A Travellerspoint blog

Time travel on the West Coast

For Janet and other history buffs

rain 16 °C

I'm sitting watching Dave light the fire under a bath! The bath has a chimney, even stranger! This novel washing apparatus is set in a garden filled with foxgloves and rather bizarrely teapots. A thick mist pours off the mountains to our right and meets the equally thick sea mist drifting lazily off the sea. An occasional car or truck thunders its way past on it's journey up the West Coast bringing us back to modern day reality. Where are we? In a little Bach called Teapot cottage just North of Hari Hari.

The West Coast of South Island is a wild place, a thin stretch of flat land interrupts the journey between sea and mountain. Along this stretch of land lives the bulk of the population of Westland although in saying this that doesn't amount to a lot. Once upon a time this land held promises of great things. People flooded here from far afield. Like the story of Stan Stephens who immigrated here in 1921 along with his 6 brothers and sisters. The reason...GOLD! In those day immigration from Britain involved an eight week voyage by sea followed by a horse drawn coach over the then precarious Arthur pass, followed by train and finally coach and horses to his final destination Waiuta. You would think after such a journey they would be grumbling, but they were ecstatic to arrive in such a place, covered in snow and with such a friendly welcome. Immigrants like Stan's dad were welcomed in New Zealand, they had the skills needed from there lives in the tin mines of Cornwall. It reminds me again perhaps why the Kiwi's are often seems so tough, they came from pretty tough stock.
On the way here we stopped off at an 'attraction' called Shanty town. I was fully prepared for some glitzy americanised theme park with very little to actually see but lots of extras to pay for. Shanty town was nothing like that. We spent about 5 hours there and could easily have spent longer. It was a recreation of a gold town and mine and was fascinating and even better, empty. All along the West Coast there are reminders that once this industry was thriving, towns were built on it, the logging industry thrived on it, with the need for timber in shafts and tunnels and of course there were all the things needed to keep all the miners and loggers fed, watered and entertained. Then almost within a couple of decades the whole industry folded. When mine's like Stan's closed towns became ghost towns almost overnight, people moved away and much of the land reverted to bush. We haven't succumbed yet to the activity of gold panning yet, but I must admit my heart does miss a beat when you spot something shiny glistening in the bottom of the river bed.

So back to teapot cottage. While my children soak in the steaming water of the outdoor bath I shall tell you a little about this little gem. The two bed roomed yellow weather boarded little cottage is like stepping back in time, our modern day backpack and laptop stand out like a sore thumb against a backdrop of mainly 50's furniture and nick nicks. In the corner a record player blasts out tunes such as the Seekers and Alan Parsons. The kids are fed up with us saying 'we remember this' as we dig out melamine beakers and dance to the Wombles (surprisingly good!) the fun doesn't stop there. With old suitcases full of clothes, and drawers full of 60's jewelry, glasses and curlers our time travelling experience is complete. Thanks Dan and Kath oh and the fishing was great too!

By the way just a random fact to do with shiny things, did you know glow worms get light envy if you take a torch into a cave?

Posted by antheahanson 02:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged island south

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