Paying it forward (Day 112)
Who loves pancakes? We certainly do, yet the ones we saw today are not the eating kind. And it was lovely sharing these with Hitchhiker Lene as well.
We have been very lucky and grateful for all the kindness we have received on our journey. People really are amazing and it’s sad that this is not portrayed in the media much. As I reflect back on our 112 days, we have met so many friends who have all been extremely generous to us, plus wonderful Airbnb hosts who have been warm and hospitable, a few seem like old friends.
It is nice therefore that we can occasionally pay this forward in a small way. As we were driving onwards for our day’s journey, Tim saw a hitchhiker and we stopped for her. It was Lene, a lovely 27 year old from North Germany who had just finished her teachers training. She asked if we were going to Punakaiki, which we were, and it determined that we were actually going all the way to Westport where she really wanted to go to. What a lovely day we had together.
We drove along the beach road and stopped off at Punakaiki and popped into the Information Centre. We have learnt that they are incredibly knowledgeable and recommend just the right walks to do for us. The lady gave us a map, showed us options of where to go and we were on our way. Our first place was to see the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Wow! I had seen pictures of these, yet being there was incredible. Think about Shrove Tuesday where you might get carried away making loads of pancakes and pile them all on top of one another. Now image these made of limestone and the layers are 40 m high and there are loads of piles, all different shapes and sizes. Because of the power of the wind and sea, these piles are slowly ever changing with giant blowholes being formed, throwing mists of seawater high into the air making huge boom sounds.
These rock formations are unique and apparently only found in this small area of NZ. They are formed from millions of minute pieces of dead marine animals and plants which sunk to the seabed 30 million years ago. Immense water pressure caused these to solidify into hard and soft layers. We wondered if this was due to the different seasons, but cannot be sure. Gradually due to seismic action probably from earthquakes, the limestone was lifted above the seabed and weather erosion sculptured these into weird and wonderful shapes.
After chatting, taking loads of photos and being thoroughly in awe of this place, we walked down the hill to find a large cavern. Just using our mobile phone torches we ventured further in and found a short tunnel to crawl into. Great fun.
Further down was a 30 minute walk along the side of the Pororari River and mature rainforest, where we all discussed Education, how sadly the system in both countries are focussing too much on tests and admin and not enough on enabling children to explore, be creative, find answers for themselves, learn through nature. There are a few non-state schools like this such as Forest and Steiner Schools however these are not accessible for many. We both can imagine Lene being a wonderful inspirational teacher in the right environment, however she is was very disillusioned with the school system which might put her off pursuing this career. Such a shame.
I was conscious of time, we didn’t want a “Hangry” Tim and still had 45 minutes to get to Westport before cafés closed. Luckily Lene came up trumps and gave us a slice of chocolate cake made from chickpeas. It was delicious, very moist – I now have the recipe.
A quick stop at Westport, a bite to eat and we then dropped Lene off where she was staying the night. We dashed into the nearest supermarket for our dinner and breakfast and as we were about to drive off, a lady parked next to us and Tim suggested we gave her our Flour we bought the other day to make pancakes (would you believe!). She was thrilled, wanted to give us some money and Tim said “Just pay it forward”.
Westport didn’t have too much to offer at that time of day so we found Carters Beach, a large flat stretch of black sand where we walked along in the low waves, peppered with beautiful tiny stones that gently rolled back and forth with the calm surf. We both enjoyed finding our treasures, different colours of stone and the occasional piece of shell. I am sure my green rock is worth something!
On to Murchison where we decided to camp in Keith the car. The windy roads were spectacular, steep mountains covered in rainforest on one side and deep raven to the wide powerful river. We had to keep stopping, either for traffic lights where they were mending the damage caused by Cyclone Gita, or to take photos of the wonderful views.
We hadn’t booked anywhere, however Lene had informed us of a very useful App called Camper Mate which shows all the different camping places in NZ and Oz. Using this we found Riverside Campsite overlooking the Buller River. Such a beautiful spot. The owner Robin, originally from Hawaii, is a very funny guy. He asked where we were from and then commented that I had a very posh accent! Me posh? haha - that's the first time I’ve been called posh. He recommended The CowShed Pizzeria. After parking up, we ditched our dinner idea and walked to The CowShed with an amazing sunset right in front of us. After shared a very nice pizza and a quick chat to the owner from Somerset, we walked back under a starry, starry night sky. A lovely end to a lovely day.