Monday, 30 April 2012

What goes bang in the Night?

Last night we had one of the loudest and longest thunder storms I think I can ever remember with extremely bright lightening flashes preceding each loud roll of thunder. It must have gone on for over an hour but luckily stopped by bed time.

This morning we traipsed into town to do some laundry and pay a visit to the museum. Here there were plenty of items concerning the 1929 Murchison Earthquake which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and killed 14 and 3 died of injuries later.

The Inangahua Earthquake in 1968 which measured 7.1. killed 2 and 1 died of injuries. Both of these small towns are very close to each other. If either of these disasters had occurred in a larger centre it would have been a different story, i.e. the recent Christchurch earthquakes. Lots of reading but insufficient time.

I also found an interesting item regarding the Nelson to Glenhope Railway. A totally isolated section of New Zealand railways in the country. It was started in 1876 and was threatened with closure in 1952 unless the annual freight tonnage could be increased to 25,000 tons. Unfortunately there were no plans to connect up to the mainline and it eventually closed in 1954 after much protesting.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Moving onto Murchison.

It looked like a foggy journey first thing this morning with visibility down to a hundred metre’s but as the sun got higher in the sky conditions improved. It was still to be a wet and miserable sort of day. Leaving camp we called into the railway station so I could take some more photographs and learn a little more of the history of the place.


Reefton engine shed. The only single track, double loco shed in existence.Reefton Engine Shed. The only single track, double loco shed in existence.

The engine shed was built in 1892 for the Midland railway company on the South side of the Inangahua River at Taipoiti  but was dismantled and shifted to it’s present location in 1907. It’s the only single track, double stall  loco shed still in existence connected to the main line. It’s listed with the Rail Heritage Trust and despite the windows being boarded over was restored in 1997/98.

Heavy goods yard crane needing some restoration work at the Reefton engine shed.Heavy goods yard crane needing some restoration work at the Reefton engine shed.

I had a good look around the goods yard where the gold ore is transported in containerised skips to Palmerston (Otago). A truck and trailer carry two skips and a railway wagon capable of carrying 2 x 20 foot containers carries four. Coal loading is not as mechanised as the plant we saw at Ngakawau but it is done by wagons slowly passing under a conveyer belt.

Reefton goods yard with Oceania Gold skips awaiting movement to Palmerston. Top loading containers on the right.Reefton goods yard with Oceania Gold skips awaiting movement to Palmerston. Top loading containers on the right.

The journey up through the upper Buller Gorge was quite spectacular with many waterfalls due to all the recent rain. Here there are still many one way bridges one of which being controlled by traffic lights.

Newton River Bridge in the Upper Buller Gorge. Headroom 4.45m.Newton River Bridge in the Upper Buller Gorge. Headroom 4.45m.

The NZMCA camp site at Murchison is right in the township which is handy. We had a brief visit to the I Site to gain some information and we will return tomorrow to visit the museum which has been greatly enlarged since we were last here.

Commercial Stables building in Murchison. What time is the next stage coach?Commercial Stables building in Murchison. What time is the next stage coach?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Miners Tales.

As the centre of Reefton Racecourse is also the towns Rugby Park we were invaded by hoard’s of children this morning who were here to play their first Rugby games of the season. Teams from as far away as Westport arrived by bus.

Mid morning we ventured back into town to visit the Bearded Miners. Right in the centre of town a miners shack complete with wooden chimney and earth floor has been built, where old bearded (some not) miners talk to tourists about the good old days of Gold and coal mining in the district.

The bearded miners shack wooden chimney protected by strategically placed rocks inside. Note the satelitte dish. L.O.LThe bearded miners shack wooden chimney protected by strategically placed rocks inside. Note the satellite dish.

The shack also acts as a museum where old artefact's are kept and displayed like the local baker’s accounts from 1905 –1919. Each customers name was recorded under the respective town or mine site, how much bread was delivered each visit and the end of the month account. If the recipient couldn’t pay in full it was marked at the end of the column how much was owing to be carried over to next months account.

Inside the bearded miners shack with earth floor. Basic and simple. There is always a billy boiling on the hob.Inside the bearded miners shack with earth floor. Basic and simple. There is always a Billy boiling on the fire.

Other interesting stories came from memories of the railway network which serviced the mines. Alas most of this has long gone but the memories live on. Some of the bearded miners still keep there hand in panning for alluvial gold in the rivers and streams in the area especially when gold fetches $2000 an ounce these days. With the recent rain they reckon that some new gold will have been washed into the rivers and they will head out as soon as the river levels drop for another panning session. When ever an old identity of the town passes on the family find things of interest that they pass onto the Bearded miners for safe keeping.

Fairlie loco no R28. Built in England in 1878 and retired in 1948. Worked mainly in Canterbury and Greymouth.Fairlie loco no R28. Built in England in 1878 and retired in 1948. Worked mainly in Canterbury and Greymouth.

After lunch Robin took us off road to visit the site of the original first hydro power station in the country. Unfortunately there are only the foundations left these days. Earlier we found signs leading to the towns lookout which is also the site of the cell phone network towers. From high on the hill we had a good view of virtually the whole of Reefton including where the caravans and motorhome where parked.

Find Gypsy Rover parked next to the Reefton RFC club rooms.Find Gypsy Rover parked next to the Reefton RFC club rooms.

Returning to the racecourse we found the senior rugby players had arrived for their games. One gentleman recommended that we move our vehicles as we were impeding access to the changing rooms. After an initial move of a few feet it was decided to move right down to the rear of the racecourse site as the club rooms we were parked alongside would be in use until at least 10pm. Guessing what was likely to happen up until then and not wishing to be annoyed by those perhaps noisy and inebriated we moved.

Rail bridge over the Inangahua river, Reefton.Rail bridge over the Inangahua River, Reefton.

Friday, 27 April 2012


What a night, we haven’t had so much rain since I don’t know when. It rained for most of the night and at times very heavily. Things were more than a little damp this morning.

The Buller river through the Gorge.The Buller River through the Gorge.

Leaving Seddonville in light drizzle we ran into a good downpour of rain where a vehicle just 100 metre’s ahead disappeared in the gloom. Water laying on the road presented another hazard so it was a case of easy does it. We were on the road by about 10am and headed back to Westport where we visited the supermarket and refuelled the diesel before heading inland through the Buller Gorge.

Waterfall into the Buller river.Waterfall into the Buller River.

This road has been blasted out of solid rock and there are a couple of places where the road is down to one lane. Traffic lights have been installed on one section since we last passed this way. The other section is like a tunnel with one wall missing as the rocky outcrop hangs over the road. You can see marks on the rock wall where large trucks have left their calling cards as they have squeezed through.

Buller Gorge's famous overhang.Buller Gorge's famous overhang.

The weather did improve as the day wore on and we arrived in Reefton in about 2½ hours in time for lunch. This afternoon we ventured into town which is only about a kilometre away to find the Information centre and plan our time here in Reefton. We have since had more rain but where we are parked at the Reefton Racecourse it shouldn’t present any problems.


One of Reefton’s claim to fame was getting electricity to light the streets with  it’s own hydro power station using a 1.8km water race from the Inangahua River. This race had earth and rock tunnels to get the water to the power station. After passing through the power station it was returned to the river by a tail race.

Happy Birthday Mary

830682zhs68ovvt7We are thinking of you


Thursday, 26 April 2012

When is a tour not a tour?

The town no longer exists, just the mine.The town no longer exists, just the mine.

We had booked a tour with Outwest Tours of  the Stockton Mine today. We duly met at the agreed pick up point in Granity and hopped on the Unimog 4x4 which was to be our transport for the day. While getting ourselves organised with the driver we commented on a hot brake or clutch smell emanating from the vehicle. The lady driver agreed but said that it had only been tested for it’s Certificate of Fitness yesterday.

The Unimog that was supposed to take us on our mine tour.The Unimog that was supposed to take us on our mine tour.All set for a hard hat adventure to the Stockton mine.All set for a hard hat adventure to the Stockton mine.Yours truly.Yours truly.

Arriving at the railhead at Ngawakau Rosetta our driver proceeded to the engineers workshop where she spoke to a mechanic who just happened to be her brother in law. They all know each other in these small mining communities. After a phone call to her boss it was announced that due to mechanical failure the tour was to be cancelled. As we would be travelling over some steep tracks it was deemed unsafe with suspect brakes.

Empty buckets on the left full on the right.Empty buckets on the left full on the right.The cable's between stations 5 and 6  on the way to the rail head at Ngakawau.The cable's between stations 5 and 6  on the way to the rail head at Ngakawau.The next cable change over across the valley.The next cable change over across the valley.

However all was not lost as the Mining company offered to take us in small groups to view part of the operation in their own 4x4 vehicles.  We were taken up to the first change over point for the aerial cableway between the railhead and the mine some 7km’s inland.

Yours truly at station 6.Yours truly at station 6.

Here we saw how the buckets were automatically transferred from one cableway to the next. In all there are 4 cableways bringing the coal from the mine to the railhead. The only time the cableway stops is for a few hours on Tuesday and Friday for maintenance, in the meantime stockpiles of coal are built up at the railhead so as not to delay the train timetable which amounts to 5 trains a day.

An empty bucket passing through while a full one heads down to the rail head.An empty bucket passing through while a full one heads down to the rail head.

Purpose built wagons which load through the top and empty through the bottom each carry 50 tons. There are usually 30 wagons to a train which are hauled by 2 locomotives to Otira where 3 more locomotives are added to haul the train through the tunnel across Arthurs Pass. There is talk of adding further wagons to the trains to increase the tonnage moved.

The train slowly proceeds under the hopper.The train slowly proceeds under the hopper.

The day turned out not to be a total disaster and the boss of Outwest Tours authorised a full refund. Some of the group tried to book a later tour but for us that is not an option unfortunately.

The road to the Stockton mine nick named the "Grand Canyon" by the miners.The road to the Stockton mine nick named the "Grand Canyon" by the miners.What you don't see from the main road.What you don't see from the main road.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Lest We Forget–The 97th Anzac Commemoration.


Keeping in with the spirit of the day we were all up at 5am to make the 10 minute walk to where the Seddonville Anzac Day commemoration was to begin. As the time tick over to 6 am 3 pipers and a drummer struck up with a march to escort the assembled group up the hill to the Memorial Gates where the wreath laying was to take place.

The Drummer and pipers at the Seddonville Dawn Service.The Drummer and Pipers at the Seddonville Dawn Service.Seddonville Memorial Gates in the middle of nowhere.Seddonville Memorial Gates in the middle of nowhere. Venue for today’s Dawn Parade.

The proceedings were low key compared to the bigger towns and cities but no less moving as the bugler played The Last Post and Reveille. One wreath and plenty of poppies were laid on the site before the reciting of the Ode by a member of the RSA. We were then escorted back down the hill from where we all headed back to the hotel for a tot of Dramburie to warm the inner man followed by a full cooked breakfast.

IMG_7245A Hearty Breakfast for Anzac DayIMG_7249Yours Truly after the Dawn Service in Seddonville

The rest of the day was spent relaxing after such an early start to the day. We did venture out in the afternoon to the neighbouring town of Mokihinui to check out the camp site there for future reference. Returning to camp we sat round in the sunshine until the sand-flies drove us to distraction when we retreated to the hotel bar for an ale or two.

Oyster Catchers on the Mokihinui river estuary.Oyster Catchers on the Mokihinui River Estuary.Mokihinui river estuary.Mokihinui River Estuary.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Slow retreat back towards Westport.

At least it was another fine day for our retreat back over what I believe is known as the Karamea Bluff. After a bit of last minute shopping at the Karamea 4Sq store we were off. Part way up the first hill climb we were being followed by a large 4 axle truck towing a 4 axle trailer. Not wishing to hold up a working man I pulled over at the first opportunity to let him pass with a thank you Honk Honk on his air horns.

Old dumped cars acting as a stop bank on a river bend. Seddonville has a flooding problem.Old dumped cars acting as a stop bank on a river bend. Seddonville has a flooding problem.

It wasn’t long before we were back at the Seddonville Hotel where Lorraine,the landlady, told us what the arrangements are for tomorrows Dawn Parade. Later we walked down to where the event will take place to get an idea of timing for the morning. It looks like an early night tonight with the alarm clock set for 5am.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Relaxation - Fishing and Reading.

Karamea tidal river.Karamea tidal river.

It was decided that today was going to be a relaxing sort of day before we head back towards Westport. Most of the gang read or caught up on the computers, myself, I tried my hand at fishing again. There were plenty of Trout and Herrings cruising up and down the river readily visible but they were feeding on the small fry, whitebait and Cocker Bullies which were plentiful. No matter what lure I tried, it was without success.

Driftwood high and dry on the Karamea river estuary banks.Driftwood high and dry on the Karamea River estuary banks.

Later this afternoon we did venture out with Robin and Jenny to investigate any other history of the district. We learnt how the Murchison earthquake of 1929 bought down huge slips along the Karamea river and virtually changed the course of the river putting an end to the towns river port after 50 years.

A special side or end tipping wagon used to create stop banks along the river.A special side or end tipping wagon used to create stop banks along the river.

Even schooling was no easy task with schools on both side’s of the river and parents choosing which teachers they preferred to teach their children. This quite often meant ferrying children across the river by punt or row boat even in flood conditions. There are reports of a 12 year old girl rowing her younger brothers across the river to school. It wouldn’t happen these days. 

Highland McBull in Karamea.Highland McBull in Karamea.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Oparara Limestone Arches and Caves.

Babbling brook through the forest.Babbling brook through the forest.Kahurangi National Park.Kahurangi National Park.

It was to be another dirt road adventure today to visit the Oparara Limestone Arch, Crazy Paving and Box Canyon caves. Fourteen kilometres of what was originally a logging  track through the Kahurangi National Park where logging ceased in 1976. Replanting native trees was started but all too late. Twenty five years later and the young Rimu and Rata trees are readily visible.

Regrowth Rimu in the Kahurangi National Park.Regrowth Rimu in the Kahurangi National Park.

At the first car park we had a twenty five minute walk to the Limestone Arch. The arch which has been created by the flow of water is huge, 219m Long, 43m High, and 79m Wide. You can see through the arch which is more like a tunnel with a river running through it.

River flowing through the Limestone Arch cave.River flowing through the Limestone Arch Cave.IMG_7172Oparara Limestone Arch

Further up the road we investigated the Crazy Paving and Box Canyon Caves. The Crazy Paving Cave, when found, had fossils and all sorts of strange living organism’s in the dried out mud on the floor. The head room in this cave was pretty low in places unlike the Box Canyon next door where it was hard to see the roof let alone touch it. Beautiful shapes in the Limestone rock had been carved by the rise and fall of water levels in the cave. I’m not sure if a river still flows through the cave but I certainly wouldn’t want to hang around in there if it started to rain as West Coast rivers can rise very rapidly.

Headroom in the Crazy Paving cave was a bit low.Headroom in the Crazy Paving Cave was a bit low.Floor of the Crazy Paving cave.Floor of the Crazy Paving Cave made up of dried mud.Oparara Honeycombe caves eroded away by water.Oparara Box Canyon caves eroded away by water.Oparara Honeycombe caves.Imagine all sorts of designs in the Oparara Box Canyon Cave.

After our caving experience we headed back to the main road where the final destination is Kohaihai. This is definitely the end of the road on the West Coast The last 4km’s is again a dirt road finishing up at the Department of Conservation reserve on the estuary of the Kohaihai river. Here there are miles of golden sands but they shelve away very steeply so are not suited to swimming. It is also the beginning or end of the Heaphy Track through the Kahurangi National Park to near Collingwood, a good 4 - 6 day hike.

Swing bridge across the Kohaihai river on the Heaphy Track.Swing bridge across the Kohaihai River on the Heaphy Track.Reflections on the Kohaihai river.Reflections on the Kohaihai River.This Weka had a wonky leg.This Weka had a wonky leg.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Karamea the end of the road (almost).

We left Seddonville this morning with a plan to return on Tuesday as there are still things to investigate in the area.

Single lane bridge near Gentle Annie point.Single lane bridge near Gentle Annie Point.

Todays journey to Karamea was up through the Mokihinui Forest on 26km’s of winding road that 40kph was too fast as you were no sooner through one curve when you hit the next one. The view at about 600m above sea level was great with it being a reasonably clear day. It wasn’t until we reached Little Wanganui that we returned to just above sea level and a long straight road along the coast.


Arriving in Karamea we found the camp in very pleasant surroundings alongside the Karamea River.

The most Northerly camp site on the West CoastThe most Northerly camp site on the West Coast.Karamea Domain.Karamea Domain with the river in front of Gypsy Rover.

This is basically the end of the main road up the West Coast of the South Island with just a couple of minor roads to the start of the Heaphy Track, Oparara, Limestone Arches and the Honeycombe caves Beyond all this is the Kahurangi National Park. The only way out is back the way we came as far as Westport and then inland via the Nelson Lakes National Park.

Grass growing on the roof. Added insulation perhaps?Grass growing on the roof in Karamea. Added insulation perhaps?