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Author Archives: Jan Roberts

The Winter Blues at Punakaik's Pancake Rocks

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 18, 2017

When we think of the winter blues we think down in the dumps, the moody blues but for the West Coast when we say the winter blues we mean blue skies and blue seas and some of the most fantastic lighting for photography.

A great place to visit to get that experience of the West Coast winter blues is Punakaiki and a walk around the Pancake Rock formations.  With views in all directions, it is a great place to showcase the blue skies and blue seas.

Punakaiki is an easy drive from Breakers - just 20 minutes further north on one of the most spectacular drives in New Zealand and according to Lonely Planet one of the top ten coastal drives in the world.  aaahhh sometimes it's hard work living here in paradise.....

The pancake rock walk is the jewel in the crown for Punakaiki.  A natural phenomena, they were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.  Called pancake rocks because they look like staked up pancakes.  And there-in lies today's geology lesson.

It is an easy paved path around the rock formations giving great view points and helpful information boards explaining the geology, flora and fauna that can be found both on the trail and out at sea.

The walk is also renown for its blowholes at high-tide.  Personally I think too much is made of the blowholes as you need not only high tide but you need the right winds blowing and a good swell - often meaning a weather trade-off.  I think the walk is spectacular in its own right and a photographer's paradise.  If you happen to get a day for some blowhole action then just consider that a much added bonus.

Make sure you include the Pancake Rock walk at Punakaiki in your itinerary when visiting the West Coast - highly under-rated and great remedy for the winter blues.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this beautiful region they're lucky enough to call home.

 


Runanga Workingman's Club - History in the Heartland

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 16, 2017

Workingmen's Club are a type of private social club first established in industrial areas of the UK in the early 19th century providing recreation and education for working class men and women.  In NZ they are an integral part of small communities.  There isn't so much emphasis on education more on recreation so communities can socialise, play pool, snooker, darts or watch sport on big screen TVs.  Many also provide food and entertainment through quizz nights, live music etc.

Runanga Workingman's Club Wall Art

The Runanga Workingman's Club is a living education through its Historic Sports Wall of Fame, a photographic showcase of the numerous achievements of many from the community be it Rugby League, basketball, tennis, boxing, cross-country running and marathon running - just to name a few.  One example from the commemorate wall is Dave McKenzie.  Dave won the Boston Marathon 50 years ago and was invited back to Boston this year to join in their 50th year celebrations - a wonderful achievement for a young man back in 1967 from small town New Zealand.

Runanga Workingman's Club mural

Most recently the Club building has had a facelift on the outside thanks to two very talented local artists Mark Haldane and Les Holmes, showcasing some of the industrial history, political and sporting heroes from this small community.

Runanga Workingmans Club wall art

Runanga Workingmans club mural

These guys have done a most amazing job and driving past now you can't help but have a smile on your face.

Runanga workingman's club wall art

If you're visiting the Grey District make sure you allow some time to visit Runanga and call in at the Workingman's Club for a history lesson with the Sports Wall of Fame and the great art work on the exterior of the building helping tell the story.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Runanga Workingman's Club is in the small village of Runanga 7kms north of Greymouth on State Highway 6.

 


Historic Reefton - the Little Big Town

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 16, 2017

The small village of Reefton nestled in the Victoria Forest on the West Coast is immersed in history.  It may be a small village but it is big in every other respect.  So much history it practically oozes from her very being.

Known as the Town of Light, it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to generate its own power and have street lighting – beating even some of the posher suburbs of London and New York.  Not only that, it would have to be our favourite little town on the West Coast.

There is so much to see and do in Reefton but it is also a great place to just relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Relax and enjoy the scenery was the aim of our latest visit.  We purchased a little caravan over the summer and had been dying to try her out.  With a couple of fine days on the cards and no guests we loaded her up and headed up the valley to Reefton.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather – typical Autumn/Winter weather on the West Coast, mostly clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.

There is a great little walk you can do from town – The Bottled Lightning Powerhouse walk, over the swingbridge – a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike.  Yes we may have stopped here a few times……

You then continue along the trail following the information boards positioned along the rivers edge leading you to the site of the old powerhouse, giving you all the history regarding what lead to Reefton becoming the first place to have electric lights in 1888.

The Powerhouse walk was our walk of choice for our afternoon stroll with the boys.

Reefton is a town originally born from gold in the mid 1800s – first alluvial and then quartz.  In the early to mid 1900s the industries changed to coal, sawmilling and dairy.

The gold mining history has been embraced through tourism and Reefton has a very proud heritage and you can see that pride with the number of lovingly restored buildings around the township.

The next day we headed further up the valley to check out Larrys Creek track.  We’ve only ever biked this trail in the past and is a short flat fast flowing trail following the river up the valley.  Although the sun was shining, the trail is in the native bush so we were in the shadows of the trees for the duration and I’m happy to say I was prepared with my beanie and puffer jacket – it was a tad chilly.  Walking this trail instead of biking meant we had plenty of time to look up and admire the majesty of the trees towering above us.  We were completely submerged in a forest of green – I couldn’t help but sing to myself I see green, I see green, I see green (fabulous Split Enz song, except they see Red – NZ band for those of you who don’t know, highly recommend googling them).

The Larrys Creek trail meanders close to the river edge but never leaves the bush line.  Eventually it heads up the only little hill to end at the historic Robbie Engine and Duffys Mine.  I think each time we see Robbie he has deteriorated just a little bit more.  Mother nature eventually reclaims what is rightfully hers but we enjoy seeing all the old relics left in the bush and imagining what was.

There are some wonderful hikes and bike rides close to the village of Reefton in particular the Murray’s creek tracks.  After a bite to eat back at the camp site, Stephen headed out on his bike for a quick jaunt up the Murrays Creek track.  It is a nice meander up through the forest following the creek and taking you up the bush line passing lots of mining relics along the way.  I’m sure they were left to remind us the hard work our forefathers endured and giving us a reality check when we are huffing and puffing while out for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.

The Murray’s Creek trails are dual purpose – both hiking or mountain biking and certainly a favourite of ours to explore whenever we are in Reefton.  You can bike straight from town – only around 15 minutes down the road.  There are then options at the top of the trail to either come back down the same way or choose some more technical riding – down to the Waitahu River or deeper into the forest past the Inglewood and Ajax mine sites and back down the Konini Packtrack – right into Reefton.  Options, options – just comes down to time and fitness.

Stephen was on time constraint so he was just doing an up and back.  I in the meantime was spending my time wisely…… relaxing in the sunshine with the dogs and my book.

After a couple of relaxing days it was soon enough it is time to pack up and head for home – back to reality.  Thanks Reefton for our little break away – we will be back!

If you’re heading to the West Coast – make sure you include Reefton in your itinerary – so much to see and do and a wonderful history lesson.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this wonderful region they call home.

 

 

 


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.