Wow that was a wild night – gale force winds and heavy rain on and off. Windows were rattling and I lay in bed thinking mmmmm is everything secure out there.
No need to worry – all was safe in the morning and even though heavy rain was forecast to continue during the day there was patchy blue skies with outbreaks of sunshine. We decided to make the most of it and the fact that the seas were huge and head north of us, up to Punakaiki to see the pancake rock formations and blowholes.
30kms along some stunning coastline – no bias at all there folks. Seriously, this has been voted one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet so it isn’t just me who thinks so!
The good thing – or one of the good things about visiting these sightseeing spots at this time of the year is there is hardly anyone here. In the height of the season they can be quite the metropolis, bustle, bustle, people everywhere. Plenty of space in the car park today though – think there may be only three other vehicles. Loaded up with camera gear we walk across to the entrance. An eerie darkness descends over us – mmmmmm maybe we’ll have a coffee at the cafe before we do this walk. We quickly walk across the road and just in time as the heavens open and it absolutely buckets down. Some unfortunate sightseers appear out of the downpour and to say they looked like drowned rats would probably be an understatement. There was lots of laughter though and they all seemed to take it in their stride.
The storm soon passed, coffee was finished so we headed back for another go. The walk around the pancake rocks is an easy paved path. We always tell our guests to allow anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to explore. There are numerous lookout points and the rock formations and surging seas are quite mesmerizing. Throw some blowhole action in and there goes your hour!
We had some luck for our walk even though our timing wasn’t quite right as the blowholes work best about 1 hour before high tide and we were about 1 hour after high tide. Given the huge seas though there was plenty of swell and surf and we were rewarded for getting out of the house with the occasional explosion from the rocks.
Why are they called pancake rocks you may ask – well because they look like stacked up pancakes of course! But ok – thanks to our local Department of Conservation here is the official explanation:
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.
Still look like stacked up pancakes to me……
Had to include this photo – a little indulgence on my part folks but I loved this – looks like an ancient drawing on rocks …… but it’s just the reflections of people waiting for the blowholes to do their thing. I thought it was cool anyway.
Onwards we go with more sights to see, either the amazing rock formations or the raging sea coming in. Some of the rocks take on their own personalities and it is fun to look and imagine the sea monsters and sea creatures they once were. This is a particularly popular lookout with information panels of photos showing you the monsters in the rocks. Can you see some?
Our walk comes to an end – the dark clouds are looming again. The track starts and finishes with a short section in the bush, filled with the beautiful Nikau Palm tree – New Zealand’s only native palm tree. These palms are only found in the northern part of the South Island’s West Coast and the north Island. There is an absolute abundance of them in Punakaiki and around the Pancake Rock and Blowholes walk.
New Zealand nature – something for everyone. It’s beauty never ceases to amaze me – and I live here!
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They love to get out and explore the many wonders that make up the beauty and diversity of the West Coast. Check out their other blog postings or their activities page on their website for suggestions on things to see and do should you be looking at visiting The West Coast of the Southern Alps.