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Category Archives: NZ Flora and Fauna

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.

 


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.

 


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.

 

 

 


Hidden World of West Coast Coal Mining History

Posted by Jan Roberts on April 08, 2017

Growing up as a kid down in Southland was all about farming – rolling green hills dotted with sheep.  In the winter our homes were generally heated with wood and coal.  Never gave a thought to where that coal came from until I moved to the West Coast.

The history to be found on coal mining is in abundance on the West Coast – much of it hidden deep in the bush slowly but inevitably being reclaimed by nature.  Some of New Zealand’s first coal mines were established on the West Coast.

We are lucky to have access to some of this history right across the road from Breakers.  To say there is a track in the bush might be pushing it a bit – certainly not a normal well-formed DOC track.  Is is more of a trail through the bush, under the bush and over the bush leading you through some magnificent ancient native forest including our own Nikau Palm trees and loads of towering Rimu trees meandering up high into the tree line following a little creek before coming to some coal mining relics slowly disappearing into the undergrowth.

Recently we had some lovely German guests Claus and Monika, staying with us that were interested in history so what better place to share with them.  With Stephen and Ziggy as  their guides they headed off to be immersed in a sea of green and gold.

The Nine Mile Valley hides a wealth of coal history including the school of mines – about three small mines we think were used as a training ground for miners back in the early 1900s.  You can still see the main drives and their return in the sides of the mountain among the undergrowth.  They definitely have an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding them.

After some delicate foot placement and wonderful balancing acts on the part of Claus and Monika the history lesson for the day is over and the intrepid explorers return back down to civilisation as we know it.

It is always a pleasure to share our backyard with our guests and share the beauty and the history of this region that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by day in and day out.  To see the smile on their faces upon their return and hear their enthusiasm as they relived their explorations was a pure delight.

Discovering our history – not just West Coast but New Zealand history is exciting and rewarding but even more rewarding is having the opportunity of sharing it with our guests.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring their “backyard” – nature’s playground.


West Coast Wilderness Trail - Old Christchurch Road to Cowboys Paradise

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

It sure is nice to be back out on the bike again.  Not much time for riding over our busy summer season so we’ve (yes I do mean I’ve) been trying to get motivated to get some more time in the saddle.

 

 

When Stephen suggested taking a drive so we could do an alternative to our normal version of the West Coast Wilderness Trail I was all for it.  Our latest jaunt was to park at the Old Christchurch Road at start of the Kawhaka Water Race and bike out to Cowboys Paradise in the Upper Arahura Valley – and back again of course.

 

 

The day wasn’t perfect but was better than forecast – rain was predicted.  It was overcast but not overly cold.  It had rained overnight so the trail was wet in places but we were blessed with patches of blue sky and occasional blasts of sunshine.  Certainly made all the creeks and rivers look super stunning.

To be honest though, when we arrived at the Old Chch Road the last thing I wanted to do was go biking.  I’d developed a pounding headache and to top it off an upset tummy – really, in the short space of a 1/2 hour car ride!  gggrrrrr.  Well we didn’t come all this way only to drive home again so I popped a couple of pills and off we headed.  It was possibly the most uncomfortable 1/2 hour or so of biking I’ve ever done but thankfully the Panadol kicked in eventually and I could start enjoying the ride for what it is – gorgeous West Coast scenery.

 

 

It is a stunning trail of contrasts, initially following the Kawhaka Water Race through to the weir where it meets the Kawhaka River.  Here the trail heads through an old logging tram line in the regenerating native Beech forest skirting the edge of the river up into the valley.  Yes I say up – it is a deceptive track in the respect that you think it is a flat meander but it is actually a gradual climb in this direction for the most part.

 

 

Eventually the trail meets with the Waitaiki reserve and we enter an ancient Podocarp Forest as it makes its descent down through the forest and over a fantastic swingbridge spanning a deep gorge. Down, down, down complete with “caution steep grade” signage – mmmmm going to have to bike back up this……

 

 

After crossing the swingbridge there is a  bit more riding through ancient forest – some of the greenest forest with the trees literally dripping with moss, simply magic.

 

 

We round the corner to come to Cowboys Paradise with a bit more forest riding to reach our final destination in the Upper Arahua Valley with an aptly placed bench seat to sit and admire the fabulous views down into the valley below.

 

 

A quick snack and time to turn around and do it all in reverse.  We anticipate the ride to be a bit quicker on the way out – since there is more of a meander down than the meander up coming in.  Of course we have to negotiate the winding switchbacks back up from the swingbridge first but that doesn’t end up being as difficult as I thought it would be in my mind.

 

 

Soon enough we are zipping our way back along the river’s edge through to the water race and back to the car.  The clouds have all rolled in again but they add some atmosphere to the water race – giving some wonderful late afternoon reflections.  Despite the start, all in all a great afternoon out on the bike and some miles in the legs – got to be good for me!

 

 


Blackball - Discovering Hidden Treasures

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

Totally felt like we should be in an Indiana Jones movie on our latest adventure of discovery “A Lost World Uncovered”…….

 

 

We had headed to Blackball – little mining town inland from Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountains.  There was plenty of misty clouds hanging in the mountains helping give a real sense of atmosphere for exploration into some real West Coast history.

Blackball is ripe with coal mining history and the last time we were here on a walk of discovery around the town, we came across a map showing the various walking options and swore we’d be back to explore them.

 

 

Well our return visit may have taken longer than planned but explore we did.  Starting out with the River Gorge walk.  Without any proper signage to show us the way we weren’t 100% sure we were on the right track.  Shown on the outskirts of the township behind the Community Centre and described as a steep descent down through the forest into the river bed and then a walk up the river and gorge.  Well it was certainly a steep descent.  With only a very basic track down through the trees it was also a very slow and careful descent.  There was a slight reprieve in among a sea of green.  So green it was almost glistening and I was waiting for a fairy or two to come out and show us the way.  Unfortunately no fairies were forthcoming so it was onwards and downwards again with great caution.

 

 

The river bed is safely reached and all I can say is – WOW!  Huge boulders covered in more of those unreal greens, steep mossy banks embedded with huge moss-covered trees erupting up into the skyline, and yes green, green, green – top that off with a couple of waterfalls and we really had landed in GodZone.

 

 

The water was flowing quite deep down through the gorge as we tiptoed our way around the edges as far as we could.  There were mining relics slowly rusting away on the river bank.  We truly felt like we were in another world – could all this really be right here at our doorstep.  Yep!

 

 

We couldn’t see anyway through the gorge other than swimming and again with not really knowing if we were in the right place and what was up ahead, we felt it best to head back the way we came.  It was a fun hike back up the bank – clinging onto tree roots and hauling ourselves up – good full body workout, who needs to go to the gym.

 

 

We were parked up at the Community Centre and knew there was another hike within walking distance that would loop back to the car – the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob track.  I’m going to cover it in separate blog as it is another piece of significant West Coast history and a great exploration in its own right – deserved of a bit more blogging space……..

 

 

By the time we stumble back to the car after completion of the loop track we are well and truly ready for a late lunch and you can’t come to Blackball without a stop-in at the Formally the Blackball Hilton.  With tummy bugs rumbling noisily we ordered our lunch and had a nice chat with Cynthia the publican.  She informed us that the River Gorge hike is exactly what we suspected it might be – a hike/swim/hike and best left for a return summer visit.  Lunch arrived and I’m happy to say it would have satisfied Indiana Jones himself after a morning of exploring.

Our bellies may be full now but we weren’t done with our day of exploring Blackball just yet – we had one more area we wanted to explore – the old tunnels under the town. Yes I know – tunnels under the town.  Again – doing Indiana Jones proud we ventured down the obscure trail in the back of the footy field.  With our gummies on and armed with our flashlights two intrepid explorers headed into the undergrowth.

 

 

After a short scramble down through the bush and tree roots we found what we were looking for.  Hidden nicely in the bank with hanging mosses and twigs, it would have been easy to overlook if not for the little stream emanating out from the tunnel.  It was a crouch down affair to start with – an ominous looking tunnel entrance with a very watery bottom.  Shining the torch in though we could see it was worthy of a little explore, we were guessing this was the tunnel mentioned.

 

 

Well only after about 10 metres it opened up so we could stand and then it just kept going.  Stephen was ahead of me (with a better flashlight I might add!) and all I could hear was wow, oh wow, wow, oh wow.  Ok wait for me will you.  We probably walked for about 100 metres or so and the tunnel just kept going.  There were lots of side tunnels that had been blocked off – I guess for safety reasons ensuring no-one gets lost down here.

 

 

I may joke about being intrepid explorers but we’re not stupid (keep your comments to yourself please) so we didn’t want to venture too far since we hadn’t left our intentions with anyone to know to raise the alarm if we didn’t return by a reasonable time.  So out we headed again – back into the light of day.

What a day of discovery – so much wonderful West Coast history surrounded by some incredibly outstanding scenery.  I don’t think I’ve seen this much diverse beauty in one small area.  I probably say that all the time – we are just so blessed with all the things the West Coast has to offer.

We’re not done with Blackball yet though.  There are water race tracks still to explore – we need to get further into that river gorge and then of course there are those tunnels to explore deeper into too.

Thinking of coming to the West Coast – slow down and allow plenty of time.  There is so much to see and do.  Trust us we live here and we’re still discovering…….

 

 

 

 


Nine Mile Valley's Hidden Coal History

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 30, 2016

 

There’s gold in them there hills – black gold!

 

 

Stephen had the pleasure of playing tour guide recently and taking a photographic artist into the hills behind Breakers to explore some of the fascinating coal mining history hidden away in the forest.

 

 

Chris Corson Scott is an artist based in Auckland and currently working on a project involving NZ history.  We met Chris and his partner Amanda on a recent walk up the 10 mile valley – turns out they found the 10 mile valley and its history thanks to our blog – now that puts a smile on my face.

 

 

There is much history in the Nine Mile Valley and loads of relics to photograph.  To top it off it would have to boast some of the most stunning West Coast native bush (yeah ok NZ native bush but we have the best here on the West….. no bias).

 

 

The sense of history oozes out from all the various relics and mine entrances – trying their best to tell their own story.

 

 

The Nine Mile valley is also a great example of nature reigning supreme with the bush slowly but surely reclaiming her space.

 

 

 

So love having the wonder of the Nine Mile Valley right at our doorstep – one minute we’re by the seaside with the pounding surf and the next we’re immersed in lush green forest and discovering some of the secrets of our heritage. That’s the West Coast for you.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring the region and sharing their discoveries for others to enjoy.