Moving on from the DOC camp at Mahinapua it’s only 10 km’s up the road to Hokitika, and I am sure that almost everyone that visits this town takes or has a photo taken of themselves and the famous driftwood sign. Hence, I guess the above shot is nothing unusual to see in a blog. But I do count myself lucky to have got the shot as we arrived just as some people were moving away and left just as a large tour group got off their bus to view things.
We had checked into the NZMCA camp on the south side of town right next to the bridge with our initial fears of traffic noise given that it’s almost right next to the road these fears, however, proved unfounded as it was quite peaceful during the night.
Turning into the camp, you need to know that it is right at the end of the bridge or at the beginning depending on where you arrive from, so it’s very easy to drive past.
Like so many of the smaller South Island towns, Hokitika has a rich history in its buildings that in most cases have been well preserved even if the building itself has seen a change of purpose. It was, however, a shame to see the building behind the Richard Seddon Memorial falling into disrepair with a few windows missing on the upper floors inviting birdlife to take up residence inside the building.
While in town, we wanted to take advantage of the Laundromat, which is very well signposted; however, the place is a little run down with only two of the washing machines working. The ones that did work, however, did an excellent job, so we decided to return the following day only to discover the place closed at 10.30am and no response from the contact phone number. When we walked over to the, I Site to see if they knew anything further the lady there just rolled her eyes saying this sort of thing was commonplace with the Laundromat. So maybe it’s time for someone to set up in competition.
From the camp across at the river mouth, you can see a ship that appears to be sitting as a memorial or otherwise so. At the same time, we were in town we decided to check it out, thinking it might be something historical only to discover that it’s a concrete replica of some of the earlier ships that used to trade up and down the coast. There is a plaque there to commemorate shipwrecks from the 1800s, and this makes quite interesting reading given the number of ships that have sunk or been stranded here.
Back at the camp, we decided to have a look at the signboards next to the bridge that talks about the original airfield that used to be located here. The site of New Zealand’s first licensed air carrier. I was amazed to see in the old photo a picture of a plane that I recognised from our visit to the aviation museum in Mandeville. As shown above.
Of the airfield itself, nothing remains except these signs which is rather sad. It would have been great if some of the old buildings had been preserved rather than the farm paddocks that they are today.
There is a short walk alongside the riverbank where the airport used to be it’s a little overgrown in places, and you have to watch out for the stone and stick monster that’s waiting to pounce along the foreshore, but it’s a walk worth taking.
When we had parked at the DOC camp at Lake Mahinapua, we met a couple who had returned from riding part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail that includes the ride along the Mananui Tramline an old railway that was used for carrying timber out of the forest.
Since the trail runs right outside the NZMCA camp, we decided that we would ride along the track to the tramline and then return to the van a ride of around 25 km’s. The trip follows the old road past the local golf course then it’s about 2kms on State Highway 6 which does not have a dedicated cycle lane, so we were pleased there wasn’t much traffic that day.
Once you reach the Tramway it’s a relatively short ride through farmland to the start of the trail where it crosses a bridge. It then proceeds across the wetlands via a boardwalk that as you can see from the photos isn’t wide enough for two people to pass each other. Hence, we had a couple of awkward moments as we met people coming the other way, but thankfully nobody fell off as there is a large amount of water underneath.
Obviously, it makes sense if you are pulling logs out of the forest to also have a sawmill on site so not long after the start of the Tramway we reached the remains of the old Mananui Sawmill. There isn’t much to see these days just a couple of rusty bits of metal and some old concrete footings, but the sign above did an excellent job explaining the history of the whole area.
As you ride along the Tramway, you reach areas where they have set up notice boards to educate you about what was happening. Or about an area of interest around the track. Such as the experimental forestry plantation from the early 1900s or the hole in the ground next to the track that turned out to be an area where water was collected to keep the steam engines going all very fascinating.
The trail was a little rough in places nowhere near as smooth as the Otago Rail Trail as well as being a lot more narrow and enclosed by the native bush, but this made it different adding to our cycling experience. Because of the tremendous amount of rain that had fallen the previous night it was also very wet in parts of the track with trees down in places although nothing we couldn’t deal with.
We reached the end of the Tramway to be greeted by this Weka so seemed to take a great interest in us perhaps he/she was expecting to be fed but talk about no fear it was right up close enough it could have pecked my shoes.
At the end of the trail, it was time to return back the way we came which was rather uneventful except that 6 km’s from the Motorhome my front tyre decided to go flat. I have no idea how it got punctured maybe from a loose wire on the boardwalk, but it did mean a 6 km walk back to the Motorhome, thankfully Sarah kept me company and the rain held off.
Back at the Motorhome with the puncture fixed, it was time to prepare the nights dinner. When we had first brought the MH, we had convinced ourselves that the oven was too small to be useful. We have since discovered that as long as we allow extra time over our stove at home, it actually does a brilliant job so that night we enjoyed a magnificent sunset together with a great roast chicken.
I know that Hokitika has so much more to offer than the small amount I have listed here and we will return, but now it’s time to cross Arthurs Pass to get to Christchurch so we can have a minor issue sorted with the Motorhome.
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