Lake Mahinapua Sunset Reflections

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.

Lake Mahinapua reflections

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.

lake mahinapua mountain reflections

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.

lake mahinapua reflections on sunset

lake mahinapua reflections of sunset

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

lake mahinapua reflectings

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.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders that help make up this beautiful region they are lucky enough to call home.

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Exploring the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob Walk

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.

blackball bathhouse site from first mine

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!

blackball mine site and brick chimney stack

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

historic blackball mine site

blackball original mine site fan house and fan

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.

blackball kings knob hike

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.

blackball forest walk kings knob

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.

blackball views of township

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.

formally the blackball hilton

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……

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring and discovering and learning the history of this wonderful region – West Coast of the Southern Alps.

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Fat Biking Rapahoe Beach, Great Coast Road

There are lots of great mountain biking opportunities on the West Coast and with the right bike that includes mile after mile of pristine beaches.

What’s that song Freddy sings “fat bottom girls you make this rock’n world go round” – well in this case it is fat bikes!  Stephen and I both have fat bikes and we love them.  We take any excuse to go for a ride on them and they are ideal for exploring the numerous West Coast beaches.

biking great coast road Greymouth

biking rapahoe beach at 8 mile

Lucky for us is that many of the accessible beaches are really close to home – one being the Rapahoe beach just a little to the south.  With a quick ride down the main highway we’re soon pedaling along the water’s edge.  From the eight mile to Rapahoe is usually stony but once across the seven mile creek it’s a flat sandy beach into the corner of Point Elizabeth.

biking along rapahoe beach

A beautiful winter’s day cries out for a fat bike ride on the beach and who are we not to oblige…….

biking rapahoe beach as Tasman Sea comes in

Sun is shining and it feels more like a summer’s day than middle of winter.  The sea almost looking inviting enough to go for a swim – I did say almost.

biking rocky outcrop rapahoe beach

There are some fun rocky outcrops to muck about on and I want to say test your skill but with the fat bike you just roll over everything….. well just about everything.  Nicely captured hubby!  Actually no human was hurt in the making of this blog – I had actually stopped already and my foot slipped out from under me and… the rock was wet with a coating of slippery sand………. it did – it was!!!!!

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

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Blackball – Discovering Hidden Treasures

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

misty mountains above Blackball

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.

blackball forest walk

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.

River gorge Blackball

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.

river gorge relics blackball

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!

river gorge and waterfall blackball

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.

historic blackball mine site

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……..

formally blackball hilton blackball

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.

tunnel entrance blackball

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.

tunnel exit blackball

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.

exploring the tunnels beneath Blackball township

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…….

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this wonderful region West Coast of the Southern Alps – Untamed Wonderland.

 

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Wheeling Through West Coast Wonderland

mountain biking greymouth back country

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.

mountain biking greymouth back blocks

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.

mountain biking forestry blockFor 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:-)

mountain biking greymouth forestry blocks

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.

mountain biking greymouth forestry back country

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.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring all things West Coast.

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West Coast Wilderness Trail – Old Christchurch Road to Cowboys Paradise

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.

west coast wilderness trail forest of green

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.

west coast wilderness trail flowing water

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.

west coast wilderness trail through the beech forest

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.

west coast wilderness trail swingbridge

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……

west coast wilderness trail fairyland

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.

west coast wilderness trail admiring the views

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.

west coast wilderness trail cowboys paradise

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.

west coast wilderness trail water race reflections

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!

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.

 

 

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Greymouth Street Sprint

greymouth street cars lining up for racing

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.

greymouth street sprint racing

greymouth street sprint racing rally cars

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.

greymouth street sprint

greymouth street sprint car racesgreymouth street sprint car racing

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.

greymouth street sprint cars line up

greymouth street car sprints

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.

greymouth street sprint drift cars

greymouth street sprint car drifters

greymouth street sprint drifting

greymouth street sprints drift cars racing

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.

greymouth street sprints

greymouth street sprint drift

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

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and supporting any local events.

 

 

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