Punakaiki seemed like an odd choice for Christmas Day when we first planned this trip. But then so much about this trip seemed odd. We have talked about seeing New Zealand for many years now. Pam has a friend from high school who lives in Christchurch that she has kept in touch with for donkey’s years. But given its distance and its cost, we never really thought we would make it. When one of our children backed out of coming to Malaysia and left us facing the prospect of Christmas alone, we decided to throw caution to the wind and take what might well be our last Christmas holiday in Asia. With New Year’s in Christchurch a certainty, we planned backwards seven days and that left us practically in the middle of nowhere on the west coast of the South Island. The midpoint was Punakaiki; that is how we got here. And here turns out to be a very nice place to be.
We spent the night in Westport, at a passable campsite with a martinet for an owner who liked to order his guests about. After dressing down our neighbor for his litter he condemned our tent heater as being “dangerously unsafe” and forbade its use. Fortunately for us the night was warm for a change so Pam slept in for a bit and we took our time getting up and going in the morning. Just down the road was a place called Seal Colony Point, and we decided it was worth a look. It has been our experience that many such places are either misnamed or exorbitantly expensive. This was neither. After a very pleasant walk on a well maintained path we arrived at a lookout point from which many seals could be seen frolicking in the waves (there is no other explanation for their behavior: they were simply body surfing) or sunbathing on the rocks, at which time they are practically invisible.
We moseyed down a pretty coastal road, stopping often for the views until we arrived at our destination for the night, the Punakaiki Resort; as pleasant a spot as you are likely to find on this wild coast. After dropping our stuff in a spacious and well equipped room we headed up the road to an area called The Pancakes, an appropriately named spot as it turns out for the stacked layers of sedimentary rock being eroded by wind and wave. After far more pictures that we could ever use of blowholes and surges, headlands and cormorants we wandered our way a little further up the road for a Christmas meal of fish and chips and some chatter with fellow Christians from Texas.
Sunset was cloudy and basically nondescript. But Moonset! Have I ever seen Moonset over the ocean before? I think not; indeed I’m not even sure there is a term. But I certainly saw it last night, and it was beautiful! The moon was full and almost completely orange. It sailed through the clouds towards the ocean like the sun itself, only with a ghostlier gleam. It coloured the clouds with an awesome and eerie glow. I watched in wonder for about an hour; unable to sleep, and unable to take my eyes away from the celestial show. What a marvel that a rational God would want us to see how perfectly He has constructed the world to have the moon the same apparent size as the sun (only from the eath!). What a stimulus to rational and scientific inquiry this has brought about. I marvel in the reason and the rationality of our God! And His beauty. Gosh this is a beautiful world!