Day 5 Punakaiki - The Blue Spur - Lake Kaniere - Hokitika Gorge - Hokitika
A day like today is such an interesting one for a guide and one of the real reasons I was so excited about this trip. The drive from Punakaiki to Hokitika normally takes around an hour, so to take the whole day to travel 100km as the crow flies and go off the beaten track into places like Lake Kaniere and the Hokitika Gorge is a real treat.
So off we went, again with great weather, which we all knew was not what our friends and family back in the North Island were expecting us to be experiencing. We were all swapping notes about the messages and calls we were getting from people who saw the news about the weather on the Coast. We laughed as we told them yes, the weather was rough, we were overheating yesterday in Reefton, we’ve run out of sunblock, we could use a bit more wind to help keep the sandflies away!
But our travels weren’t entirely unaffected by all this weather, heading up the Blue Spur route inland from Hokitika we encountered a closed road, but luckily there was another alternative route right there and a friendly local to help us on our way so we proceeded on to Lake Kaniere.
On our way into the lake we encountered our first “emergency” of the trip. A few of the group had asked about the location of the next toilet and as a guide, when you hear that a kind of internal clock starts ticking. We were about 20 minutes from Lake Kaniere and arriving at the lake road everyone was relieved to see a big sign showing a left turn to the toilets. Five minutes later we were pulling up outside the toilets and everyone was happy… except that the toilets were boarded up and closed, oh no. There was another toilet sign pointing up towards the campground, up we went in the bus but there were no toilets to be seen. Some small changing rooms held potential, but no. Driving past the boat club I saw two toilets on the outside but when I ran over to check the doors they were locked too! This was getting past funny now. We decided to try any of the houses we could see people in, but couldn’t see anyone except for a couple putting a boat our on the lake. They advised us that the toilets were on the other side of the turnoff, a right turn at the sign instead of a left.
So we made as quick a trip as we could back to the turnoff and in the opposite direction of the sign pointing to the toilets, and yes, a few minutes down the road was a beautifully appointed toilet block nestled under a stand of Kahikatea trees with beautiful views of Lake Kaniere.
I must remember next time I’m on the coast that an arrow pointing to the left for toilets actually means right. Silly me.
After our much appreciated comfort stop we enjoyed a short walk on the boardwalk through the beautiful stand of Kahikatea trees. This is our tallest native tree and it’s only when you stand back and look up from a distance you actually realize how huge they are. For many of our guests who live in Auckland, the chance to get out in native forest like this is so special and I know everyone enjoyed this walk a lot (or maybe it was just the relief of getting to those toilets!).
Anyone who has organized travel for any size group (or family) will know that you have to be flexible and that proved true for us today. Another road closure due to the weather meant we couldn’t continue on the Lake Kaniere road but had to track back a little way. Another small change to our plans was when our hosts at the Kokotahi Hotel for lunch had unexpectedly come down ill that morning and it was serious enough that they couldn’t provide lunch for our group that day. This is one of the things about organizing travel to these wonderful off the beaten track places you have to be prepared for, so at 8am on this Sunday morning Ena from our office was on the phone finding a last minute replacement for our lunch, which turned out to be one of the best lunches on the trip, funny how these things work out.
After lunch we headed out to the Hokitika Gorge, with a few opting to stay in Hokitika to explore and check out the Pounamu and galleries. On the way we made a stop at the Kowhitirangi Memorial, at the site of a shooting in 1941 which led to New Zealand’s largest ever manhunt. As this was only a few weeks after the Christchurch tragedy this stop had extra poignance for all of us as we paused to remember.
Scroll through our favourite photos from today: