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Punakaiki - Pancake Rocks - A Photographer's perspective

The forecast was for rain, and lots of it. Having just had the Canterbury floods start draining away and the roads open up to allow us to get away, we were hoping that our West Coast adventure was going to grace us with sun. Travelling for three and a half hours with three kids under six, to end up stuck inside while it poured outside, was not on our itinerary. Determined to still brave the rain, jackets, gumboots and a brand new umbrella got packed around the camera gear and portacot. And so our adventure began.

‘We live in the southernmost rainforest in the world’ was the greeting as we found our accomodation nestled amongst what felt like a tropical Balinese jungle. Meant more as a warning - we had the dehumidifier cranked the entire time, and with rain forecast for the whole weekend, it was also a true reflection of the stunning environment.

Thick ferns, broad leaves, trickling water, and a towering green canopy of rātā, podocarp and nikau palms surrounded us as we walked away from the carpark and along a pathway into our accomodation. Weka lodge at Te Nikau Retreat was aptly named, as each morning we were greeted by a foraging weka wandering outside our door.

With our accomodation nestled alongside truman track, this gorgeous walkway took us through birdsong to Truman beach, where we were greeted by the ruggedness and power of the West Coast. Waves pounded the coastline at low tide, and spray danced in the air as we read the warning signs about rogue waves and overhanging cliffs. A stark reminder of the power that nature holds, the view still held us mesmerised as we walked beside a waterfall along the pebbly beach and listened to the pounding of the waves. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Marine Reserve surrounding Punakaiki rocks all the way up to Truman beach. Having the incredible biodiversity in this area preserved is something that I love to see.

With the rain still only at a light drizzle state, the Punakaiki pancake rocks were a must see, and while we didn’t see the blowhole erupt, they definitely did not disappoint. The raw power of the ocean as it throws itself against the rocks and fills up the surge hole and inlets was magnificent. And seeing children and elderly alike exploring our own kiwi backyard makes me so grateful for what we have.

Day two, and our prayers must have been having some effect, as the rain showed only as mist surrounding us after hearing the soothing downpour on the roof the night before. Jacketed up, and with little legs to think about, we rambled along the start of one of NZ’s great walks, the Paparoa track. It follows the Pororari river through the gorge, once again through rainforest, and with sheer rock faces and murky rivers, this is definitely one we will return to when those little legs are big enough to tramp up into the alpine tops to undertake a three day hike.

Followed up by every toddlers favourite pastime (rock throwing and chasing waves at the beach), we entered the Punakaiki Tavern for some lunch where we were enthralled at the number of $5 notes stuck with a pin into the 3m odd high wooden ceiling. While let into the secret of how they get them onto the ceiling without climbing onto a chair or a table, I might leave that a secret for anyone reading to attempt at home. Initially set up as a fire relief fund, it turned out there weren’t that many house fires in a rainforest, and so it has since become a pay it forward fund, where every so often, the proprietor will do a bar shout for another group of weary travellers and loyal locals alike.

Motukiekie beach 25 minutes south became my solo mission for the afternoon to try and capture New Zealand’s equivalent to the Australian twelve apostles. With towering rock islands jutting from the ocean, I was determined to capture the low tide mystique of these giants. Unfortunately, this was one of those time when the weather didn’t cooperate for photography so well. With rain on my lens, mist obscuring the rock, and pummelling waves, I definitely enjoyed a West Coast welcome rather than a sunset calm. But with some kid-free time, and a bit of a wet scramble to get there, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and this still is a must see regardless of the weather.

Day three had us with no dry shoes left, so it was time to cook pancakes for brekky, and then pack up to return across the alps back to our home in Canterbury. Turns out, it had been colder and just as wet in Canterbury than the temperate climate of the West Coast, but there will always be something nice about returning to a warm fire and sleeping in your own bed, before prepping for the next adventure in our kiwi backyard.


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