Friday, February 22, 2008

February 20, 2008 - Greymouth

Before leaving the Nelson Lakes area, we went for a short walk along the shores of Lake Rotoiti. We walked for an hour or so along the gravel foreshore of the lake, soaking up the views of the mountains rising out of the other end of the lake. Sten enjoyed spotting rainbow trout in the crystal clear waters of the lake. Then we found a path leading into the trees and walked back to the car park along a moss-lined path, under a canopy of red, black and silver beach trees, dripping with silver-green maidenhair lichen.

The Lake Rotoiti area is one of several "mainland islands" around New Zealand - areas where conservency groups are trying to remove and exterminate non-native species of plants an animals to give the native flora and fauna a chance to thrive. It seems to be working at Lake Rotoiti. The woods were alive with the songs of bellbirds, tuis and fantails. There were all sorts of interesting plants and fungi growing along the trail.

`One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.'

Water from the mountains above Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa flow out to the Tasman through a series of rivers. We spent the early afternoon driving along the Buller River as it descended from the mountains to the sea through magnificent gorges. A few kilometers east of Westport, the landscape began to flatten out and tree ferns replaced pine trees as we reached the coast. We turned south along the coast, driving through greenish brown coastal bush with a sparkling aqua blue sea just below us. It was absolutely spectacular.

We didn't see any penguins, but we did see dolphins surfing in the breaking waves. We also happened across a bus broken down across from a beach. They must have been there a while because one of the passengers came trotting up to us just as we were pulling out of the car park to see if he could buy any beer off of us. Unfortunately, we didn't have any.

Late in the afternoon we stopped in Punakaiki to checkout the Pancake Rocks, which are stratified layers of limestone and mudrock from which the mudrock has slowly worn away, leaving the limestone layers looking stacked like a pile of hotcakes.

The rest of the drive into Greymouth was even better than the stretch leading into Punakaiki. Offshore rock formations reminded us of the Twelve Apostles off the south coast of Australia.

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