After pimping our ride with an air mattress in Greymouth we drive north to get a look at Pancake Rocks in Punakai. We really wanted to start driving south but the Maui guide touted Pancake Rocks as a top 100 things a local must do.
The ride was stunning along the coast, the sun was shining, I had visions of these rocks being long flat monoliths randomly dealt out on a beach and perfectly suitable for climbing on and playing reptile. Laying on a rock nicely warmed by the sun with a soundtrack of the ocean crashing…here I come. And we arrive. It's always a moment to take pause when fantasy meets reality- its natural to take stock when they sit side by side. On this occasion my inner life was a bit too rich and there was a let down involved. The Pancake Rocks are spectacular, but not at all in line with my reptilian sunning daydream. Neuman! Allowing the mystery to unfold instead of preconceiving always seems to work best. The rocks were dubbed 'Pancake' as they look like a stack of pancakes- all attached and stacked high untouchable by those of us not in flight. There is a blow hole but we hit it at the wrong tide to check it out being mighty. I instantly recognized the formations as we had a region riddled with them near us in Spain at the El Torcal National Park.
The geological phenomenon that can be seen at Pancake Rocks, and El Torcal, is called karst. It can be boiled down to chemical weathering. Rain mixes with its surroundings and becomes acidic and eats away the limestone. This eating away carves channels in the rock, which become more distinguishable with each passage of flowing water. It happens all over the world and is noteworthy not only because in creates interesting formations for tourists but also creates sink holes and unstable conditions when people trying to dwell in places where they exist underground. Karstified areas can also be threats to the spread of ground water pollution because the numerous channels facilitate widespread travel and it's near impossible to obstruct once underway. Tip: DO NOT buy property in Kentucky that relies on a well. KKK. Kentucky is Karst Kountry and the sewage of a neighbor's cesspool 5 miles away can end up in your well thanks to widespread Kentucky Karst. Relax Redneck, not pickin on you, karst occurs all over the world- no one is safe. :-0 When you do get to make contact with it for just an occasional ooh or ahh in a park like Pancake Rocks it is fun to have your buzzwords right. The nooks, crannies, crags and channels in the rocks have the scientific names of flutes, runnels, clints and grikes. I think you will agree, these are freaking great words to have on tap the next time you are rock viewing.
The coolest part of the stop at Punakaiki was the Kiwi that crossed the road as we were leaving. We didn't know it at the time but it was amazing luck (it would come to be the first and last Kiwi we saw the whole trip). We turned south and set out to find a primo wild camping spot for the night.
From the south island and west coast of Aotearoa (the proper name for New Zealand), Land of the Great White Cloud 42.1000° S, 171.3333° E