Catch part 1 of this series here.
As I've already intimated, the Southern Alps and the West Coast of the South Island are hardcore Nothofagus country i.e. smothered in old-growth, evergreen goth forest; hylophobes should look away now. Personally I could stare into this endless heart-of-darkness human-free landscape forever, but someone else gets bored and demands some sort of forward progress. So onward over the pass into Westland proper and our convergence with the fucking mighty Buller River.
The stretch of single lane road directly below is cut laterally into a cliff face called Hawk's Crag and is supposed to be regulated by stop/go lights at either end but they're almost always out of action. This necessitates a fingers-crossed approach enlivened on this occasion by the Buller tonguing the edge of the tarmac. That's an oncoming car high in the top left hand corner there. The water came over the road shortly after our traverse.
The Buller Gorge is often closed in winter by flooding and rockfalls and drivers end up in the river fairly regularly. Local intelligence is the key to getting through safely when the weather's rough, so if you're visiting NZ, don't have any contacts and don't know your arse from your elbow, it's probably better to jump on a bus or a train.
< After all that undulous forest and aqueous drama it seems a bit strange to land so abruptly on the narrow strip of coastal plain beside the Tasman Sea, but this is what happens once you've rolled on through Westport.
This is primary industry/extraction country, the local economy predicated on both the logging of native podocarp forest (only recently curtailed) and coal mining, which is heading the same way as the Chinese market dries up and renders most of the remaining mines uneconomic. A few stagger on, losing money hand over fist, shedding employees and shitting all over the environment. Shady operators and fatalities have been a feature of the mining culture here for 150 years but no one has been willing or able to challenge its status as primary employer in the region.
A fistful of shitty cottages. A smattering of pretty ones.
So, Granity, population 200 (give or take) and our ultimate destination. I'm here for my great-nephew's birthday and to see my latest niece Rita - she's new to this big camera shit- and Sparkle, my sister's elderly pig dog.
Granity is a somnolent little blip on the only highway snaking north and south along a coastline that is slowly turning cannibal, gnawing at the shingle beaches and periodically inundating seaward gardens. There is a coal train. A library.
A rotunda. A lot of property for sale.
It's easy to dismiss Granity as an unreconstructed shithole, but that would be uncharitable and probably inaccurate. There are far worse places virtually anywhere you care to look and I enjoy its toothless, whiskery, deshabille charms.
< It's the sort of town where people take the time to personalise road signage. To mistake you for someone else in broad daylight at short range. To ask you where you're going even though they obviously don't care.
C O N T I N U E TO P A R T 3