Punakaiki/Pancake Rocks

(back to Westport)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

After the brief stop in Westport to see the seal colony, I continued on to Punakaiki. Several people (including Kris, Theresa, Callum) had recommended I see pancake rocks. It was right off the highway and easy to get to, so I made a point to see them.

When I got to Pancake Rocks, I had to walk about a quarter mile along a trail to get to a series of viewing platforms. To the left is a photo of the view from the main viewing platform. The place is called pancake rocks because the rocks look layered, like a stack of pancakes. That and the name of the town they're near is called Punakaiki... which sounds like pancakes. I'm not sure which came first. :-)

Just below each of the viewing platforms was a blowhole or two - that's how they decided where to put the viewing platforms. A blowhole is where over time the (powerful) ocean tide has worn away a hole from underneath. Some holes are large archways, others are smaller holes. When a wave comes in, the water sprays up through the hole because it has nowhere else to go. At high tide these sprays can be very dramatic from the smaller holes. The photo at the right was the spray from a blowhole seen from the main viewing platform. This blowhole is found in many travel calendars, etc.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to Punakaiki until after high tide, but it was still an interesting experience. You can feel the waves vibrating the rocks you walk on - that's how powerful they are.

I decided to stay in Punakaiki for the night and go back to Pancake Rocks at high tide the next day high tide, which was about 1 pm the next day. I got some pancakes at a cafe near the entrance to to Pancake Rocks... kinda cutesy to offer pancakes at Pancake Rocks, but they were good. Then I pitched my tent at a campground a mile away and had an easy evening in my tent. To the left is a photo of my tent and car at dusk. This photo doesn't do justice to the dusk light that was happening. Oh well. The highway ran between those trees and the big rock behind them... but it wasn't very loud. And I could hear the ocean about a quarter mile behind me as I took this photo.

Oh, this was the first place I encountered a campground cat. Most of the places where I stayed after this also had a campground cat. Just a very friendly cat who hangs out in the kitchen area, hoping someone will drop (or give) a tasty morsel. Most of the campgrounds had kitchens, some were better (more equipped) than others. This kitty was sitting RIGHT in the doorway, to make sure he would be noticed.


Friday, March 17, 2006
(St. Patrick's Day - I wore a green shirt I packed just for the occasion)

The next morning I had to wait until about 1 pm for high tide. So I spent the morning hiking a very short track called Truman Track that wasn't very far from Pancake Rocks, right off the highway. I would've like to do a longer one, but my feet were still hurting. It was basically about a mile thru the rainforest, and then the trail dropped out into a lovely cove. The sand flies were pretty bad in the cove so I didn't linger there long, but it was pretty and very uncrowded. Actually, the best part of this short hike was the rainforest. It had interpretive signs explaining some of the different trees and the ecology of the place. Oh, to the left is a photo of a HUGE spider web I came across - about 3 feet across! The light was on it just right that I thought it might show up in a photo. The spider itself didn't show up, but it was 'pretty' too.

After the Truman Track, I went back to Pancake Rocks. I treated myself to a HUGE breakfast (eggs, toast, hash browns, sausage, bacon, a pancake...) at the cafe again, and I almost ate the entire thing. Oh, here's an amusing seagull story... while I was eating (outside at a picnic table) another woman got her breakfast and then she left for no more than 30 seconds to go back in for a napkin or something. As SOON as she left, one of the seagulls that had been hanging around swooped down and immediately started pecking at the whipped cream on her plate. I got up as fast as my achy arches would let me and shooed the gull away... he was a cheeky bugger and wasn't easily shooed. I also kept an eye on my own breakfast. She came back and I told her he didn't touch the pancakes but he'd gotten the cream... she was okay with that and sat down to eat anyway. I don't know that I could've... There was a little bit of a language barrier so I wondered if she understood what I said, but then a little later she turned back and pointed up to a gull who still had cream on his beak, smiled and said 'the guilty one!'

After breakfast (brunch really) I walked the trail again to Pancake Rocks hoping to see huge sprays coming up from the blowholes. It was high tide, but the sea was pretty calm so it wasn't any better than the evening before. I was a little disappointed, but it wasn't a waste because the light was slightly different - richer. To the left is a photo of that same view from the main platform.


I took some time and tried to get some good photos. Here's what I came away with. The red arrow shows the ocean waves coming through a large archway. The red circle shows people walking along the trails across the rocks... that's where you could feel the vibrations. This photo also gives you an idea of scale, of how huge the rocks are and how huge the blowholes can be.

To the left is another photo of the blowhole from the main viewing platform. The spray was a little bigger than the evening before, but not by much.








The photo to the right is from a postcard (Copyright: Colourview Publications 2004 Ltd.) It shows the same blowhole at its very finest...






(on to Fox Glacier)