, four weeks, even six weeks in NZ but finishing with a few days on a Pacific Island, predominately Rarotonga.  Well say no more – for us this is a no brainer, we have to check it out and make sure it is the right thing to do…… it’s a hard job but really someone had to do it……

Flying in we get an immediate sense this was the right thing to do.  You can see the whole island from the plane window at only 32 kilometres round and surrounded by crystal clear lagoon waters with the reef protecting it from the crashing waves from the sea.  Oh this is going to be bliss.

Now your trip to Raro can be as relaxing or active as you like.  Best thing is you don’t need to pack much.  Remember though it is an island with towering mountains in the middle so you can expect rain and in fact should expect rain at some stage.  You may not get any but I like to work with the rule of thumb – have a rain jacket and you won’t need it, don’t take one and it will rain.

This is our third visit to Rarotonga so we know our way around pretty well.  We like to be self-sufficient and book our accommodation through Rentraro.  They have properties all over the island that they manage and there is something for everyone and every budget.  This trip we chose a little one room bungalow – called Lyas on the South side of the island in Titikaveka and the sub-village of Tikioki.  This area has possible the best beach for swimming and is a renown snorkeling area – well just along the road anyway.  We made a point of lazing in the waters every morning and every evening.  A great way to start and finish our day.

One thing we have noticed during our visit to Raro is an increase in tourist population – this meaning an increase in vehicles on the road.  The first year we came it was predominately scooters – the favoured choice of transport for the locals and used to be for visitors too.  Unfortunately there are now numerous car hire options – can’t say I’m a fan and don’t think it is necessary.  Part of the appeal of the island is riding around on your scooter – with a speed limit of 30kms and 50kms you don’t really need a car to get anywhere.  That would be my main recommendation – hire a scooter, be like a local.  They are super cheap to rent and the price of petrol is bordering on ridiculous.  Think it cost us $5.00 to fill ours.

We also hire a mountain bike when we visit.  The roads are generally flat, if you head inland you might find a hill or two but the main outer road is flat the whole way round.  It pretty much follows the lagoon waters too so you get great views and can stop anywhere you like for a cooling dip in the waters.

There are plenty of eateries on the Island – again something for every budget but generally pretty inexpensive.  A popular item on most menus is a fish burger of some sort – think I’m in heaven.  We were lucky enough to be based right across the road from Charlies – a popular eatery with locals and visitors alike (you’ve seriously got to try their fish sandwich).  You can also hire paddle-boards and snorkeling gear here too.  There are other places dotted around the Island so options aplenty.

Another must do eating option would be the Muri night markets.  A great selection of local fare often complete with local entertainment.

We’re not big into fishing trips, pub crawls, diving, snorkeling, island nights or other tourist based activities.  That’s just us but there are plenty of those options for if you wish.  For us it just about a slow pedal around the island on our bikes or a walk along the beach – or a hike up the Needle.  Personally I think a hike up the Needle is a must do for everyone.  It is portrayed as strenuous but it isn’t really that bad.  Oh sure you will be huffing and puffing and probably taking lots of breaks on the way up but that’s ok, you’re on island time, there is no rush.  It may be super slippery after rain so do take good care – is very tree rooty, so much so in places it’s more like climbing a ladder…. I’m probably not selling it to you so far.  But we get to the top in less than 40 minutes – so take deep breaths and go for it.  The views are worth it – although in saying that follow the signs to head down the other side – but only for five minutes – literally to the top before you start the real descent.

You’ll know where I mean when you get there – there the views really open up for you.  You can carry on down to the waterfall if you want – it is was our plan this year but we’d recently had heavy rain making the ground super slippery and last thing we needed was a visit to the hospital so we played it safe and went back down the way we knew (town side).

So this isn’t our usual “this is what we’ve been up to” blog posting.  This is more an information based blog – hopefully helping you make an informed decision about what to see and do if you visit Rarotonga.  In summary:

The island is around 32kms round – split into West, North, East and South – easy eh!  West side is sunset side with coral based beaches.  We stayed this side first visit and while loved it for the sunsets didn’t find it the best for swimming as quite windy and a rocky shoreline. North is the more touristy side – home of Muri for all your water sports and main tourist based activities.  Huge amount of accommodation and eateries.  East side for the sunrise and possibly least windy side.  Renown side for snorkeling – the tourist trips all end up bringing their groups out to this side.  South side – possibly least rocky side of island, less touristy/busy but prettier for walking/biking as predominately following water line for duration and best side for swimming.

Accommodation:

Self booking/self catering check out Rentraro.  We’ve always dealt with Eddie and he is super informative and helpful.

Hotels:

West side – Edgewater Resort, Sunset Resort; North side – Club Raro (between town centre and Muri), Pacific Resort – right in the heart of Muri; nothing really more residential and holiday homes with exception Little Polynesian but super expensive – if you can afford it though I’d be going there for sure – what a spot!; South side – The Rarotongan.  If we were going to stay in a hotel style accommodation I’d be opting for The Rarotongan due to its location on the South side of the Island.

There are numerous other options, the above are just a small selection of the main hotels.

Transport:

Hire a scooter but if you have to hire a car…… hire a mini convertible – you might as well look cool!  We use Polynesian Bike Hire for both our scooter and mountain bike rental.

Hire a mountain bike.  We opted for the jumbo bikes – fat tyres and while you’re not doing any off-road as such the roads are in such poor condition for the most part the fat tyres give you more comfort.

Church – a must do when visiting Rarotonga is attending a Church service.  Aside from beautiful buildings these are wonderful to attend and listen to the locals singing – nothing short of heavenly (I know but it couldn’t be helped).

Finally.  Explore – take the inland route, especially round the south side of the island, so lush and green.  Take the little gravel back roads – they usually eventually end up back on the main outer route but you’ll get to see where all the fruit/veges come from, get away from the traffic and can even discover some seriously cool rock-pools ………..

or hidden hideaways to just sit in wonderment.

Most importantly – relax, it is the very reason you’ve come here.  Take off your watch, turn off your phone, unplug, get outside, immerse yourself in nature – you will be more connected than ever

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy sharing their experiences with their guests and helping ensure they make the most of the travels to this part of the world – no matter where the Island paradise…….


The Road Less Traveled - Taking a Drive through Untamed Natural Wilderness

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 11, 2017

It is so easy to get caught up with following the mainstream – be it in everyday life and including a road well-traveled.  Sometimes we like to get in the car and just go for a drive – nowhere in particular.  Recently we decided to head out for a drive into the Grey Valley – Heart of the West Coast back country.

Can’t confess to be completely on a “let’s just drive mission” – we did have a general plan – sort of.  We headed out the Grey Valley turning off towards Nelson Creek and out to Lake Haupiri and beyond.  The road just keeps going – on and on deep into back country farm land.  There was just us and lots and lots – did I mention lots,  of dairy cows.  Their backdrop isn’t bad though – surrounded by natural untamed wilderness with hills covered in NZ native bush and intertwined with gurgling rivers and streams.  Almost seems unfair for them to practically have this backdrop to themselves.

Eventually, given the rainfall of late the road got a little mucky even for us – we sure didn’t want to risk getting bogged down out in the middle of no-where.  Oh we had passed a few farm houses but still feels like the middle of no-where.

We turned back and made a bee-line for Lake Haupiri which we had driven passed on route.  It was spitting the first time round and now – well I can’t say the skies had cleared but it wasn’t spitting.  In fact it was picture perfect.  Not a breath of wind affording us fabulous reflections – both of the surrounding untamed countryside and the moody clouds hovering above the mountains.

Was one of those moments in time where you could just stand there and reflect – excuse the pun, on the fortunes of life bringing us to this little slice of paradise.  Many say we are lucky to live here – in fact we often say it ourselves but in retrospect we choose to live here, we love the West Coast, we love the Grey District – we love the untamed natural wilderness and that doesn’t mean getting lost in a dense forest or climbing a mountain but untamed and natural – a wilderness almost as God created and where when it has been touched by man, nature soon returns to her natural beauty.

Next time think about taking that road less traveled – you never know the journey it may lead you on and the beauty you will discover.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They love nothing more than getting out and about and exploring the region and everything it has to offer.


Kiwi meets Kiwi - Paparoa Wildlife Trust

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 06, 2017

Stephen and I get to experience some pretty cool things living on the West Coast.  With our vast varying scenery – mountains, sea, rivers, lakes, native bush and oodles of history.  Our latest experience though would have to rate up there as one of the most fantastic we’ve done yet – and it is going to be hard to beat n the future.

We recently had the opportunity of meeting a real live Kiwi.  Yes folks Kiwi meets Kiwi.

In the back of Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountain range is a Kiwi crèche.  Set up by the Paparoa Wildlife Trust the crèche is the holding ground for juvenile Great Spotted Kiwi (Roroa in Maori).  The Great Spotted Kiwi are the largest of the four species of Kiwi and the most endangered.

We met Jo, the Trust’s dedicated Kiwi Ranger at the crèche together with another couple  – Alvin and Bev both originally from the West Coast, Reefton and Hokitika respectively but now living in Australia.  Jo explained the intricacies of running the crèche and keeping it predator proof.  We got the chance to learn more about this fascinating bird, its feathers (super soft) and egg-shell (super thin and fragile).  Jo goes into the backcountry of the Paparoas finding the adult bird (thanks to a transmitter fitted to their leg), monitors them and when an egg is laid, after a safe period the egg is removed and taken to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch where it is kept in incubation until hatching and once at a safe age/size brought back over to the West Coast to the creche where it will stay until around 1-year-old, a healthy age and weight to be released back into the wild where it can generally look after itself.

Kiwi birds are at their most vulnerable from egg through to one year old or 1kg in weight.  Then they are for the most part strong enough to fight off most predators.

After our quick lesson we head off to some scrub land where Jo is pretty sure the current residents of the crèche have their burrows.  We’re here to do the monthly health check on Poutini – the youngest of the three chicks currently at the creche. The scrub is thick with gorse and cutty grass and very swampy.  The chicks have a transmitter on the leg so Jo is listening intently for signs of the Kiwi.  We can hear the transmitter beeping away so know he isn’t far.

Jo is well experienced and fairly sure she knows Poutini is in a particular set of scrub grass – down she goes into the scrub, belly on the ground foraging to find the burrow.  There are some great moves going on – you definitely don’t want to be shy of getting down and dirty.  Two attempts with no luck but the transmitter is telling us he is definitely in here somewhere.  We can even hear him ourselves.

Down goes Jo for another attempt and this time success.  You can’t help but beam when she comes up with this little guy in her arms.

I’m lucky enough to be Jo’s assistant with this health check – that means I too get up close and personal.  Close enough to touch but of course I don’t – I just stare in wonderment.  Jo takes Poutini’s weight and measures his beak length.  This all helps with the data they collect on the health of the bird ensuring it is eating right etc.

She also changes the leg the transmitter is attached to – this is done with each monthly health check, that way as the Kiwi grows the transmitter doesn’t cause any damage to the leg.

We take photos of the legs as there is a new study being done regarding their legs and scales on the legs.  Up close the legs look very prehistoric.  It will be a fascinating study to read once finished.

Little Poutini is doing really well – putting on good weight and there is no damage to his beak.

All too soon it is time for him to go back into his burrow and be left to do what Kiwis do best during the day – go back to sleep in peace.

That was some experience – an experience of a lifetime and one not many New Zealanders get to experience for themselves so Stephen and I feel very privileged to have had such an opportunity. Huge thanks to Jo for allowing us to come along for today’s health check.

The Paparoa Wildlife Trust is a community conservation initiative dedicated to running effective conservation projects in the Paparoa Ranges near Greymouth. Their goal is to halt the decline of highly threatened native species.  Their main focus since incorporation in 2006 has been on management, research and advocacy for great spotted kiwi (roroa) in the south Paparoa Ranges – our backyard!

To support the efforts of the Paparoa Wildlife Trust we sponsor three stoat traps.  As it is a predominately volunteer run organisation they really do appreciate all the financial help they can get.  Most recently they entered the Trust Power National Community Awards for the Grey District and were awarded the Supreme Award.  This means they now go on to the National event come October and we certainly wish them all the best.

If you would like to help, they gratefully accept donations or you too can sponsor a stoat trap.  By doing so you will receive an annual update on what predators your trap is catching.  Check out their website to see how you can help. http://pwt.org.nz/support/

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast and love living in this little slice of paradise they get to call home.


Point Elizabeth Track - A little bit of Untamed Wilderness

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 25, 2017

The Point Elizabeth track would have to be Greymouth’s premier walking track.  Running from the shores of North Beach… north of Cobden and finishing at Rapahoe Beach just off State Highway 6 at the gateway to the Great Coast Road.

The trail meanders along the cliff-tops through semi subtropical rain forest and often offers great coastal views.  The Cobden end has information boards for many of the trees and shrubs which we always find useful.  The DOC website describes the bush as one of the finest remaining tracts of mixed coastal forest in New Zealand.  Even I’ve learned something new today……

While it is Greymouth’s premier walking track it is probably the most under-rated.  We often recommend this trail to our guests and they come back blown away by its natural beauty.

The trail follows an old water race that gold miners used to sluice their gold claims so is a great trail of history but without any remaining relics to oooh and aahhh over.  That’s ok though the bush gives plenty of reason for that.

Approximately half way you have the “Point Elizabeth lookout” – a great viewpoint of the gorgeous coastline as it winds its way north.  If you could see below you’d know there is a seal colony below you.  With the sea slowly eroding the limestone cliffs though you can’t see below only out so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  A walk along the Rapahoe beach though and all would be revealed.  What you can often see are Dolphins playing in the surf out off the rock stacks – now that is a seriously cool sight indeed.  No luck on this walk though – more of a summer sight than during a winter walk.

The second half of the walk I would describe more as untamed wilderness.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a formed track but the bush just seems a little more wild and unruly, the naughty kids sitting at the back of the classroom.

This weekend we had our good friends Bernie and Gerard visiting from Franz Josef – fellow b&b operators who own the beautiful Holly Homestead.  Always a good excuse to head out and showcase some of the local attractions.  The Point Elizabeth track can be walked in either direction if you arrange for a pick up at the other end or organise a car shuttle or alternatively you can walk in and out or just to the “point” and back out – whew, confused – basically there is something for everyone depending on your organisation and time.

Stephen and Bernie headed out for an early morning walk of the track – Cobden to Rapahoe.  A gorgeous way to start the day and with the views of the Great Coast Road and Rapahoe to end with, a nice way to end a meander through some natural untamed wilderness on the West Coast.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders this region has to offer and sharing and showcasing to anyone interested.

 


The Winter Blues at Punakaik's Pancake Rocks

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 18, 2017

When we think of the winter blues we think down in the dumps, the moody blues but for the West Coast when we say the winter blues we mean blue skies and blue seas and some of the most fantastic lighting for photography.

A great place to visit to get that experience of the West Coast winter blues is Punakaiki and a walk around the Pancake Rock formations.  With views in all directions, it is a great place to showcase the blue skies and blue seas.

Punakaiki is an easy drive from Breakers - just 20 minutes further north on one of the most spectacular drives in New Zealand and according to Lonely Planet one of the top ten coastal drives in the world.  aaahhh sometimes it's hard work living here in paradise.....

The pancake rock walk is the jewel in the crown for Punakaiki.  A natural phenomena, they were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.  Called pancake rocks because they look like staked up pancakes.  And there-in lies today's geology lesson.

It is an easy paved path around the rock formations giving great view points and helpful information boards explaining the geology, flora and fauna that can be found both on the trail and out at sea.

The walk is also renown for its blowholes at high-tide.  Personally I think too much is made of the blowholes as you need not only high tide but you need the right winds blowing and a good swell - often meaning a weather trade-off.  I think the walk is spectacular in its own right and a photographer's paradise.  If you happen to get a day for some blowhole action then just consider that a much added bonus.

Make sure you include the Pancake Rock walk at Punakaiki in your itinerary when visiting the West Coast - highly under-rated and great remedy for the winter blues.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this beautiful region they're lucky enough to call home.

 


Runanga Workingman's Club - History in the Heartland

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 16, 2017

Workingmen's Club are a type of private social club first established in industrial areas of the UK in the early 19th century providing recreation and education for working class men and women.  In NZ they are an integral part of small communities.  There isn't so much emphasis on education more on recreation so communities can socialise, play pool, snooker, darts or watch sport on big screen TVs.  Many also provide food and entertainment through quizz nights, live music etc.

Runanga Workingman's Club Wall Art

The Runanga Workingman's Club is a living education through its Historic Sports Wall of Fame, a photographic showcase of the numerous achievements of many from the community be it Rugby League, basketball, tennis, boxing, cross-country running and marathon running - just to name a few.  One example from the commemorate wall is Dave McKenzie.  Dave won the Boston Marathon 50 years ago and was invited back to Boston this year to join in their 50th year celebrations - a wonderful achievement for a young man back in 1967 from small town New Zealand.

Runanga Workingman's Club mural

Most recently the Club building has had a facelift on the outside thanks to two very talented local artists Mark Haldane and Les Holmes, showcasing some of the industrial history, political and sporting heroes from this small community.

Runanga Workingmans Club wall art

Runanga Workingmans club mural

These guys have done a most amazing job and driving past now you can't help but have a smile on your face.

Runanga workingman's club wall art

If you're visiting the Grey District make sure you allow some time to visit Runanga and call in at the Workingman's Club for a history lesson with the Sports Wall of Fame and the great art work on the exterior of the building helping tell the story.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Runanga Workingman's Club is in the small village of Runanga 7kms north of Greymouth on State Highway 6.

 


Historic Reefton - the Little Big Town

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 16, 2017

The small village of Reefton nestled in the Victoria Forest on the West Coast is immersed in history.  It may be a small village but it is big in every other respect.  So much history it practically oozes from her very being.

Known as the Town of Light, it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to generate its own power and have street lighting – beating even some of the posher suburbs of London and New York.  Not only that, it would have to be our favourite little town on the West Coast.

There is so much to see and do in Reefton but it is also a great place to just relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Relax and enjoy the scenery was the aim of our latest visit.  We purchased a little caravan over the summer and had been dying to try her out.  With a couple of fine days on the cards and no guests we loaded her up and headed up the valley to Reefton.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather – typical Autumn/Winter weather on the West Coast, mostly clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.

There is a great little walk you can do from town – The Bottled Lightning Powerhouse walk, over the swingbridge – a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike.  Yes we may have stopped here a few times……

You then continue along the trail following the information boards positioned along the rivers edge leading you to the site of the old powerhouse, giving you all the history regarding what lead to Reefton becoming the first place to have electric lights in 1888.

The Powerhouse walk was our walk of choice for our afternoon stroll with the boys.

Reefton is a town originally born from gold in the mid 1800s – first alluvial and then quartz.  In the early to mid 1900s the industries changed to coal, sawmilling and dairy.

The gold mining history has been embraced through tourism and Reefton has a very proud heritage and you can see that pride with the number of lovingly restored buildings around the township.

The next day we headed further up the valley to check out Larrys Creek track.  We’ve only ever biked this trail in the past and is a short flat fast flowing trail following the river up the valley.  Although the sun was shining, the trail is in the native bush so we were in the shadows of the trees for the duration and I’m happy to say I was prepared with my beanie and puffer jacket – it was a tad chilly.  Walking this trail instead of biking meant we had plenty of time to look up and admire the majesty of the trees towering above us.  We were completely submerged in a forest of green – I couldn’t help but sing to myself I see green, I see green, I see green (fabulous Split Enz song, except they see Red – NZ band for those of you who don’t know, highly recommend googling them).

The Larrys Creek trail meanders close to the river edge but never leaves the bush line.  Eventually it heads up the only little hill to end at the historic Robbie Engine and Duffys Mine.  I think each time we see Robbie he has deteriorated just a little bit more.  Mother nature eventually reclaims what is rightfully hers but we enjoy seeing all the old relics left in the bush and imagining what was.

There are some wonderful hikes and bike rides close to the village of Reefton in particular the Murray’s creek tracks.  After a bite to eat back at the camp site, Stephen headed out on his bike for a quick jaunt up the Murrays Creek track.  It is a nice meander up through the forest following the creek and taking you up the bush line passing lots of mining relics along the way.  I’m sure they were left to remind us the hard work our forefathers endured and giving us a reality check when we are huffing and puffing while out for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.

The Murray’s Creek trails are dual purpose – both hiking or mountain biking and certainly a favourite of ours to explore whenever we are in Reefton.  You can bike straight from town – only around 15 minutes down the road.  There are then options at the top of the trail to either come back down the same way or choose some more technical riding – down to the Waitahu River or deeper into the forest past the Inglewood and Ajax mine sites and back down the Konini Packtrack – right into Reefton.  Options, options – just comes down to time and fitness.

Stephen was on time constraint so he was just doing an up and back.  I in the meantime was spending my time wisely…… relaxing in the sunshine with the dogs and my book.

After a couple of relaxing days it was soon enough it is time to pack up and head for home – back to reality.  Thanks Reefton for our little break away – we will be back!

If you’re heading to the West Coast – make sure you include Reefton in your itinerary – so much to see and do and a wonderful history lesson.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this wonderful region they call home.