Thursday, 3 November 2016

Mapua to Greymouth


As mentioned we left a sunny Mapua on Monday morning heading to the NZMCA Park at Murchison.

We had a farewell dinner with Paul & Amanda at Mapua's Sprig & Fern Tavern the night before and when we left to head home the temperature outside had dropped dramatically, it felt like snow somewhere. And there it was, a light spring dusting along the Richmond Range. No wonder it had been freezing overnight, down to 1 degree at one stage and very chilly when we got up in the morning. The diesel heater got a late season work out.

We stopped at Wakefield for lunch and then scouted the town for churches. And found a lovely surprise- the oldest church in the South Island, St Johns Church, built in 1846.

St Johns was located atop a small hill so David parked at the bottom and I walked up the road passing this ostentatious property with a weird bronze statue at the entrance, on the way. 

What's with that statue? I check with Mr Google and all was revealed. That is Richard Nixon making his famous 'V' 'peace gesture in front of a replica White House. Really? Yes really. The property- it is for sale- belongs to a controversial businessman whose runs an international publishing company, Haldeman, which offers advice to help people begin careers in the mining industry, start their own radio stations or engage in personal development. A bit of a an eclectic mix there and he obviously hasn't followed his own advice. Read the links for more information.

I had a quick walk through town taking a few photos of the older buildings. While I was lining up this building a young boy was jumping up and down, prancing back and forward in front of me, pulling funny faces and poses at the camera. Rather than tell him to push off, I asked him if he'd like his photo taken. 'Yes please!' he said, and grabbed his Halloween mask to put on. Then he moved out of my way so I could capture the building. Sometimes you've just got to engage with them.  

This shot made me smile, the boys are heading uphill and in the wrong direction to catch some waves. Wakefield is about 30kms from the coast. Perhaps they were heading to a favourite river to ride some rapids.

We leave Wakefield behind and continue up the valley and over Spooners Range, through some lovely countryside. The scenery is beautiful, with lush spring growth, dairy farms with paddocks full of fat cows and healthy calves, pine forests and native bush in every shade of green, along with many abandoned buildings, old cottages and old style homesteads. One day I need to do a slow road trip through here so I can capture all the abandoned buildings.The early settlers in this area must have been a God-fearing bunch as there are more old churches per square mile than I have seen anywhere in New Zealand.

The last photo stop before we reach Murchison is to take shots of St Georges Church in Motupiko, which was built in 1897 and is in need of some tender loving care before too much more of it is reclaimed by nature.

I'm always on the lookout for a church as we pass through small settlements, some with nothing more than a couple of houses on the side of the road. Often we're cruising along the highway and I suddenly spot a spire or a cross through the trees. I shout 'Church' (I'm sure I'll give David a heart-attack one day) and of course he can't just hit the brakes. Well he could but that would create a big mess- inside and out.

We then need to find a turning point and drive back over the last few kilometres until we come across the church again. Sometimes he'll drop me off because there is no pull-in. Then he'll head off up the road again to turn around or I walk(run) to wherever he's found a pull off spot. Locals must wonder what on earth we are doing, it's not as though we don't stand out on the road.

By mid afternoon we've arrived at the NZMCA Park in Murchison and have grabbed our favourite spot just inside the gate. We (that's the royal 'we') don't need to unhitch tonight as we'll be off again in the morning. This is our third visit to Murchison, our last stay was for six days so we have explored the area extensively and there's no need to move outside the park today. Though we were excited to see & hear a number of kea calling out as they flew overhead, something we hadn't seen before.

There were some beautiful rhododendrons flowering around the park boundary and in particular this one at the back of our van. The colour of  flowers in the shade was stunning... 

....while the flowers that were in the all-day sun were a pretty shade of subtle pink. I don't think its just Taranaki that has a grand display of Rhodos. From Nelson, down through Reefton and onto Greymouth, many home and council gardens have beautiful displays of the colourful plant at the moment.

Next morning it's decision time. Do we head east through Lewis Pass or west, back to the Coast to complete some unfinished business. The long range weather forecast for the West Coast is not good, it says rain for the next two weeks and after spending our last visit waiting 3 weeks for the rain to stop, we're reluctant to repeat the process. 

But then again, we really want to see the nesting Kotuku/White Herons at Whataroa and David would like to fish a couple of the lakes again so we decide to bite the bullet and try the Coast again. We head off through the upper Buller Gorge, passing familiar sites and places we'd stopped at on our previous visits. It's a great feeling knowing we can pick and choose where to go and when to stop on this, our third visit to the Coast. We turn off at Inangahua and onto a new road for us, heading towards Reefton.

Our next overnight stop is at the Reefton Racecourse where for the grand sum of $2 per person per night we have this wonderful site with great views, all to ourselves. 

Reefton is another great little town with a rich heritage including many historic buildings. David actually knew something about Reefton which I didn't, he'd heard an item on the radio awhile ago about John Bougen, NZ's most travelled man and a multi millionaire (Dress-Smart founder) who has adopted Reefton as his home town. 

John has been buying up properties and pouring dollars into beautifying the town and restoring buildings. He mows resident's lawns on his ride-on mower and NZ flags fly off most of the town's historic buildings and businesses, all courtesy of John Bougen. Although I think he's overlooked a property across the river at Rosstown (below right).

Aside from the 1860s gold rush which helped establish the busy mining town, Reefton was the first place to have a public supply of electricity and the first to switch on electric street lighting in the Southern Hemisphere. Reefton has a wild frontier feel about it's main street, without the cars you could quite imagine cowboys riding horses down the street. 

We had a double chuckle at David's expense with a couple of signs in Reefton. The first was the 'Fresh Fish' sign on the end of the building above. David went wandering off down the road looking for the fish shop, thinking it would be nice to have fish for dinner! He obviously didn't see the '100 metres upstream' underneath. The road ended at the river.

And then he spotted this sign on the local hotel and we decided it went quite nicely with his standard response to people who ask where we are going next. 'Ask me tomorrow' he always says.

We broke the budget at Reefton and forked out for another night at the racecourse. We wanted to explore the old gold mining ghost town of Waiuta before leaving. You'll have to wait for a separate blog on that visit and also another blog on our stops along the way to Greymouth. They both deserve their own post. 

From Reefton we headed to the freedom camping site at Jellyman Park in Greymouth. You'd probably have a hard time guessing why we're stopping in Greymouth again. We're having the ute serviced at the local Ford dealership. And although it wouldn't have mattered if we weren't in the area, because we are David was keen to use the same workshop that serviced the ute 18 months ago and especially the same workshop manager who we met and enjoyed his company while camping at Lake Kaniere, the Easter before last.

We've stayed at Jellyman Park before and what a difference there has been to the coastline since then. There was a large storm a few months ago and up to 3 metres was eroded off the edge of the park. Not only that but the massive amount of driftwood had also disappeared (although I suspect that gets washed away on a regular basis). 

Jellyman Park, May 2015
Since leaving Murchison we've only have a few squally rain showers overnight and one massive but short lived thunderstorm this morning. We're quietly keeping our fingers crossed that the forecasters are wrong. West Coast sunsets are spectacular when it isn't raining.

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