Thursday, 7 February 2013

Route 6 through Greymouth

The road through Greymouth to the mountains

Highway 6

After reaching the coast, highway 6 began by taking in a sea level view of the coast, and with very little traffic on the roads it was a relaxing and enjoyable part of the journey. However, the change after several hours, and a few stops for coffee could not have been better. As the cliff road began, I was reminded of a previous trip that I’d been on down the west coast of America where my fear of heights and driving skill suddenly feel like they’re being made to fight each other to see which would come out on top. I’m glad to say that my driving always has (so far), although I can’t stop myself from thinking about the possibilities of steering or braking failure.

My own personal issues aside, the new challenges of the road only made an already stunning drive more spectacular, with waves braking at the base of the cliff, the sun bright in the mid-day sky and the winding road, it felt like we were really making progress. I remember thinking that although I was occasionally terrified by the thought of plummeting off the road, the thrill made it all the more enjoyable and I would have happily driven that road for the rest of our time in the country. 

After a great days drive, we camped at a cliff base site on boarder of the Paparoa National park. Early the next morning we left after breakfast and visited the pancake rocks. Although I didn't have great expectations, I would definitely recommend a visit if you found yourself on the route, as they’re just a five minute walk from the road and there’s also a tidal blow hole, where the surf at high tide blows foam up through a hole, as you probably already knew from the name. (It was similar to the one in the film ‘Fools Gold’ for anyone else who made the mistake of committing to the whole film.)

The Pancake Rocks

Our original plan was to spend the night in Greymouth, but after we arrived unexpectedly early due to our morning start, and looking round the town, we both decided that we would rather move on towards the glaciers. The main attraction that Greymouth had to offer was the railway station which had a train going across the country to Christchurch in the East through Arthur's Pass in the mountains. While I would have liked to go on it, the price was too much for our tight budget, but I have only heard great things from others who undertook the journey, which is a day return journey.

As night approached, we didn't pass any camp sites, and as the sun became low in the sky, we decided to splash out on some accommodation with actual beds rather than desperately searching for a site after dark. We passed through the tiny town of Whataroa and took a basic cabin for the night, with the kitchen being just an oven/stove combo. Located at the base of the mountains in a glacial valley, the views of the sunset on the mountains were spectacular.

Sunset from the cabin

Unfortunately, the only food that really appealed in the one small shop still open was a excessively priced frozen pie. $12 for an oven pie, where the meat content was under 50% seemed over the top but we still bought it, and after waiting what seemed like hours (actually 1 hour 45) we ate half, saving the other for the next day due to the outrageous pricing. We took the opportunity of having inside accommodation to clear out and reorder the car, and set out in the morning toward the glaciers.