08 Mar 2016

Over The Mtn's & Thru The Woods - NZL by valeriepeltier

23/34

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Our time in Franz Joseph was up and it was now time to say goodbye. Amazed at how quickly you can become attached to a group of strangers it was sad to leave them, but with exchanging names for Facebook, there is always hope of reuniting in the future.
We hopped on the bus once it arrived, but since it was pretty full there were no two seats together so Lauren and I split up for the ride and I ended up sitting in the front seat beside a a lovely lady from the Uk.
As our driver played with the buttons for the sun shade we chatted about various things, allowing the landscape the pass by as well as the time. We stopped a few times, once at a coffee shop, another in a small town I believe named Hakaintiki where we had a half hour, so I bought a chocolate bar and explored the beach. Along the beach there was heaps of drift wood lying about and some locals had taken the initiative to gather up some here and there creating sculptures, one of which was of a whales tale reaching out of the sea of sand. During the remainder of the drive we passed by some really pretty landscape but one of the really neat features we passed was a one lane bridge that not only cars had to wait for their turn but so did trains, since the railway turned onto the road for the length of the bridge.
Our last stop of the day was in Punakaki, where we were staying for a couple days. The bus pulled into the stop up at the top of town, where the trail to pancake rocks and the blowholes were located, but he had offered if we were willing to wait he would drop us off at the hostel near the middle of town. We decided we would wait and explored the little shops in the meantime.

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Walking up to the beach hostel we we're staying at, I was super excited,because we were literally staying right on the beach. The sound of the waves echoing in my ears and the smell of the salty air flowing through my nose, we quickly made our way to the office where we got our room keys. The office filled with the aroma of freshly baked goods, cakes, cookies and. bread. Resisting temptation for the moment we picked our beds and went for a walk up the beach allowing the sand to flow between our toes again. Along the beach the sand changed from soft cold sand to warm granular sand to small rocks all of which the sea had done its job at pushing it to shore. Eventually we couldn't walk any further along the beach because the Punakaiki River joined in and was constantly being washed away with the waves. Near the mouth of the river a large rock outcrop stood on its own, although once upon a time was apart of the cliff side. The first 10ft or so of the rock was covered in muscles and barnacles revealing the highs of the water during high tide. We took our time wandering around and playing in the sand exploring the beach and searching for stones that caught our eye.
When we got back to the hostel, we had convinced Ollie to come and explore Punakaiki with us where he parked his car in the campground next door when he arrived after dinner.
We greeted him with some freshly baked cookies that we had purchased in the reception and wandered up and down the beach again, this time searching for green stones, meanwhile sipping on my cup of tea.
When we had checked in the man who owned the hostel had told us that there are exceptional sunsets here on the west coast so we made sure that we were back out on the beach by 7:30 which he was certain that would be when it would start to get good. Unfortunately the clouds had moved in on us creating a grey and white sheet and hiding the sunset. Once the little sun we did have went away the wind started to get a little chilly on the beach so we found a semi sheltered area on some benches at the hostel to hang out at.
I went in and made a pot of tea and brought out some mugs. We ended up sitting out there for a few hours while the sky turned to black allowing us to star gaze when the clouds created a clearing. I still find it difficult to identify the constellations from the Southern Hemisphere, but we were definitely giving it our best.