jen yu: new zealand 2007 - day 2

new zealand 2007 - day 2

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avalanche peak, punakaiki, greymouth
march 19, 2007
read about the day
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Rising later than usual at 7 am, we realized it had rained overnight. I peered out of the tent and saw blue skies. We packed up the tent and wandered over to the Visitor Center to inquire about track conditions and weather forecasts for Avalanche Peak. We were in luck, the forecast said the weather would be fine and just a little windy. Great! I commented on a stuffed creature that looked like a weasel and the ranger said, "Oh, we don't like these fellows, they are stoats and they kill the eggs of our native birds. They are non-native predators. If you see one, kill it."

Setting out from the Visitor Center parking lot (730 m, 2395 ft.), we followed the Avalanche Creek Track up through the forest. It climbs steeply (this should be no surprise for anyone who has hiked in New Zealand) past a beautiful plunging waterfall. Parts of the trail were scrambles up dirt, rock, and root - but the entire trail was gorgeous to look at.

Above bushline, the views of the surrounding peaks and valleys were stunning. We saw clouds scraping the tops of the peaks on the next ridge over, but Avalanche Peak was clear and bright under full sun. The trail continued to climb up the arm of the mountain, flagged by large yellow posts. At the junction with the Scotts Track (marked by orange snow posts), we encountered a curious kea who hopped about after us and even pecked at Jeremy's boot. Now the winds on the final approach to summit were beginning to gust. We followed the knife edge to the summit, crouching low at times. It was not a difficult trail, but the winds were strong enough to knock us over if we had been standing.

We did not linger on the Avalanche Peak (1833 m, 6014 ft.) for long and began the descent along Scotts Track, which is just as steep above bushline, but of milder grade than Avalanche Creek in the forest. It was a gorgeous trail, but punishing on the feet and knees. Once we reached the road, it was a quick ten minutes to the car. We continued driving west to the coast and turned north to reach Punakaiki before sundown. Punakaiki is home to the pancake rocks - limestone formations that have eroded in a fascinating pattern due to stylo-bedding. The scenery along the west coast alone was worth the drive!

Arriving just as the Visitor Center was closing, the young woman manning the center told us that the blowholes were not active since it wasn't high tide, but that the rocks were still worth going to see. We crossed the street and entered a dense, dark forest. The paved path led out of the trees through stands of tall New Zealand flax bushes (look like flexible yucca plants) and then down to the water. The pancake rocks looked like a massive city to me. Even though the blowholes weren't in full action, they were still very neat to look at. There was a lot of moisture in the air and the visibility wasn't great, but everyone walking the path was dazzled by the beautiful rocks and waterfront setting.

We knew we wouldn't be able to drive to Okarito before dark, so we opted to drive into the coastal town of Greymouth and grab a motel room. End of summer is still a very busy time for the coast, so we were lucky to get one of the last doubles at Aachen Place. The proprietor was friendly, charming, very sweet. He phoned the local takeaway joint for us and said we had 20 minutes to get there before they closed at 8 pm. We hurried over there for an order of fish and chips (actually, we ordered the seafood basket which I won't do again - just stick with the fish) and then swung by the grocery store for a few more supplies. We set the tent out to dry and went to sleep.

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