1984 - The Mockers – ‘Forever Tuesday Morning’...
It’s an equinoxial Tuesday and I’ve had enough of wet, cold Canterbury. The Met. Service says it’s here to stay but the West Coast looks promising... Re-supply the Gypsy Rover – sleeping bag, tucker, camera, winter gear, fuel. By Sheffield a thin strip of white mountain gleams ahead from beneath the dismal ceiling, then expands to a perfect sky. Lunch at Springfield - there’s a choice – store, pub or Yellow Caf’ on the main street (SH73) of this once busy railway town, now a sleepy hamlet. The station too has a café, though it runs shorter hours and is, naturally, by the rail not the highway. To the station then; “A cheese scone and a long black please”. The scone is fresh and warm, the coffee excellent. The lady and her son are chatty, he has a 4WD so we chat that. Across the rail is a partly restored historic loco and more down the line. A train driver arrives with an RT but no train, there’s a panic on! Heading west into the Waimakariri’ Gorge a train passenger had spotted, down a bank, a prone motorbike and body so ‘pulled the cord’. Train skids to a stop partly in a tunnel, once out the driver radios for help then restarts.
An entertaining lunch!
Help is despatched, can’t find body or bike. Then there’s report of a fire further on so the Fire Service is aroused, their siren wails. And wails – it’s a small place - most are working. Turns out a rail crew had started a track-side fire, quickly out. Quite an entertaining lunch! I’m off again, tally ho. Cruisy run, perfect day, magic mountains, little traffic, two fire engines returning, some road-works, new bit near Arthur’s now finished. A kea dances the white line. I take the Old Christchurch Rd to Hokitika, a pleasant long shortcut. Get a fresh Ciabatta, top up fuel, then head to Lake Kaniere for the night. Cook a meal as the sun does it’s Big Orange thing, then the temperature plummets. The lake is like glass with trees carved from solid coal. My cooker seems odd. An edge of the pot is glowing? When lifted there’s a flare of the burner there. Once its cooled I re-pump the (white spirit) stove, open it’s valve to see a fine spray of fuel from that point! Uh, oh. No coffee then? I remove the brass vapouriser pipe to inspect, sure enough there’s a crack at a bend! It’s over ten years old and well used. The crack is caused by the pipe expanding and contracting as it heats and cools work-hardening the metal.
Clear as an open window!
Next morn I scout Hoki’ for a new part, no luck. A plumber then, to silver solder it? Nope, they are all servicing dairy farms so I head for Greymouth via backroads less travelled. Bright day, clear as an open window, still as a power pylon. Each lake reflects the sky more blue than it really is. I find a willing engineer so file out the crack, he makes a nice weld. Unfortunately when tested there’s another tiny crack. To the Big Red shed for a cheap gas stove. They are on special at twenty bucks and four cartridges for five! I march off smiling. It works well but is too big for my ‘kitchen’. Once home I order a new pipe. Stove now runs like new.
Coast with the most!
Three days in Westland at its best, and away from Eastland at its worst, eased my soul. The West Coast is a narrow coastal strip hemmed in by mountains and sea. The main highway (SH6) runs north/south and is scenic but getting off it brings treasures – lakes, thick native bush, gold or coal mines and relics thereof, beaches, rivers and waterfalls. Maori carvings in Pounamu (jade) are available from their creators. It’s nice in the dry but better when it’s wet. Rain awakens waterfalls, makes the bush sparkle and the mud muddier. Try any backroad for its surprises, look for flashes of cascade to the sides. Check out museums that feature gold, coal, forestry, fishing, transport and shipping on this hazardous coastline. There’s plenty of 4WD trips about (though if I told you where my mates would kill me) and they change often. Some need a two metre wheelbase and a metre of clearance, 35” tyres, trainer wheels on the door handles, enough rope to moor a ship, a winch to lift it and pockets so deep they drag on the ground. Others don’t!
The West Coast at its wild best.