Once upon a time, there were two cyclone super-storms in the South Pacific...
Over Easter weekend last year, New Zealand celebrates a statutory four day weekend which includes Good Friday and Easter Monday. (pretty cool, right?) Heath had a site visit that Thursday in the same location we were planning on spending some of our weekend. So, we took off a day early to make the most of our time off. We had planned on enjoying the beautiful Golden Bay, especially after 10 days of nearly non-stop rain, we were ready for some sunshine.
Whelp, little did we know, Mother Nature was not done with us yet. We were able to make it out of Nelson and the 150 km/hr (~90mph) gale force winds that were fast approaching. We didn't have a long drive, but there was a large pass we needed to get beyond before the slides and flooding began and stopped traffic. Luckily we made it past and saw the havoc that went down in Nelson (and all over the country) that night on the news. We were able to venture out of the hotel room intermittently, but it was mainly to get a new DVD at reception or to grab some food. We ended up having an amazing dinner (and two desserts) at the hotel's restaurant, Eatery on the Rock - YUM!
Come Friday, there was still no letting up on the storm, so we continued to stay hunkered and only venture out when we got hungry or a little stir crazy. We drove the short 10-15 minutes from Takaka to Pohara - which normally has beautiful views - to get dinner. Good food, a few ginger beers and an hour later we headed back to the hotel. By this time the rain had let up for a bit which was nice to not have to drive in the rain, however we soon encountered the main road back to our hotel was flooded. Although our trusty Subaru (pronounced Soob-ah-rue) didn't have a snorkel, we braved the 25 yards or so of flooded road to make it back. We thought this would be the worst of the storm that we would encounter, but we would soon find out we were severely mistaken...
Saturday morning, 7:30 am we were off. Grabbed a few coffees and small breakfast and we backtracked about 3/4 of the way back to Nelson, just to get on the main highway to head towards Greymouth. Now, driving an additional 4.5 hours might not seem like the smartest idea - especially after all this rain - but we had a pre-paid reservation to do a glow worm cave tour and figured we were already going to be in the water, why not do it in the rain?! Our journey was safe as the rain had let up for most of the trek, but we saw quite a few raging rivers that were overflowing their banks and more trees knocked down due to the winds that we could count. By 1 pm, we met were able to grab a quick lunch before getting geared up for our tour with New Zealand Discovery Adventures.
We had the opportunity to tailor our adventure, but we chose the river floating, cave tour (including hot chocolate) and then a 'cliff jump' if we chose to, followed by a beer in the hot tub back at the building. Nothing too crazy, but just enough to get a good experience out of it. Now, as if that wasn't enough, we still had more excitement waiting at our next destination.
Punakaiki, Maori for pancake are an amazing rick formation on the West Coast of the South Island. We left Greymouth and headed to our Backpacker house for the night - where someone from Sacramento saw my Run to Feed the Hungry shirt and we bonded. Just goes to show what a SMALL world it really is!
We ended up eating at the Punakaiki Tavern - since we didn't need a reservation - and realized we would have rather eaten out of a vending machine than spend $60 on the overly fried, and nearly disgusting dinner! Back at the Backpacker house and a later night than we hoped, but that's what comes with a shared space and a room above the main kitchen. Womp, womp.
Another early morning to ensure we could get to the good stuff and head home before it got too late, we made our 1.5 kilometer drive to the entrance of the Pancake Rocks! Sitting in the car we ate our homemade muffins from the Backpackers and waited to see if the rain would let up. No deal. So, we braved it - and so glad we did!
It was going to take about 20 minutes to walk throughout the guided paths over the rocks and to learn about the history. Heath was a champ and let me have the umbrella as I was also the photographer. He started getting DRENCHED pretty quickly, and it didn't take very long for me to catch up. When we made our way to some of the lookout points, the rain decided to come down sideways... super fun. After about 7 minutes, it actually became quite comical and we were laughing and playing around with puddles in our hiking shoes and soaked jeans.
Since it was Easter Sunday, I think God decided to grace us with some beauty and we started to see some blue skies out over the Tasman Sea and the rain, once again, let up. We were able to take a few extra pictures (together even) before the rain started again and we headed back to Nelson.
It was a beautiful drive back as halfway was a new route for us following along the Buller River. I've never seen so many rain run-off waterfalls before, it was just stunning. Making it back to Nelson, the storm wasn't done with us yet, so we ordered some Thai food, cuddled up and enjoyed being back in the comfort of our own home. Until the next adventure...