Cliff Threadgold Photography


Stormy Weather

posted on 2019-12-08 23:07:06 in New Zealand

To get ourselves back on track we decided hiring a rental car for a couple of days would give us some flexibility to getting down south to Otago and back on track after missing the Heaphy track.  Leaving Nelson was easy, SH6 all the way to the west coast. Once we reached the Buller river we also found the rain again. The river was still flowing very well from the previous storm and there was plenty of smaller rivers also flowing very swiftly. We made camp at Punakaiki and was offered a nice space near the waterfront, I quickly declined the offer in preference to a more sheltered site behind some flax bushes. Just as well as we had showers and strong westerly winds blowing off the sea all night. In my little tent I didn’t feel the wind at all but the roar of the waves crashing on the beach a Nd the wind howling through the trees went on all night long.

High tide  is the best time to visit the Pancake Rocks, that is when the surge pool really bellows, waves crash into the rocks and the blowholes send spray shooting into the air. High tide today was at 8:02am not a problem for us early rises and camping just a short distance from the Dolomite Point. I have seen the pancake rocks many times but never seen the chimney pot blowhole function so well. The waves surged under the arch along the passage narrowing and disappearing underground, seconds later a loud hiss as pressure is released and spray shots out of a small hole. The wind, sea and rain erosion on the limestone eats away at the softest rock leaving the harder rocks weathered and layered like stacks of pancakes, hence their nickname “The Pancake Rocks”. Even though there was a gale blowing I could have stayed there for hours watching the power  of nature change the landscape.


Our revised trip was meticulously planned camping at Franz Josef Glacier, a hike to the ice then a steady drive to Queenstown ready to catch the bus on Monday for the Kepler track. At least we thought is was well planned, however we had not taken the weather into account !

Just South of Hokitika we found the road closed due to multiple slips and a bridge washed out from the nights storm. The road will now be out of action for many days. Undeterred we turned around to cross Arthur’s Pass and head down the East side of the Southern Alps. A couple of km’s after turning around “Bang!” We had a blow out, things were now going from bad to worse.

With only a space saver spare on board 600km using that was to risky so we needed to get it fixed. Saturday afternoon on the West Coast is not a great place to find a tyre repairer. As it turned out we needed a new tyre the puncture was not repairable.

Back on the road we crossed the pass driving carefully through rain and hail and passing another slip very gingerly. Out on the East side it all changed, the clouds lifted and the sun at last came out.

Having felt like we had been stuck in the car all day when we reached Castle Hill we took the opportunity for a walk and explore the limestone rock formations there. Quite different erosion on these rocks without the softer rock mixed with the limestone the surface of the rocks was much smoother. With the low sunlight the shapes and textures of the rocks were revealed in a memorable way.


We made camp for the night at Mt Somers in the domain and were highly surprised by the amount of campavans there. Overnight the wind yet again blew and blew, gale force winds ripped into our tents until dawn. Once again with some flax bush shelter our little tents stood their ground and proved to be very sturdy.

At breakfast In the kitchen we found out why the domain was so busy. Both the bridges crossing the Rangitata River had been closed due to flood damage, nobody could get through. This means our drive to Queenstown could not be completed. With a timeframe of days to repair rather than hours our Kepler track hike could not happen as planned. On contacting DOC to cancel our hut bookings we found out the track was in fact closed too due to flooding. So the hike would still be a no go even had we made It south.


Unfortunately the weather has not allowed us to experience the NZ hiking as we would have liked, you could say it has “Put a bit of a dampening on the trip” while my spirits are a bit low, Thomas, as chirpy as ever, assures me we will be able to do them and complete the journey another time.

With that in mind we are off now to decide our next moves.