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Author Archives: Jan Roberts

Motukiekie Beach and Rocks – Photography Heaven

Posted by Jan Roberts on April 21, 2017

Motukiekie Beach and Rocks seems to be becoming world-renowned.  It used to be a little secret only known by dedicated West Coasters and their friends – and maybe their family, and maybe some of their friends – and maybe some of their family…… you see where I’m heading with this.  Word is out!

Ziggy and Dean at Motukiekie beach

Stephen headed down recently with a photographer friend of ours.  Tides were perfect and Dean hadn’t been down on sunset before to see what all the fuss was about.

starfish on the rocks at Motukiekie beach

rocky shoreline and cliffs motukiekie beach

Well there is a lot of fuss.  The Motukiekie Beach has to be one of the premiere spots to catch the sunset.  Made famous internationally thanks to an award-winning photo in National Geographic, everyone and anyone now seems to want to head on down and chance their arm at getting that very same photo.  Personally I don’t understand the concept of wanting the same photo when there is so much opportunity to capture your own unique take on the scenery.  It’s not like the light is going to be exactly the same or the sun in exactly the same spot or the tide be out exactly the same distance – is it, or is that just me……

photographers at motukiekie beach on sunset

Anyway I digress as I often tend to do.  This latest excursion for Stephen was no exception regarding the number of people down on the beach.  Here on the West Coast we are more used to having either the beach to ourselves or just sharing with the odd couple.  Not Motukiekie though, not in the busy tourist season anyway.

photographers out on the rocks at sunset motukiekie beach

In all fairness it is nice to see people enjoying our beautiful West Coast scenery and wanting to capture it and not just take selfies – oh what’s with that phenomenon?!!

photographers photographing photographers mokukiekie beach on sunset

The majority of the visitors on the beach seemed to be from Asia and they were having a ball.  Most of all though I think they enjoyed watching Stephen and Dean.  They seemed to find what they were doing most fascinating.  Stephen got many a photo of them all taking their beach and sunset photos but also the odd photo or two of them taking photos of Stephen and Dean – very humorous.

motukiekie beach and rocks as the sun goes down

motukiekie beach on sunset

Once the sun went down the beach was soon deserted again.  Every one seems to know  the “golden hour”  of the sunset but the same can’t be said of the “blue hour” – the hour after the sun has actually gone down.  That can be when you can get your best photos and tonight was no exception.  It was worth staying on and waiting it out.  The boys were well rewarded – but then did have to make a run for it with the incoming tide.  All in all though a successful couple of hours at the Motukiekie beach for sunset.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  A paradise for photographers Breakers is a great place to spend a few days and make the most of the location.

 


Hidden World of West Coast Coal Mining History

Posted by Jan Roberts on April 08, 2017

Growing up as a kid down in Southland was all about farming – rolling green hills dotted with sheep.  In the winter our homes were generally heated with wood and coal.  Never gave a thought to where that coal came from until I moved to the West Coast.

The history to be found on coal mining is in abundance on the West Coast – much of it hidden deep in the bush slowly but inevitably being reclaimed by nature.  Some of New Zealand’s first coal mines were established on the West Coast.

We are lucky to have access to some of this history right across the road from Breakers.  To say there is a track in the bush might be pushing it a bit – certainly not a normal well-formed DOC track.  Is is more of a trail through the bush, under the bush and over the bush leading you through some magnificent ancient native forest including our own Nikau Palm trees and loads of towering Rimu trees meandering up high into the tree line following a little creek before coming to some coal mining relics slowly disappearing into the undergrowth.

Recently we had some lovely German guests Claus and Monika, staying with us that were interested in history so what better place to share with them.  With Stephen and Ziggy as  their guides they headed off to be immersed in a sea of green and gold.

The Nine Mile Valley hides a wealth of coal history including the school of mines – about three small mines we think were used as a training ground for miners back in the early 1900s.  You can still see the main drives and their return in the sides of the mountain among the undergrowth.  They definitely have an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding them.

After some delicate foot placement and wonderful balancing acts on the part of Claus and Monika the history lesson for the day is over and the intrepid explorers return back down to civilisation as we know it.

It is always a pleasure to share our backyard with our guests and share the beauty and the history of this region that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by day in and day out.  To see the smile on their faces upon their return and hear their enthusiasm as they relived their explorations was a pure delight.

Discovering our history – not just West Coast but New Zealand history is exciting and rewarding but even more rewarding is having the opportunity of sharing it with our guests.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring their “backyard” – nature’s playground.


Dreams Come True - Surfing Nine Mile, West Coast

Posted by Jan Roberts on March 22, 2017

Recently we had some guests stay – Bo and Harriett from South Carolina in the USA.  Bo’s dream had always been to surf in New Zealand.  Happy to say that on their recent stay with us that dream became a reality.

Bo and I had correspondence before their stay so he could find out the possibility of hiring a surfboard in Greymouth.  Living in a small town you are never really sure of the facilities but after a bit of investigation we were pleased to discover our little town of Greymouth could come to the party in the form of Westside Surf & Street – our local surf shop.  Hours of opening were perfect as Bo was able to pick up a board at 8am in the morning and not have to return it until late the following morning as they departed for their next destination.  This gave Bo the whole day to monitor the surf conditions and head out to catch a wave or two.

Catch a wave or two is exactly what he did.  It wasn’t the best surfing conditions but when you have a dream you have to take what you can get.  Bo made the most of the opportunity.

Best thing was seeing Bo when he came back up off the beach – with a grin from ear to ear.  His life-long dream to surf in New Zealand had become a reality.

Personally this would have to be a highlight for me too – so rewarding seeing the joy on our guests faces – usually that is just down to our beachfront location and sea views but in this instance it was seeing Bo and Harriett so happy spending a day watching and playing in the NZ surf.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Beachfront property affording uninterrupted sea views and of course plenty of West Coast hospitality.


Mountain Magic Atop Mt George

Posted by Jan Roberts on March 20, 2017

Whenever we do this hike there are two songs that jump straight into my head

Knocking on heavens door and sitting on top of the world.

Seriously the views from Mt George are boarding on ridiculous.  With some light whispering clouds off on the horizon we can see in all directions.  Friends asked if we could see Australia from up there – if it wasn’t for the haze on the horizon I’d just about say yes – ok so it is a little further away than that but seriously.  I could have sat here all day and soaked it up.

I have to admit there was a lot of huffing and puffing on this expedition – mmm so expedition might be pushing it, but given my current lack of fitness it felt like an expedition.  Turned out we were hiking quite quickly – thank you husband for those kind words of encouragement……

The good thing about hiking with my lovely hubby (obviously there are many good things but this one is important!) is that it involves lots of photo stops.  Well I’d like to think that is the reason we are stopping so often.  Actually it is imperative you stop on the way up to look back and capture the views.  Well not even look back – look all around – we are completely surrounded by ridiculous views.

Stephen is trying out a new camera lens and it is great as we can zoom in and really capture the essence of the hike for you all to see with us.  Perhaps we should approach the camper van company on this one – they could use it for their marketing.

The Great Coast Road has been named one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.  When you’re climbing Mt George it is not hard to see why, glorious coastline on one side, rugged native bush on the other and then there are those views to Mt Cook.   Insane on a day like today.  Actually it is a spectacular drive no matter what the weather but sitting atop Mt George in the sunshine with little or no wind we really do feel like we’re sitting on top of the world and knocking on heavens door.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring the many wonders of the West Coast and sharing their adventures and discoveries.

 


Greymouth Street Sprint

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

 

What a day – still puts a big grin on my face just thinking about it.  What am I talking about…. well that grin is thanks to the Greymouth Street Sprints sponsored by Mitsubishi and the Union Hotel in Greymouth.  Once an annual event there had been an 18 year absence since sprint cars were heard – well sprinting around the streets of Greymouth.

 

 

 

It started out relatively sedately all things considered but I think that was just the drivers getting the feel of their cars and a feel for the course.  By round 2 it was all systems go and if the drivers weren’t grinning from ear to ear, the crowd sure were.  Was brilliant looking around at the great turnout of spectators and seeing all the wide grins.

 

 

 

 

This was petrol head heaven.  Basically the cars were set off at around 30 second intervals and raced around the course as fast as they could go.

 

 

 

It was a really well organised event put on by the Westland Car Club in conjunction with the Blaketown School volunteering for marshals duties and collecting a gold coin donation for their efforts.  That’s a pretty cheap day out and I hope they raised a good amount of money.

 

 

 

 

 

While the sprint cars were exciting to watch it was the drift cars that really caught my attention and got my adrenaline levels pumping.  These guys were awesome and talk about having fun.  It was super fun to watch them but I suspect even more fun for them spinning their tyres and revving their engines – or whatever they do.   Man oh man though they were so exciting to watch.

 

 

 

There was such great support for this event with both the number of entries and of course spectators watching on.  It used to be a yearly event and hopefully given the support it will be again.  I’m off to phone my Dad – he would love this and be a starter on the spectators line for sure come next year.

Here is a link to some video footage too – I’ve got my grin back a mile wide just watching it….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRlbiZt5cG4

 


West Coast Wilderness Trail - Old Christchurch Road to Cowboys Paradise

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

It sure is nice to be back out on the bike again.  Not much time for riding over our busy summer season so we’ve (yes I do mean I’ve) been trying to get motivated to get some more time in the saddle.

 

 

When Stephen suggested taking a drive so we could do an alternative to our normal version of the West Coast Wilderness Trail I was all for it.  Our latest jaunt was to park at the Old Christchurch Road at start of the Kawhaka Water Race and bike out to Cowboys Paradise in the Upper Arahura Valley – and back again of course.

 

 

The day wasn’t perfect but was better than forecast – rain was predicted.  It was overcast but not overly cold.  It had rained overnight so the trail was wet in places but we were blessed with patches of blue sky and occasional blasts of sunshine.  Certainly made all the creeks and rivers look super stunning.

To be honest though, when we arrived at the Old Chch Road the last thing I wanted to do was go biking.  I’d developed a pounding headache and to top it off an upset tummy – really, in the short space of a 1/2 hour car ride!  gggrrrrr.  Well we didn’t come all this way only to drive home again so I popped a couple of pills and off we headed.  It was possibly the most uncomfortable 1/2 hour or so of biking I’ve ever done but thankfully the Panadol kicked in eventually and I could start enjoying the ride for what it is – gorgeous West Coast scenery.

 

 

It is a stunning trail of contrasts, initially following the Kawhaka Water Race through to the weir where it meets the Kawhaka River.  Here the trail heads through an old logging tram line in the regenerating native Beech forest skirting the edge of the river up into the valley.  Yes I say up – it is a deceptive track in the respect that you think it is a flat meander but it is actually a gradual climb in this direction for the most part.

 

 

Eventually the trail meets with the Waitaiki reserve and we enter an ancient Podocarp Forest as it makes its descent down through the forest and over a fantastic swingbridge spanning a deep gorge. Down, down, down complete with “caution steep grade” signage – mmmmm going to have to bike back up this……

 

 

After crossing the swingbridge there is a  bit more riding through ancient forest – some of the greenest forest with the trees literally dripping with moss, simply magic.

 

 

We round the corner to come to Cowboys Paradise with a bit more forest riding to reach our final destination in the Upper Arahua Valley with an aptly placed bench seat to sit and admire the fabulous views down into the valley below.

 

 

A quick snack and time to turn around and do it all in reverse.  We anticipate the ride to be a bit quicker on the way out – since there is more of a meander down than the meander up coming in.  Of course we have to negotiate the winding switchbacks back up from the swingbridge first but that doesn’t end up being as difficult as I thought it would be in my mind.

 

 

Soon enough we are zipping our way back along the river’s edge through to the water race and back to the car.  The clouds have all rolled in again but they add some atmosphere to the water race – giving some wonderful late afternoon reflections.  Despite the start, all in all a great afternoon out on the bike and some miles in the legs – got to be good for me!

 

 


Wheeling Through West Coast Wonderland

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

 

The Wheels on the bike go round and round, round and round, round and round, wheels on the bike go round and round – oh my gosh forever!  Can’t believe I’m thinking this but I could do with a hill climb about now.  We’re on a section of our ride that is a continual pedal – slight incline and seemingly going on  f o r e v e r.

The ride actually started straight into a series of hill climbs and then my thinking was hills are my friend, hills are my friend.  Funny how our mind-set can change depending on the moment.  Honestly though I would rather grind my way up a proper hill than grind away on a continual gentle incline – without any real respite.  Worse thing to do is of course to look up and see the road going on and on and on before you.

 

 

On of the saving graces is it is gorgeous in here – the back-country of Greymouth, following forestry roads and old gold mining claims.  We’re cruising along on our fat bikes – ooohhh I love my fat bike.  I often joke I’m out for ice cream – it is a Surly Ice Cream Truck but it is so cold today, we’re definitely not finishing our ride with an ice cream today. The other saving grace is a slight incline means we are constantly peddling and that is good for warding off the cold.

 

 

For the most part of the climb up into the valley we are on a well used gravel road before it then veers out on to a less used forestry road – more like a track these days.  It heads straight into a climb into the forest – this area hasn’t been logged yet.  As such the sun doesn’t penetrate through the trees very much and with a lot of rain of late it was a tad damp in here.  Made the trail fun though as water had been running down the trail creating ruts and making the ride a bit more of a challenge.  Great thing is our fat bikes just roll over everything – did I mention I love my fat bike

 

 

I always remember this last section being a fun fast downhill winding down through the trees.  Not so much this time – still fun and insanely beautiful but again due to so much rain of late it was extremely wet and rutted out and there had been much tree fall to so you couldn’t really open up and blast down too much – had to be semi responsible and take some care.

 

 

Of course going a little slower makes you appreciate your surroundings and again….. insanely beautiful.  Green as green – almost to the point of not looking real.  Stephen and I often comment that people won’t believe the photos – but honestly it really was this green.

Eventually we pop out of the forest and onto the main valley access road.  This makes it a nice loop track, meandering back along the metal road to meet back with the forestry block where our car was parked. We’re cold, we’re wet and our legs are a little tired but we’re feeling very satisfied – a great ride out in the back country of Greymouth – our West Coast wonderland.

 

 


Blackball - Discovering Hidden Treasures

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

Totally felt like we should be in an Indiana Jones movie on our latest adventure of discovery “A Lost World Uncovered”…….

 

 

We had headed to Blackball – little mining town inland from Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountains.  There was plenty of misty clouds hanging in the mountains helping give a real sense of atmosphere for exploration into some real West Coast history.

Blackball is ripe with coal mining history and the last time we were here on a walk of discovery around the town, we came across a map showing the various walking options and swore we’d be back to explore them.

 

 

Well our return visit may have taken longer than planned but explore we did.  Starting out with the River Gorge walk.  Without any proper signage to show us the way we weren’t 100% sure we were on the right track.  Shown on the outskirts of the township behind the Community Centre and described as a steep descent down through the forest into the river bed and then a walk up the river and gorge.  Well it was certainly a steep descent.  With only a very basic track down through the trees it was also a very slow and careful descent.  There was a slight reprieve in among a sea of green.  So green it was almost glistening and I was waiting for a fairy or two to come out and show us the way.  Unfortunately no fairies were forthcoming so it was onwards and downwards again with great caution.

 

 

The river bed is safely reached and all I can say is – WOW!  Huge boulders covered in more of those unreal greens, steep mossy banks embedded with huge moss-covered trees erupting up into the skyline, and yes green, green, green – top that off with a couple of waterfalls and we really had landed in GodZone.

 

 

The water was flowing quite deep down through the gorge as we tiptoed our way around the edges as far as we could.  There were mining relics slowly rusting away on the river bank.  We truly felt like we were in another world – could all this really be right here at our doorstep.  Yep!

 

 

We couldn’t see anyway through the gorge other than swimming and again with not really knowing if we were in the right place and what was up ahead, we felt it best to head back the way we came.  It was a fun hike back up the bank – clinging onto tree roots and hauling ourselves up – good full body workout, who needs to go to the gym.

 

 

We were parked up at the Community Centre and knew there was another hike within walking distance that would loop back to the car – the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob track.  I’m going to cover it in separate blog as it is another piece of significant West Coast history and a great exploration in its own right – deserved of a bit more blogging space……..

 

 

By the time we stumble back to the car after completion of the loop track we are well and truly ready for a late lunch and you can’t come to Blackball without a stop-in at the Formally the Blackball Hilton.  With tummy bugs rumbling noisily we ordered our lunch and had a nice chat with Cynthia the publican.  She informed us that the River Gorge hike is exactly what we suspected it might be – a hike/swim/hike and best left for a return summer visit.  Lunch arrived and I’m happy to say it would have satisfied Indiana Jones himself after a morning of exploring.

Our bellies may be full now but we weren’t done with our day of exploring Blackball just yet – we had one more area we wanted to explore – the old tunnels under the town. Yes I know – tunnels under the town.  Again – doing Indiana Jones proud we ventured down the obscure trail in the back of the footy field.  With our gummies on and armed with our flashlights two intrepid explorers headed into the undergrowth.

 

 

After a short scramble down through the bush and tree roots we found what we were looking for.  Hidden nicely in the bank with hanging mosses and twigs, it would have been easy to overlook if not for the little stream emanating out from the tunnel.  It was a crouch down affair to start with – an ominous looking tunnel entrance with a very watery bottom.  Shining the torch in though we could see it was worthy of a little explore, we were guessing this was the tunnel mentioned.

 

 

Well only after about 10 metres it opened up so we could stand and then it just kept going.  Stephen was ahead of me (with a better flashlight I might add!) and all I could hear was wow, oh wow, wow, oh wow.  Ok wait for me will you.  We probably walked for about 100 metres or so and the tunnel just kept going.  There were lots of side tunnels that had been blocked off – I guess for safety reasons ensuring no-one gets lost down here.

 

 

I may joke about being intrepid explorers but we’re not stupid (keep your comments to yourself please) so we didn’t want to venture too far since we hadn’t left our intentions with anyone to know to raise the alarm if we didn’t return by a reasonable time.  So out we headed again – back into the light of day.

What a day of discovery – so much wonderful West Coast history surrounded by some incredibly outstanding scenery.  I don’t think I’ve seen this much diverse beauty in one small area.  I probably say that all the time – we are just so blessed with all the things the West Coast has to offer.

We’re not done with Blackball yet though.  There are water race tracks still to explore – we need to get further into that river gorge and then of course there are those tunnels to explore deeper into too.

Thinking of coming to the West Coast – slow down and allow plenty of time.  There is so much to see and do.  Trust us we live here and we’re still discovering…….

 

 

 

 


Exploring the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob Walk

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

Recently we headed to Blackball  to explore some of their well hidden history all within walking distance of the “local”.  We’d already done the River Gorge trail (see blog) and continued on a little further down the road to explore the original Blackball mine site.

 

 

First up is the old bathhouse sitting on the roadside.  Now just the concrete shell of what was once a huge complex and stated as a requirement by the union of the day.  The information board along side tells us the story of how rewarding a hot shower was after a hard day’s work down in the mine and children were sent to the bathhouse for their weekly clean – my how things have changed!

 

 

 

From the roadside it is deceptive as to what is hidden further in from the huge brick chimney stack towering up from the bedrock.

 

 

The Blackball Coal Mine was in fact one of the West Coast’s major producers in its day so there is much history to see from the mine entrance and return airway, fan-house remnants (and this thing is huge!), remains of an old dam and drainage lines.  The mine was in operation from 1890 through to its final closure in 1964 in some form or another.

 

 

Leading off from the mine site there is a basic trail heading into the mountains.  Known locally as Kings Knob track, the trail follows a cutting through the hillside and heads deep into the bush.  It is amazing how quickly you are surrounded by the native bush.  There is a small creek burbling along side and the bird song is gorgeous.  Why wouldn’t they be happy in these surroundings.

 

 

Following the trail we head up the fern and tree-clad hillside – surrounded by….. yes you guessed it a symphony of greenery.  It is steep in some places – basically clambering up tree roots.

 

 

It is so worth the effort though as you pop out of the trees into a clearing – complete with picnic table to take in the surrounding views of the Grey Valley and over the Blackball township.

 

 

We take a few minutes to soak it all in and catch our breath before carefully negotiating our way down the other side – back into town.  Time for lunch and Formerly the Blackball Hilton is calling our name.  A great place to start and finish your Blackball explorations – with a delicious venison pie and pint of their best.

Now time to find the old gold mining tunnels that go beneath the township – where did that map have them starting from…….. so much history, so little time……

 

 

 

 

 


Lake Mahinapua Sunset Reflections

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 02, 2016

On a recent drive back from Franz Josef Stephen suggested calling into Lake Mahinapua just south of Hokitika.  It isn’t somewhere we visit often as not dog friendly and well it isn’t often the boys aren’t with us.  Not this time though – we’d just dropped them at their God Parents in Franz Josef for their annual holiday.

 

 

It had been a typical winter’s day on the West Coast – lots of blue skies and sunshine and our stop at the lake was timed just on sunset.

 

 

With not a breath of wind the reflections were outstanding. Just a light dusting on the mountain tops emitting a pretty pink hue and reflecting over the native bush and into the lake – pure magic.

 

 

 

It was lovely to sit out on the wharf and enjoy the peace and tranquility – reflect on the reflections……

 

 

A young couple were arriving just as we were leaving and it was nice to see them sitting there and soaking up Mother’s Natures gift.  A wonderful memory of their holiday to New Zealand and their visit to the wonderful West Coast one winters evening.


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