We left Christchurch on the Trans Alpine Scenic Railway, it’s listed as one of the top railway journeys in the world and I reckon on a clear day they’d be right !!
However it wasn’t a clear day, it was pretty good as we headed out through the flat Canterbury Plains but as we crept up to the 300m level at the very edge of the plains it started to get misty. The train follows the gorge made by the river Waimakariri as it wends it’s way up to the summit of the pass at just over 700m, despite the mist it’s still a fantastic trip and the views are worth the money. From the top it descends quickly through to Arthur’s Pass station before following the river all the way to Greymouth, on the way we went through at least 15 tunnels the longest is over 8km and over numerous viaducts and bridges. All the while you are constantly bombarded with incredible views, fortunately the train has an observation car with open sides…great idea !!
Here are a few of the best bits….
As I said earlier, worth every penny despite the mist over the top !!
When we arrived at Greymouth it was only a matter of moments before our bikes were unloaded complete with kit and we were on our way. We stopped briefly at the iSight to book a trip to Punakaiki (pancake rocks) before heading out to the Top 10 holiday park. The park is situated just out of Greymouth about 6km South and to get there we were able to use the Wilderness Trail cycle route. It’s another great idea by New Zealand but I just wish they’d seal the route as it makes it really hard with heavy touring bikes on a gravel surface !!
As we were in Greymouth for two nights and not wanting to leave kit in a ten while we go out for the day we opted for a cabin, not that much more than a tent pitch to be honest. We settled in, took a shower then headed out to the supermarket for a few necessities. Back at camp we caught up on email, Facebook and blogs before eating dinner, we finished just in time to catch the sunset….not one of the best but I’m sure there will be more to come !!
A lovely end to a great day 😉
By the morning poor old Naomi was suffering quite badly with an ear infection, she’d not slept well due to the pain, fortunately there was a hospital with A&E facilities close by. Naomi filled in the registration form and we waited our turn, sadly there were multiple trauma cases that we’re rushed in and we were told our wait would be long….come back after lunch !!
We explained about the trip we’d booked and they suggested a local community doctor that would be open later so we could go after the trip.
Naomi dosed herself up and when the car came to pick us up she was feeling ok so we went, again we were lucky in that we were the only ones on the trip so we had the whole minivan all to ourselves and Linda our driver acted as guide 😉
The ride out to Punakaiki takes about 45 mins and firstly takes you in land then over the headland before taking you back to the coast. Once back on the coast it gets pretty dramatic, you can see why people rave about this bit if coast…glad we didn’t miss it !!
When we arrived at Punakaiki Linda told us to head out on the trail and when faced with a choice to always go left, that way would show us all there is to see and bring us back to the start. It took about an hour to walk round and visit every viewing place, take photos and wait for people to get out of our way but it’s worth it, it really is an amazing place. Probably best to let the photos speak for themselves….
What a fantastic place !!
We thought that was it so we had a cup of coffee and an ice cream and waited for Linda to bring the minivan round. Instead of heading back to Greymouth she headed north, we were a little surprised but sat back ready to enjoy the ride, we passed through a small settlement and down a hill before passing over a river and climbing back up the other side. A few km later and Linda stopped, we got out and followed her along this trail. It was beautiful, it snaked it away through the densely packed tropical undergrowth and emerged on a rocky outcrop with a fantastic view over a shingle beach. There were steps down and of course we all headed down for a closer look. We left our shoes at the bottom on a rock and set of across the beach, we passed a waterfall and then rounded the head to find a large cave, the view back across the beach was fantastic. On our way back to the car Linda pointed out a little blue toadstool, I’ve never seen anything like it before…..absolutely beautiful !!
From there we headed back to the campsite, a lovely drive back along the coast with views from the opposite side this time. We arrived back in plenty of time for Naomi to make the doctors, I went with her of course. We waited a while, of course, and were charged but she did get some antibiotic ear drops and some good painkillers !!
So a few photos from our surprise trip….
Not the cheapest trip but it was one of our best in terms of scenery !!
Greymouth to Hokitika is only about 40km and it’s pretty flat all the way so we were in no rush to get moving in the morning. We ate a leisurely breakfast and at about. 10.00am we finally got going. Naomi’s ear was bothering her quite a lot but she gamely plodded on. The route south follows the train line and as you get to roundabouts the tracks go through the middle. On bridges the tracks run in the middle and it’s only wide enough for one lane, you have to be quite careful !!
After about 10km or so the road comes to a T junction and at this point you turn south onto “Glacier Highway”, gives you goosebumps thinking about what’s coming later 😉
Apart from a few bridges the route into Hokitika is fairly undramatic and it didn’t take us to long to get there. We stopped at a cafe for lunch before heading over the road to the iSight to see about a camp and possible trips.
Camp was only a km away so we went straight there to ditch our kit and freshen up a bit before heading into town. There’d been a sort of art festival on the beach and there were still remnants of some of the driftwood sculptures still left, the best was the towns name in huge driftwood letters !!
We met a couple of touring cyclists here and stopped for a good chat before we left to explore the cycle path along the seafront. It didn’t go far, it stopped at a river outlet and lookout point complete with old ship !!
We spent a little more time mooching about before we headed back to camp, Naomi was in some discomfort and it was obvious that her ear was troubling her !!
We’d had a good day, tomorrow might even be better…….
Our better day was not to be !!! Naomi had a terrible night and was in a really bad way come the morning, we stayed in the cabin until lunchtime and even then it was an effort for her. We did however manage to get into town and have a bit of lunch, visit a Jade workshop, a glass blower, a cycle shop and a sock machine museum !!! We also went back into town later for some very good and cheap fish and chips, a few beers (medicinal) of course and to top it all of, a beautiful sunset……
Looks like the west coast is going to be a great place for sunsets !!
Naomi still wasn’t feeling great when we left for Hari Hari in the morning, it’s a relatively flat 75km and on the way we’d pass through Ross, but not with out stopping for coffee first. Ross is a lovely little place, a bit quirky and eccentric but it’s got a great feel about it. It was once said to be the richest town in New Zealand if the reports of gold in the ground under it were to be believed. It has been mined and it now has a 95m deep lake that it never used to have, not to mention a few less houses !!
The scenery on our ride to Ross was also quite special as it was the first time we’d been able to see the tops of the mountains, they looked amazing all covered in snow and glistening in the bright sunshine !!
From Ross we made our way slowly to Pukekura and stopped for lunch at another quirky place called The Bushman Centre, it’s a shop, museum and cafe….we even tried the Possum Pie. You can’t buy a pie as the government won’t allow them to sell it but if you donate $4 to there charity they’ll. give you one for free !!
After lunch we only had about 25km left, we stopped at lake Ianthe on our way for a few photos and not so long after that we came to Hari Hari and the motel and campsite that would be our home for one night. As the weather is good we decided to camp, the place is really nice with free showers and free Wi Fi. Really good Wi Fi in fact and comfy sofas, that’s why I’m busy writing this blog 😉
Anyway here are a few photos from our days ride…..