Starting Point: Moteuka
Ending Point: Westport
Kilometers traveled: 283
Today was one of those days driven completely by silly whims. Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, opened here in NZ yesterday. And we really wanted to see it. But we have been in small towns or just little places along the road for the past week, so we decided that we needed a larger town with a movie theater as our home for the night. Westport is also ideally located as a jumping off point for our trip down the West Coast to the glaciers and fiordlands. So we got up bright and early, did a bit of work, called my parents, and then headed out.
We drove through the Moteuka river valley, past vineyards and lots of farmlands. The amount of yellow gorse that we saw today was mind-boggling. It’s all in bloom with gorgeous bright yellow flowers at this time of year. The only thing that makes it not quite so pretty is that it is an invasive species that is taking over.
We hopped up and over the Hope Mountain Range, stopping off in the saddle to check out the views, which were mostly obscured by foliage and trees, but still pretty. We turned off the road and drove down a dirt track through part of Kahurangi National Park heading towards Mt. Owen. And then the road dead ended at a sheep and cattle station, so we turned around. No LOTR site today.
From there, we dropped down into the Buller Gorge and followed the river west, all the way to the Tasman Sea. We crossed O’Sullivan’s Bridge and stopped off to take at peek at the world’s longest swing bridge, which is just down the road. At 110m long that’s a lot of swing as you cross over the Buller river. We didn’t walk on it as we didn’t feel like paying the $10…we were saving that money for movie popcorn and beer. But we did get a few good pics and watched several other people cross it. At this point, it stopped threatening to rain and starting pouring instead.
Then it was on to Iron Bridge, which was built in 1890 over a place in the gorge where floodwaters can rise to over 12meters. It’s a one lane bridge, and it actually has a stoplight which tells you when you can go. After that we crossed Hawks Crag, a granite outcropping hanging over a single lane stretch of road. It’s a well known landmark in this area.
We pulled into Westport, checked into our holiday park, and discovered that while there is a movie theater here in town, it only has 2 screens. So it alternates what films it is showing on any given day. And Skyfall is not playing here today. Tomorrow – yes, but today – no. What does a Watts do when the movie they want to see isn’t playing? They head to the local brewery, of course! We headed on over to West Coast Brewing….but they were also closed. So we settled for beer from the grocery store (not West Coast’s beer, by the way) and all the fixin’s for nachos for dinner. After our quick grocery run, we headed out to Cape Foulwind just down the street from our campground. We did a bit of hiking along the coastal walkway and checked out the seal colony that lives there. We were able to see several seals basking in the sun and several other ones playing on the rocks. And the cape lived up to its name…there was a lot of wind.
Now we’re back at the camp, have had wonderful nachos for dinner, and are settled in with hot chocolate and cookies. Tomorrow we’ll head south down the coast to Greymouth. Along the way we’ll stop off at Punakaiki, to see the pancake rocks and the blowholes. And we may stop in at Monteith Brewery in Greymouth for a bit of a tour or at the very least a tasting. We’ve already checked and they will be open. Oh, and Greymouth’s cinema is showing Skyfall tomorrow night, and we’ve already booked our tickets.