Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Zealand 2016 Day 18. Punakaiki

Anna was up super early (6:30 am!) and she woke me up while getting out of the van. So I also got up only to find out that it was raining again! I had made plans to rent a bike to do a 30 km trek, but I had to reschedule for the afternoon. So we had an early breakfast and got ready to do … nothing. What are two eager tourists supposed to do at 8 am under a steady rain? Anna decided to call a friend in Germany, which kept her busy for about an hour and a half (yes, 90 minutes of gabbing over the phone!), while I computed for a while and then read.

We finally got going about 9:30 am, intent of visiting Punakaiki, 50 km north along the coast. In going through the town, which is built on both sides of the place where the Grey River empties into the ocean (hence the name of Greymouth), I noticed that we were now in sedimentary rocks. Clearly, then, the Alpine fault cuts into the land, and we were seeing the sedimentary sequence that is being overthrusted by the metamorphic rocks of the Southern Alps. In the way we saw thick packages of limestones and black mudstones, which to me would suggest possible oil resources offshore to the west.

Punakaiki is a short but very rugged segment of the coast, where thinly laminated dolostones have been cut by the waves into a series of pinnacles, giving the impression that they are several tall stacks of pancakes. An interesting factoid for all of you geologists, is that the lamination appears to be a diagenetic feature rather than a depositional one.

From there we made a very pretty hike along the Pororari River, which cuts across the 35 million year old sedimentary sequence. It reminded me a lot of the rivers of the Huasteca, covered by a luxuriant vegetation. It is actually a karstic region, with caves and sinkholes, but it would be hard to tell under such a cover of green. By the time we got back from our 2-hour hike Anna was ready to eat a horse, so we hurried back to our base camp to have a belated lunch.

The rain finally quit around 3 pm, so I went for my bike ride. The nice gentleman in the reception desk drove me and my bike, for an agreed fee, 30 km out of the city, to a place where I could link with the Westcoast Bike Trail, and from there I biked back to town, following dirt roads across the forest and later a coastal track, until eventually I got back to the campground. It was very enjoyable, and I could have kept going to downtown, but to be honest the last 10 km were kind of painful because the bike I rented had a mean narrow seat hard as rock, and my derriere was by then getting very sensitive to pressure. I love bicycling, but I definitely need a broad padded seat!

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