The morning was cold, and I crawled out of my cocoon in the backseat of Te Namu to the sound of distant surf and the blasted buzzing of an infernal sandfly. I killed it before I dressed, and immediately felt positive about the day ahead. I would be driving the West Coast Highway to a place called Punakaiki — famed for its iconic ‘Pancake Rocks’. Anything with pancakes is a good thing, so I was keen to visit.
Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes – every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.” – Orison Swett Marden
Gillespies Beach disappeared as I drove back along a gravel road to the town of Fox Glacier, and then to the glacier itself. The cloud cover was still quite low, and the hike to the glacier afforded marginal views. I didn’t stay long, and carried on to Franz Josef.
The views there were better — the trail wound through a patch of temperate rainforest before spilling out onto the glacial plain. The glacier itself peered out from its perch between peaks ahead — the clouds hovering just high enough for me to take in the scene.
I’d thought about staying in the area for another day, to hike some trails and enjoy the place where mountains meet the sea. But a restlessness pushed me forward — I found myself anxious to reach Punakaiki that day. I had this sense that I would love it (pancakes, remember?), and wanted to spend a good amount of time there. I left the glacier and carried on driving the West Coast Highway, stopping anywhere I fancied along the way.
The first such stop was Lake Mapourika. The world seemed to be holding its breath, and the surface of the lake was as still as glass. I enjoyed the stillness, closing my eyes and doing my best to soak in the colors, if it were only possible.
As the road wound along the coast, small parking alcoves afforded views through the wind-blown flax. Frenetic waves lashed the coast, and the force of the wind was evidence in the slanted trees clinging to the hillsides. A constant mist hung low from the sea spray, obscuring the horizon and shrouding the scenery in mystery.
I made it to Punakaiki at last, and settled in to my quarters at the Punakaiki Beach Hostel — a converted caravan with a double bed and comfortably toasty interior. Outside, the waves pounded the rocky shore, and the setting sun set fire to the sea.
As I watched the sunset, I felt something many travelers feel when they find a place which resonates with them so. I felt absolutely content in the moment I was in, the place I was at. There was nowhere else I would’ve rather been at that moment…
…or maybe I was still thinking of pancakes.
How about you? Have you ever felt totally at peace in some place you’ve found? Where was it, and how long did you stay? Let me know in the comments below!