Punakaiki (Pancake) Rocks and the Pororari River

The West Coast of S Island is wild and often wet. We spent a lot of time in the summer of 2013/14 waiting for windows of decent weather for the west. When one came we whipped over Arthurs Pass and up to the Pancake Rocks.

Late afternoon sun and strong winds made the rocks rather impressive as the waves crashed around the blow holes and the spray aided the formation of rainbows around the rocks.

Everyone comes here and it is very full of tourists. No-one was selling pancakes though?

We stayed at the pub down the road and had a wonderful walk 4 hour the next day. You can park at the visitors centre and wander down the road to the Punakaiki river.

Cross the road bridge and follow the gravel road up the river until the DoC signs appear and you can take a track up the river and then over a saddle. This is the start of the Inland Pack route, a two or three day tramp. In 2014/15 the track is still difficult to follow because of windfalls after some storms. Check with DoC before you venture onto the whole of the track.

The forest is peaceful and luxuriant. Heavy rainfall ensures the varied greens are wonderful as you pass through native forest with dense decaying vegetation just off the track. A nice climb up to the saddle and down lands you by the Pororari river.

Its a gentle walk down the river, the limestone bluffs rearing straight above you. The rock climber in me was looking for routes all along the valley.

Trees are washed down the valley and fill the river bed. The dams they create provide nice swimming holes along the way.

We had lunch, a snooze and a swim half way down the river before clambering through a hole in the limestone to access the final couple of km to the road.

Once on the road turn left and walk back to the car. If you have a torch with you, you can explore the caves on the way back.

We had 24 hours of glorious sunshine, but as evening drew in another front appeared from the south. The temperature dropped, we needed a sweater over dinner and by the time we wandered to bed rain was falling again.

Time to go back East to the rain shadow of the Alps, where it can be warmer and drier.

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