From Greymouth we drove North towards Punakaiki along the stunning West Coast road, stopping at Dolamite Point to don sun hats and stroll to see the distinctive Pancake rocks. Dolamite Point has a maze of underground passages and caverns which face the sea. At high tide the sea fills these up and water escapes through blowholes in huge geysers of spray. Unfortunately for us the tide was out which meant we did not see the blowholes in action, but we read about Cabbage Trees and New Zealand Flax, admired the views and marvelled at the dramatic rock formations. Then we sat in the sun eating ice cream and watching a coach load of tourists disembark. The brown Weka birds patrolled the tables in search of scraps.
Reaching Westport in the late afternoon, we crossed the bridge over the river Buller and drove down the single high street. New Zealand towns are usually laid out in grids, so if you turn left and right enough times you can get to where you are going without a satnav. We found our evening accommodation with minimum in-car bickering. Our children were subjected to numerous UK holidays where Dad drove while Mum used a map to navigate. They were convinced that they would end up as divorce victims. It has not happened yet. Getting lost is all part of the holiday fun.
We had chosen a Homestay for our one night B & B stay. We were greeted enthusiastically by our host and his dog, and were shown to a cabin in the garden which came complete with furry floor rugs, Wi-Fi, and indoor slippers. And a lean-to shower with no lights. The chickens and the dog looked at us curiously, as we admired the marrows and Brussels sprouts growing lavishly in the garden. Our host was chatty. He had been a coach tour driver in a previous career, and he was full of good humoured opinions about the pros and cons of different nationalities – including the dirtiest and the laziest. Don’t be fooled by the friendly Kiwi – you have to earn his respect. The dog demonstrated her party trick. She stood on her hind legs and caught a football in her front legs. We laughed. She thought it was a great game.
Escaping the joys of Kiwi Homestay entertainment we ventured out to find our supper. We drove to admire the wonderful Carter’s Beach in the evening light and to spot seal pups in the rocks at Cape Foulwind.
Then we found a friendly tavern in town and tucked into bowls of west coast chowder with garlic toast, washed down with Speight’s ale for Hubby and Monteith’s apple cider for me. We watched the sun set over the Tasman Sea.
The next morning we were served newly laid eggs from the chickens, with bacon, toast and some suspiciously luminous juice. Then we were sent on our way with a cheery wave.
The West Coast cloud had descended, hiding the fierce sun temporarily as we negotiated the garden gate and the playful dog. We retreated to the covered side walks of Westport, with its I-site and museum, to while away the fog.