Friday, January 07, 2005


After leaving my little seal family, I headed west, as west as the road permits at the top of the South Island. A lot further than I thought possible to be honest - as far as a little place called Anatori, via the marvellous Whanganui inlet, which is a little harbour surrounded by forest and made into a marine park, so there's no killing of any of the marine life nor any jetboating, waterskiiing - very tranquil. Most surprisingly, I was driving through the "settled area" of Mangarakau, we're talking about 50 k west of Collingwood, over narrow corrugated gravel roads with virtually no sign of human habitation, and see the Nugget Cafe. Not only was the existence of a cafe such a surpise in such a remote area, but it was open for lunch on New Year's Day. They've been going a full five years now, only marginally busier than my planned Sahara Desert Canoe Hire business, but because their overheads are low, they can run it on a pittance. Nice.

After getting to the West Coast it only seemed logical to then complete the pincer movement and drive round to Karamea, which is pretty much the last settlement as you come north of Westport. I actually have a friend there completing a musical project, albeit in some remote DOC hut, so I had some vague idea that I'd run into her. Heading back from Anatori, I had the best coffee of the entire trip at the Court cafe in Collingwood, a brilliant burger from Golden Fries in Takaka and then spent the night on the top of Takaka Hill, waking to a brilliant view of Tasman Bay and the coastline. Nights like this just prove the point of having Webster - after all, it was my envy of everyone in Takaka two years ago with a van, and the flexibility that offered them, that inspired me to get one.

It took all of Sunday to get to Karamea, despite an early start. Speed was compromised by the need for coffee at Hot Mammas in Motueka, the need for a plate of panfried Scallops with chili glaze over green salad at Muses and, of course, another trip to Hot Mamas - Hannah Howes (who I have elsewhere noted that I owe $5 to) was supposedly singing at lunchtime. Either she has a strange concept of when lunch is or had cancelled - she'd not shown up by 1:30. Then a quick visit in to the Nelson Lakes was slowed by my being hailed as I walked across the car park - can't seem to get away from my book club colleagues! By the time I hit Westport, I was hungry again, but very unwilling to pay $25 for dinner, which seemed to be my only real option, until I noticed just how many people were milling around the chinese takeaway - it was bloody good food. One oddity of the place is that they don't do much in the way of fish and chips.

So, finally I was set to hit Karamea - only 98 k north, so a quick run. Hah! The Takaka Hill is a mere bump in the road compared with the Karamea Bluff, 25 k of road that wends up, around and then down. Some of the left turns snaked up so steeply that they had Webster gasping for breath, then the road had so many turns you'd swear it had been mapped by someone having an epileptic fit. But it was beautiful, all that could be seen were bush covered ridges running off in all directions. I might have stayed in the hills, but the only parking spot was nabbed by a fellow with a caravan.

Karamea was achieved finally at around 10:00, and what a letdown - there's no charm to the place, just a couple of shops and pubs.


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