Punakaiki Rocks | New Zealand

Punakaiki Rocks | New Zealand

Days 13-16

new zealand, adventures, family travel

Off to the South Island!  We needed to leave at 6:00 and it must’ve been nearly 6:30 before we left.  Within 30 minutes the Mazda was climbing into the Mountain Range, and the clouds and moisture in the air combined for some excellent rainbows.  We were running late, but these rainbows couldn’t be missed, so we stopped for some pictures.  The Interislander ferry was BIG - it fit passenger cars, tractor trailers and even rail containers in its hull, still managing to ply the Cook Strait and cross islands in less than 4hrs time.  You could climb up to 8 floors in the boat from the cargo hold all the way up to the mezzanine, but we spent 75% off our time on the floor with the kid’s play area.  A ball pit, slides and a indoor jungle gym were combined with a coffee shop and full bar, a great combination in my opinion.  When the girls would tire of playing we’d head to the deck and look outside at the passing scenery, which included jumping dolphins, the Wellington skyline, and vast wind farms lining the ridges of the Cook Strait.  We exited in Picton and started the third act of the day, the drive from Picton to Punakaiki.  This was the prettiest drive for me, we passed the vineyards of Blenheim first, seeing giant blocks of Sauvignon Blanc roll down the stony slopes to the Wairau River.  Then the river gorge tightened as we approached the New Zealand Divide.   From this point on, we followed a small creek as it picked up steam and gathered water, moving toward the Tasman Sea.  The Buller River Gorge was comprised of narrow switchbacks and chiseled hairpin turns carved into the cliff face.  We wished we could’ve stopped to visit the swinging bridges crossing the canyon, or one of the old gold mining towns, but we were running against the clock to make it to the coast by nightfall.  We exited the Buller Gorge as it widened toward the Tasman Sea, making its exit at the town of Westport, then we’d reached the wild and wonderful Punakaiki Coast.  The jungle was so thick near the house that, despite there being an hour of light remaining, the forest floor was nearly pitch black from the dense canopy.  I turned around and figured I’d give it another try in the AM, we clearly weren’t on the North Island anymore.

 

ferry_1ferry_2hawkesbay_1

The Truman Track led us to a deserted beach surrounded by cliffs with waterfalls and enormous caves, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen!  We climbed rocks, played in a water fall and Pops went "rock skating" which ended as you may expect... with a bruised finger and face. pancake_rock_2pancake_rock_3pancake_rock_4pancake_rock_5pancake_rock_6pancake_rock_7

Pops and I went horse back riding, we walked through a rushing rivers several times which Pops was afraid of at first and then wanted to try to do it without our guide holding the lead line. The river let us to the beach which was bordered by cliffs and had tents built of sticks all along the rivers edge.  This was one of the most magical experiences!

pancake_rock_8

Many thanks to our amazing guide for the photo of Pops and I walking through the river!

pancake_rock_9

We headed down to Pancake Rocks and realized they had a big tourist following.  Dozens of people were crowding the trail, which was flat and well-marked, so Peaches walked along at her own pace, stopping from time to time to admire the waves crashing against the cliff.  The ocean has eroded sandstone in irregular formations and patterns, but the overall effect is that the stone appears to have flattened layers and edges resembling stacks of pancakes.

pancake_rocks_1