Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sunsets, Churches & Memorials- Glacier Country


One last post from the West Coast to tie up some loose ends, before the rain chased us to Canterbury and then back to the North Island for the remainder of winter.

I managed to catch a couple of reasonable sunsets at Franz Josef, jumping in the ute and racing down to the river for this one when I saw the mountains behind turning a beautiful pink.

Often people are looking at the sunset itself rather than over their shoulder at the more subtle colours that appear on the landscape behind, especially when it's mountains and snow. Here's the sunset looking down the Waiho River towards the coast. I was actually a bit late to catch the brilliant gold that filled the cloudless sky before the sun disappeared over the edge, it's lost some of the colour here. 

You'll remember we were parked at the NZMCA Park in Franz Josef for about 10 days, most of them in the rain and with the park to ourselves. There was no point in moving on until the worst of it had passed and we still managed to do a bit of exploring between the heavy downpours. There's nothing worse than breaking camp in torrential rain.

We did have two little buddies who kept us amused; a Tomtit/Riroriro couple, who obviously called the bush that surrounded the park, home. Everyday we'd hear a little scratching at the window and one of them would be peering inside. They see their reflections in the windows and are trying to chase the 'intruder' off. That's the female on the left and the male on the right. They also attacked the mirrors and windows on the ute.

Everytime I stepped outside the van the male would fly in to check me out, especially if I wandered around the park's perimetre.  He's got his hackles up, perched on the gate; perhaps there was another male nearby.

The park was certainly a lovely place to be when it wasn't raining. Although when it wasn't raining the glacier tour helicopters were flying past very close, there were a few days when they started at first light and ran until dusk. A slight negative to the peaceful scene but it is a tourist village afterall.

Next destination, Hokitika. We stopped for a quick photo at Lake Wahapo, a brooding lake with very murky water and a drowned Kahikatea and flax swamp at the north end where the very wide gravel braided Waitangitanoa River flows in. I bet the fishing and birdwatching would be great in amongst there. 

We stopped at Whataroa, a sleepy town having a rest over winter from the many tourists that come to see the White Heron sanctuary. And it was here that I found the fourth and last in the church series; Our Lady of the Woods.

We headed north out of Whataroa catching a glimpse of the Southern Alps before crossing the Whataroa River- another wide gravel fan cascading down from the rocky mountains behind, and turned back towards the coast.

Another stop in Harihari to add more churches to my ever growing collection.

That's St Annes Catholic church at the top and sadly the church at the bottom is going the same way as it's sign...

Further on and we pull into rest area that has a number of memorials on top of a small hill overlooking the coast. 

This is the Surveyor's Monument Reserve and also the gateway to South Westland (if we were coming from the other direction).

Our next stop is the gold mining town of Ross, where once again there's hardly a soul about in the sleepy little town. Ross was settled during the 1880's gold rush and at the north end of town is the Ross Goldfields Heritage Centre which includes an information centre and a number of historic buildings and gold mining relics. You can also pan for gold. Once again it's closed up for winter.

Ross promotes itself as the start(or end) of the 136km West Coast Wilderness Cycling Trail which starts(ends) in Greymouth and passes through many areas we've already visited on the Coast including Hokitika, Lake Kaniere and along the canal where we found the Blue Ducks

We stopped into say hi to Matt Dove at the Totara Bridge Station (we know his parents & sister from Tauranga). Matt is in the process of developing a fabulous camping ground and accommodation modules for his "Coastal Container Retreat". It's right on the beach and is also strategically placed at the end of the cycle trial. It will be opening for the summer season and we'll certainly be back to check it out.

The sun set on our West Coast travels a few days later; we stayed a couple of nights at the Hokitika NZMCA Park but with more incoming rough weather forecast, we decided we'd really had enough rain to last a month of Sundays, so we made the decision to head back over Arthurs Pass to Christchurch to dry things out, do a few errands and decide on our next move.

Hokitika River Sunset


  1. Hi, I was just wondering how do you take these lovely pictures of your camper on the road from a distance ?? Do you walk the distance or does your better half drop you and then drive and turn around ?? LOL. Mukul

    1. Good question! Most of the time I walk ahead (or run). Occasionally David has driven off and down a circuit back towards me- I remember he did that for the Buller Gorge rock overhang. I'm always looking for photo opportunities and David does get exasperated sometimes with having to duck down or wait to get back in the ute while I'm taking photos. Makes for some interesting blog headers though. Thanks for commenting.


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