The West Coast
After spending the night on a tiny, really new Campground near Hoktika, we had a nice breakfast of pancakes with maple sirup before getting back on the road.
Our first stop today was the Hokitika Gorge. It was a lot further out in the inland than we expected, but it was well worth the detour. The walk itself is a short one, after the first few stept you already get your first glimpse across the gorge, then it's just a swingbridge and a few meters more to walk to actually get down to the river. The Gorge itself is a bit surreal. We had seen pictures and we though we knew what to expect, but once we actually got there we were still blown away by the view. Obviously we also had a good day to visit the Gorge - not much rain in the days before - so the water was almost incredibly blue. Even though we know that the almost unnatural milky blue is due to the sediments in the water, and of course we had seen it before at Tekapo, it's still hard to believe.
After visiting the Gorge we drove on. And had a short fight. This drive up the West Coast, albeit a beautiful road trip, was stressing us out a little bit. We had never really prepared for the time after the trail and hadn't planned our route beforehand. We were at a loss at what interesting places could be found along the road, which we would be able to visit in the short time we had, and which we'd have to skip.
There was a ghost town that we wanted to visit along SH7, but the Pancake Rocks that we also wanted to see were further up the road at SH6. We couldn’t drive up one way and down again to do both due to our limited time frame, so in the end we decided to go see the Pancake Rocks. But we also decided that we had to stop thinking once again about what fit in our time frame, and what the "must-see" places where, but rather let the drive itself be the destination. We knew that it really would be enough for us to just enjoy the amazing landscape all around us. Just as we had on the trail.
So instead of planning the sightseeing stops themselves, we wanted to only plan the general route, and just stop whenever we felt we came across an interesting place. No when the tourist maps and guides told us that this would be a stop that we had to include in our itinerary.
That way we went back to stopping every now and then at the side of the road, get out the car, take a few deep breaths or maybe have a picnic, snap a few pictures, before continuing on our way.
The stacked rocks themselves are a interesting sight, just because it’s such a strange formation. But we thought the caverns and arches, formed by the restless sea eating away the rocks, were even more impressive. In high tide and with a bit of wind they turn into blowholes, shooting up geysers of water when the waves come crashing in and the water is pressed through fine cracks and tunnels in the rocks. Unfortunately it was neither high tide nor high wind when we got there, and we didn’t get to see the blowholes in action. We found the structures themselves amazing anyways.
Since a day without at least a short walk is not really a good day on our trip. So once we had driven around almost all day, it was afternoon and we hadn't really done any walking yet, we had to get out of the car. We were almost at Westport and then decided to go see Cape Foulwind and its seal colony. The Cape Fouldwind Walkway from there to the Lighthouse at the other side of the bay is 3km one way and therefore made a good opportunity to give our feet something to do after sitting for so long, but on the other hand didn't take too long, since we still wanted to drive a bit further today.
We watched the seals for a short while, before walking towards the Lighthouse. The walkway was almost deserted, even though it offered really nice views of the Cape and the bays. We met one young couple and a family with three small children, but other than that there wasn't anyone on the whole stretch. That was alright for us.
The lighthouse wasn't as impressive or pretty as we had hoped once we came up close, so we didn't really spend any time there, but instead walked around one time, and then returned on the Cape Fouldwind Walkways to get back to the seal colony, and the carpark where we had left our car.
For the nights stay we were aiming to get to the Lyell DOC Campsite. By the time we continued our drive it was early evening, and when we finally arrived at Lyell Campsite it was already prime time for Sandflies. The campground was alight and had nice flat places for us to set up our tent, but it was the worst case of sandflies we had experienced since leaving the TA and sleeping in our tent more regularily once again. We were basically eaten alive.