Kiwi meets Kiwi – Paparoa Wildlife Trust

Stephen and I get to experience some pretty cool things living on the West Coast.  With our vast varying scenery – mountains, sea, rivers, lakes, native bush and oodles of history.  Our latest experience though would have to rate up there as one of the most fantastic we’ve done yet – and it is going to be hard to beat n the future.

Poutini the Great Spotted Kiwi

We recently had the opportunity of meeting a real live Kiwi.  Yes folks Kiwi meets Kiwi.

In the back of Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountain range is a Kiwi crèche.  Set up by the Paparoa Wildlife Trust the crèche is the holding ground for juvenile Great Spotted Kiwi (Roroa in Maori).  The Great Spotted Kiwi are the largest of the four species of Kiwi and the most endangered.

learning about Great Spotted Kiwi

We met Jo, the Trust’s dedicated Kiwi Ranger at the crèche together with another couple  – Alvin and Bev both originally from the West Coast, Reefton and Hokitika respectively but now living in Australia.  Jo explained the intricacies of running the crèche and keeping it predator proof.  We got the chance to learn more about this fascinating bird, its feathers (super soft) and egg-shell (super thin and fragile).  Jo goes into the backcountry of the Paparoas finding the adult bird (thanks to a transmitter fitted to their leg), monitors them and when an egg is laid, after a safe period the egg is removed and taken to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch where it is kept in incubation until hatching and once at a safe age/size brought back over to the West Coast to the creche where it will stay until around 1-year-old, a healthy age and weight to be released back into the wild where it can generally look after itself.

Kiwi birds are at their most vulnerable from egg through to one year old or 1kg in weight.  Then they are for the most part strong enough to fight off most predators.

In search of great spotted kiwi

After our quick lesson we head off to some scrub land where Jo is pretty sure the current residents of the crèche have their burrows.  We’re here to do the monthly health check on Poutini – the youngest of the three chicks currently at the creche. The scrub is thick with gorse and cutty grass and very swampy.  The chicks have a transmitter on the leg so Jo is listening intently for signs of the Kiwi.  We can hear the transmitter beeping away so know he isn’t far.

searching for great spotted kiwi

Jo is well experienced and fairly sure she knows Poutini is in a particular set of scrub grass – down she goes into the scrub, belly on the ground foraging to find the burrow.  There are some great moves going on – you definitely don’t want to be shy of getting down and dirty.  Two attempts with no luck but the transmitter is telling us he is definitely in here somewhere.  We can even hear him ourselves.

Great Spotted Kiwi is found

Down goes Jo for another attempt and this time success.  You can’t help but beam when she comes up with this little guy in her arms.

taking the weight Poutini the great spotted kiwi

measuring the beak Poutini the great spotted kiwi

I’m lucky enough to be Jo’s assistant with this health check – that means I too get up close and personal.  Close enough to touch but of course I don’t – I just stare in wonderment.  Jo takes Poutini’s weight and measures his beak length.  This all helps with the data they collect on the health of the bird ensuring it is eating right etc.

She also changes the leg the transmitter is attached to – this is done with each monthly health check, that way as the Kiwi grows the transmitter doesn’t cause any damage to the leg.

feet of Poutini the great spotted kiwi

We take photos of the legs as there is a new study being done regarding their legs and scales on the legs.  Up close the legs look very prehistoric.  It will be a fascinating study to read once finished.

Little Poutini is doing really well – putting on good weight and there is no damage to his beak.

cuddle time great spotted kiwi

All too soon it is time for him to go back into his burrow and be left to do what Kiwis do best during the day – go back to sleep in peace.

 

That was some experience – an experience of a lifetime and one not many New Zealanders get to experience for themselves so Stephen and I feel very privileged to have had such an opportunity. Huge thanks to Jo for allowing us to come along for today’s health check.

Poutini the great spotted kiwi resting

The Paparoa Wildlife Trust is a community conservation initiative dedicated to running effective conservation projects in the Paparoa Ranges near Greymouth. Their goal is to halt the decline of highly threatened native species.  Their main focus since incorporation in 2006 has been on management, research and advocacy for great spotted kiwi (roroa) in the south Paparoa Ranges – our backyard!

To support the efforts of the Paparoa Wildlife Trust we sponsor three stoat traps.  As it is a predominately volunteer run organisation they really do appreciate all the financial help they can get.  Most recently they entered the Trust Power National Community Awards for the Grey District and were awarded the Supreme Award.  This means they now go on to the National event come October and we certainly wish them all the best.

If you would like to help, they gratefully accept donations or you too can sponsor a stoat trap.  By doing so you will receive an annual update on what predators your trap is catching.  Check out their website to see how you can help. http://pwt.org.nz/support/

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast and love living in this little slice of paradise they get to call home.

 

 

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Point Elizabeth Track – A little bit of Untamed Wilderness

 

Point elizabeth track with views to Southern AlpsThe Point Elizabeth track would have to be Greymouth’s premier walking track.  Running from the shores of North Beach… north of Cobden and finishing at Rapahoe Beach just off State Highway 6 at the gateway to the Great Coast Road.

point elizabeth track in the undergrowthpoint elizabeth track and views to tasman sea

The trail meanders along the cliff-tops through semi subtropical rain forest and often offers great coastal views.  The Cobden end has information boards for many of the trees and shrubs which we always find useful.  The DOC website describes the bush as one of the finest remaining tracts of mixed coastal forest in New Zealand.  Even I’ve learned something new today……

While it is Greymouth’s premier walking track it is probably the most under-rated.  We often recommend this trail to our guests and they come back blown away by its natural beauty.

point elizabeth track and native natural vegetation

point elizabeth track and natural vegetation

The trail follows an old water race that gold miners used to sluice their gold claims so is a great trail of history but without any remaining relics to oooh and aahhh over.  That’s ok though the bush gives plenty of reason for that.

Approximately half way you have the “Point Elizabeth lookout” – a great viewpoint of the gorgeous coastline as it winds its way north.  If you could see below you’d know there is a seal colony below you.  With the sea slowly eroding the limestone cliffs though you can’t see below only out so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  A walk along the Rapahoe beach though and all would be revealed.  What you can often see are Dolphins playing in the surf out off the rock stacks – now that is a seriously cool sight indeed.  No luck on this walk though – more of a summer sight than during a winter walk.

point elizabeth track and untamed natural wilderness

point elizabeth meander through the natural forest

The second half of the walk I would describe more as untamed wilderness.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a formed track but the bush just seems a little more wild and unruly, the naughty kids sitting at the back of the classroom.

point elizabeth track meander through the wilderness

This weekend we had our good friends Bernie and Gerard visiting from Franz Josef – fellow b&b operators who own the beautiful Holly Homestead.  Always a good excuse to head out and showcase some of the local attractions.  The Point Elizabeth track can be walked in either direction if you arrange for a pick up at the other end or organise a car shuttle or alternatively you can walk in and out or just to the “point” and back out – whew, confused – basically there is something for everyone depending on your organisation and time.

point elizabeth track and views to Great Coast Road and Rapahoe

Stephen and Bernie headed out for an early morning walk of the track – Cobden to Rapahoe.  A gorgeous way to start the day and with the views of the Great Coast Road and Rapahoe to end with, a nice way to end a meander through some natural untamed wilderness on the West Coast.

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 this region has to offer and sharing and showcasing to anyone interested.

 

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The Winter Blues at Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks

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.

pancake rock formations punakaiki with blue skies and blue seas

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.

great coast road and tasman sea

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.

Pancake rock formations with winter blue skies and seapancake rock formations and information boards punakaiki

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.

pancake rock formations at Punakaiki with blue seas and blue skies

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.

 

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Runanga Workingman’s Club – History in the Heartland

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 workingmans 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.

runamga 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.

 

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Historic Reefton – the Little Big Town

Reefton - town of light on an autumn day

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.

Reefton - town of light at night

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.

Jan and Stephens caravan

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……

Reefton - bottled powerhouse walk with river views

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.

Reefton - historic railway house

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.

Reefton - Larry's creek track green green green

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).

Reefton - Larry's creek track and historic Robbie Engine

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.

Reefton - Murrays Creek track

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.

Reefton - Murrays Creek track for biking and hikingReefton - Murrays Creek track for hiking and biking

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.

Reefton - relaxing with the caravan and dogs

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.

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Motukiekie Beach and Rocks – Photography Heaven

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 out on the rocks

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 Great Coast Road

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 photographer at motukiekie beach and rocks 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 on sunsetMotukiekie beach and rocks as the tide comes in

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.

 

 

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Hidden World of West Coast Coal Mining History

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.

Nine Mile Valley coal relics

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.

guests in a sea of green in the Nine Mile valley of coal

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.

guests walking the Nine Mile valley of coal

Guests exploring Nine Mile Valley of Coal with Ziggy

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.

entrance history coal mine nine mile valley walk

Nine Mile valley coal mines

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.

negotiating river of gold nine mile valley walk

emerced in a sea of green nine mile valley walk

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.

Sea of gold in the Nine Mile valley of coal

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.

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