Thursday, 17 November 2016

West Coast Wilderness Trail & the Whio


While at Lake Kaniere, and with David giving fishing a miss for the day, we decided to check out our favourite Whio/Blue Ducks at the Kawhaka Intake which is fairly close as the crow flies from the lake but a good 40kms by road. We have to head back to Hokitika before heading north and then back inland on the Old Christchurch Road. We took a shortcut once we reached Kaniere village, along a forest track and over Blue Spur and down the Arahura River valley which is lined with dairy farms.

Then it was 16kms up the Old Christchurch Rd before we turn onto a familiar track (another 10kms further on and the road exits on to SH73, the Otira Highway to Arthurs Pass). This must be our 3rd or 4th visit to this special part of the Coast.

A 5km track runs along the bank beside the deep, dark and seemingly still waters of the canal... 

...passing several small coves...

...and a couple of larger pools along the way. The white foam spreading out over the pond is natural and comes from an inlet waterfall where it's thick and frothy as it enters the canal.

At the end of the track is a carpark...

...and the Kawhaka Intake, the water used to generate power further downstream.

The canal road we've just travelled and the track that carries further on up the river and onto Lake Kaniere is part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail, a 139km multiday bike trail that is very popular and very scenic. When we first visited this area a couple of years ago, we had the area to ourselves, the next time we saw a few people on bikes, this time we saw a few dozen. The Kawhaka section is also a very popular day trail. 

The Kawhaka Creek splits in two on the other side of the dam wall; part of it entering the inlet holding tank (up above) before continuing on down the canal. The other half spills over the dam wall and continues on down the natural water course.

On the other side of the inlet and dam wall the river stretches off up the valley. It's here and along the early part of the canal that we've found the whio/blue ducks in the past. I thought we'd probably not see the ducks in the canal (where we'd seen them up close previously) because if they were breeding they would have a nest up the river. If they had ducklings there would be no way they could get into the canal as the adults fly there to feed.

We climbed to the top of the dam bank and scanned the river for the ducks including the rocky beach where they sometimes rest and the rapids further up the river. We were disappointed but it wasn't a surprise not to find them.

We walked back tho the ute and had some lunch overlooking the reservoir...

...before deciding to walk up the trail a couple of kilometres to where the track met the river once again and where we could see on our map, a walk-wire crossed the water. We thought we might be able to scan the river there for the whio. 

Along the way we were passed by several cyclists. The track was a once an old stage coach and supply route to the Waimea goldfields.

It was a surprise to find the bush covered track suddenly opened up wide to reveal a small ramshackle farm...

...complete with one friendly but lonely bull (I actually have no idea if he was friendly or not but I assume he was given that there was just a single electric(?) wire separating him from us. 

The small paddocks were littered with overgrown wrecks in typical West Coast style.

And high up on the hill across the river was a small 'off the grid' abode.

This is 'The Farm' of Mr Paul Sinclair and until the cycle trail opened he'd have lived a charmed but isolated life deep in the West Coast bush. Now he's set up a 'coffee cart' at his front gate where he can boil the billy while chatting to people who stop on their way past, he even has a chalkboard sign 'Sinclair is in'  

He also takes people on tours around his farm and the old Waimea water race and goldfield settlement. He has an old flying-fox for access over the river when it's in flood, the 'walk-wire' we'd seen on our map.  This is a man making the most of the opportunities that pass by his gate. He is also the local trapper, protecting and monitoring our Blue Ducks.

We had a look up and down the river but still didn't see an ducks. A few more cyclists passed by while we were looking. This section of the track looks to have been washed away and repaired recently. We headed back to the carpark...

...taking one last look up the river when we reached the dam wall., it can't be...

...two blue ducks chilling out on the rocky beach. I couldn't believe my eyes. There they were resting on the beach exactly where we'd seen them on one of our previous visits. They had arrived while we were walking up the river. They definitely weren't there the first time we looked but I still had to check the earlier photo (up near the top of this blog) just to be sure.

It was a thrill to see them again although it would have been better if they'd had ducklings with them or were in fact sitting on a nest somewhere. I wonder if they've lost their brood already or possibly haven't nested yet. I've sent a query to Hokitika DOC to find out. I waited for 20 minutes or so to see if they felt inclined to move closer but they stayed put. Which was fine, I have plenty of Whio photos.

We drove slowly back along the canal, admiring the reflections, checking for more bird life...

...and wondering at the close call the driver of the vehicle that ran off here had. 

Back on the road we stopped to let this gangly and dare I say it, slightly ugly, pukeko chick run across in front of us. I love his developing blue bib...

...and his extra big feet! (apologies for the slightly out-of-focus shots- he was running fast!) 

While we haven't ridden the West Coast Wilderness Trail, we've visited and walked in a number of the sections and I'd have to say that if I was looking at cycling one of the many trails around New Zealand then this one would be up near the top of my list. 

The scenery is spectacular from pristine wetlands near the coast to luxuriant bush and forested valleys ringed by snow capped mountains just a few kilometers inland. There's historic water races and reservoirs, crystal clear rivers and stunning lakes, along with old gold mining fields and settlements and many beautiful old rail bridges. And then of course there's the prolific birdlife.

Taken on a previous visit to the Whio


  1. I see you refer to Lake Kainere -- do you mean Kaniere? or are there two lakes? (MaggieB)

    1. I small faux-paus, if you check for the 3-4 blogs written last year when we stayed at the lake for 2 weeks you'll see it is spelt right- one of the blogs is here-
      Unfortuately, when there's limited internet and I'm in a hurry I can't do the double checking I usually do before posting a blog. Thanks for letting me know.

  2. Hi Guys,
    This morning when your "Two Go Tiki Touring" blog came through, I clicked on your headline and opened your blog in Chrome. After around half an hour of trying to load your photos in full-page I gave up as they simply loaded sooooo slowly, in fact would not load. I have tried again this evening and they load instantly!
    So what?
    Well, I can only presume that you have so many people following your fascinating blogs that when they all try to load them in a browser, the web-site simply bogs down. :-)
    Keep up the good work as I presume many others, like us, refer to them frequently when we get to do more vanning around our beautiful country.

    1. Hi there, interesting observation. Keep an eye on it for me and let me know if it happens regularly, hopefully not and it's just a minor glitch.
      Thanks for your kind words, glad you're still enjoying the blog and hope you guys came through the 'quake unscathed, except for your nerves of course.

  3. Hi I am the trapper of Trapper Rest. Yistors welcome. If the fire is going and I not a bout help yourselves to Billy tea or coffee. Those Cycling Tour Aoteato have stop and even leave a messages thanks. Camping with hot shower available, donations to bank account found om business card by the Waimea Race interpasuon panel on the cattle yards load out ramp. thank for your surport.

  4. Hi Paul, lovely to hear from you and I'm sure I can say many thanks for your hospitality from the many people that pass by your humble abode. You have a wonderful spot there in the wilderness, how I'd love to have Whio in my front garden!


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