The other week I was on a roadtrip. Ostensibly I was taking photos for our West Coast Roadside Stories, starting in the north with Thomas Brunner and finishing in the south with Julius Haast. It might be overstating things somewhat – after all I had a nice car, a map book and paved roads, mostly, rather than vague tracks through the dense bush – but, like those two, I was also exploring the West Coast.
Some of the things I needed to photograph I knew well – Punakaiki, Ōkarito, the glaciers. Others were less clear-cut in what was needed – such as Grey coal. And others I was just hopeful that I would find something/anything interesting to photograph – earthquakes, Addisons Flat.
The West Coast is renowned for its rain. I was hoping for a bit of rain as it wouldn’t really be a proper West Coast experience without it, but I got quite a bit of rain. On most days. At Kumara the rain cut visibility to less than 50 metres, so no hanging out at Seddon’s house. My day exploring the Haast Pass was also pleasantly evocative, meaning the river at the Gates of Haast was quite wild and the view from Haast Pass was somewhat limited.
The West Coast is also renowned for its wildlife. I forgot to pack any insect repellent. Well, I didn’t forget so much as it never occurred to me to pack any. Rain or shine they were out in force, from St Arnaud to Haast. One thing I did learn, however, was that it takes a certain fortitude to compose and take a photo while your arms/legs/ears are being nibbled by hoards of hungry sandflies. Of course, once you’re done, there is more than a certain satisfaction in squishing a few of the pesky buggers with a nice slap or two.
While I was a couple of months early for the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival, I also discovered great beer (thanks West Coast Brewery), great salmon (thanks Lake Brunner), and great coffee (thanks Lake Matheson and Wānaka … not that it’s actually on the Coast).
Probably my greatest discovery was that while my whistle stop four-day tour covered the highlights, though only one of the glaciers, I could have easily spent two or three times as long just exploring the side roads and numerous walking trails I raced past. One day…
And one thing that I’d be taking with me would be a camera or two (or three). While my recent trip was for work, it probably wouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone (including my manager) that I snuck in a bit of photography for myself too, including the photos above and this one of me at the Haast Pass lookout … in the rain … pretending to be photographing.
We’ve just completed the last of our Roadside Stories, audio guides to places around New Zealand. The final two areas we’ve covered are Northland and the West Coast. You can find out more about them and download them here: http://www.mch.govt.nz/roadside/.