Had a ball at the Ballroom. 16th – 18th September 2016
What a cracker of a weekend. Well, became a long weekend. The weather forecast for the week was (sh..). Not good for a tramper to be crossing rivers, on open ridge tops. In general wandering into the wilderness. Anyway five keen hearty souls decided to defy the odds and go for it.
Friday afternoon, 1pm thereabouts was departure time for a bit of a drive to Punakaiki. We all meet up at Colin & Judy’s, loaded up the Ute and headed off to the dreaded rain which the West Coast is known for. On the way there, plan B, C & D were thought up if the weather was .....(not good for trampers). A stop over at Arthurs pass cafe for a coffee. Yep, it was raining. A top up at Greymouth for the Ute and it was not raining. Onto Punakaiki and it was raining. Here we were greeted by the Motor Camp manager. A very positive local young man who had spent his youth in Punakaiki, studied and return to take over the motor camp. A bit of local knowledge of the weather goes a long way. In the space of 10 minutes we were all decided to have the Monday off work and carry on with the original plan “A”.
By 3am the rain had stopped and the full moon shone brightly into the cabin. We awoke to sunshine, yes sunshine. A wander down to the Pororari river by the camp, to check the water level, breaky then a wander into Punakaiki DOC office/ I site. A wander around the Pancake rocks as one must always do if you are there. You never know when that perfect photo is waiting for you to snap it.
After helping the West Coast tourist economy improve by a bit of local shopping it was back to the camp for lunch and yes the river was falling. As we are trampers, it was a drive up the Bullock Creek Road and a short wander to Cave Creek. A place we all remember in our own way. A short trip down Truman track to the beach and the caves accessible at low tide, more photos. Back to the camp and then a drive down the road to the beach to watch the Terns return to land in the evening after spending the day out at sea. In all, a very busy and enjoyable Saturday.
Sunday; yes, finally plan “A”. Walk out of the camp, across the road to a car parking area and we are on our way up the Pororari river. I think the big thing to report here is the signs of the devastation to the large established trees that were blown over in Cyclone Ita, 2014 that hit the West Coast. The Inland Pack track has only recently been opened up again since the cyclone. It’s a scene where you cannot capture in a photo as it is so vast. Large trees with a 2 metre plus girth cut 4 metres or so in the air by chainsaw, that is where the stump has fallen back into its same hole.
It took us the 3hrs (8Km) as the track time predicted to get out to the Bullock Creek car park area. From here the river/ creek crossing start. Again it is through areas where the cyclone opened up the forest so the land could once again see the sun. Up and down along the trail, then it was into Fossil Creek/ Dilemma Creek. Climbing under and over the fallen trees in the Creeks? more like rivers. Eventually we were at the confluence of the Fox River. Ballroom shelter 25 minutes, ya. Feet are starting to get a bit sore now, 8.5 hrs into our adventure.
Nine hours, finally at our accommodation rock for the night. By this time the sunshine had change to overcast. Packs off and the boys went fire wood gathering, the girls set up the tents and got the billy on. Cuppa under the belt, dehy meal, sitting around the fire putting the world to right. Alas, no moon as it was the night before. What should one do when at a ballroom? Have a waltz. That’s right, so before retiring for the night we had the Last Waltz as our feet had sufficiently recovered. 123,123,123. Nothing to it, watch out Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rodgers.
6am wake up call. A big day ahead, we had to walk out, side trip up to the Fox River Caves, drive back to Timaru. 7am we were on the track or rather in the river, heading for the caves. It took just under a couple of hours to get to the side track to the caves. A half hour wander without packs saw us at the entrance to the Limestone caves. Discovered in 1906 where the farmer made a track up there and for a princely sum of 2 shillings and sixpence you were guided into the cave. Today you can do it for free. That doesn’t seem the norm for NZ today.
Head lights on, in we went. Once we got to the point the taller ones would be stooping and the water getting above the knees it was time to turn around and head back out. We spent just under half an hour in there. A worthwhile detour if you are ever up that way, even if you are not going to the Ballroom. Park up at the car park at the mouth of the Fox River, 12 km north of Punakaiki. It would be a 2.5/3 hr return trip plus your time in the cave (8km). Worth your while to do.
By 11.30 am we were out and on our way home. A great weekend away. Thanks Louise for staying positive, you can never trust the weather. It turned out 3 days of sun as we travelled the West Coast of NZ. Accompanying Louise was Judy, Chris, Colin and John from the SC Tramping club.
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