Bearded Miners, The Buller River and Beach Bike Trails

There’s just one more thing we have to check out in Reefton before we leave today. (Well, there are a million things we wish we had time to check out in Reefton to be honest). But our number one priority is The Bearded Miners.

Since arriving in the West Coast town a couple of days ago, we have spent almost all our time with locals who have talked about The Bearded Miners. So after a quick breakfast and work session at The Breadshop Backpackers, we say goodbye to our wonderful host, Trevor, and head to the main street, Broadway.

Finding the Bearded Miners of Reefton

A sign and a garden full of old mining equipment indicate we are in the right place. Indeed, a bearded miner is sat amongst a group of guys having coffee. From here, we’re not sure what we are meant to do other than say: “Hi.” (People had only told us to go and talk to them).

So before we go forward, maybe we should explain who exactly are The Bearded Miners. Well, Reefton was a gold mining town. It shaped the culture here, and The Bearded Miners are reminiscent of those days. They were four (now three) guys with big beards and a whole lot of knowledge on mining.

A drunk possum

This morning, there is only one bearded miner here for the morning shift. He gives us a quick look around his cabin and the first thing he points out is a “drunk possum”.

On the beams of the ceiling is a stuffed possum hugging a beer can.

There is a fire going, however, with all the holes in the walls made of plank, we fail to see if it would be very effective.

The rest of the mining relics are a bit hard to make out in the dark, but the bearded miner soon grabs a gold pan full of rocks and takes us outside to two toughs full of water and dirt.

The bearded miner pans for gold The bearded miner pans for gold
The opal sparkles in the water (which you can totally not see here, but whatever). The opal sparkles in the water (which you can totally not see here, but whatever).
Back on the road! Back on the road!
Soaking up the scenery of the Buller River Soaking up the scenery of the Buller River

Good as gold (and other gold-related expressions)

In his gold pan is some gold! He shows us what it feels like, explains how it is made in the earth, and what people have to do to mine it. Then he has numerous vials of gold dust, quartz and more.

His wealth of knowledge is pretty impressive. He shows us what type of rocks we would find to indicate that gold is nearby.

Panning for gold

Then, it’s the moment of truth: will he find new gold in the tough? He gets the gold pan and shows us the technique. Man, you need a lot of patience for this. After about five minutes of swirling and scooping, he is left with gold dust – no, fool’s gold. That’s pretty worthless, so he would have to probably try again and again and again.

Quick cafe break

We might not be getting rich today, but we are then keen to find our own version of gold: a Broadway Cafe & Tearoom hot chocolate!

This is also the workplace of Paul, who was our mountain biking buddy yesterday, so we also get one last chat with him before hitting the road.

Next stop, Westport!

Following the mighty Buller River

The journey to the coast of the West Coast is one of the most scenic drives we have done yet! Following the Buller River, we creep along the side of river valleys with mountains on each side. The Buller River gets wider and wider with the swirling of the current even visible from high up in our van.

Waterfalls can be seen falling down cliffs in the distance. The clouds hug the mountain peaks… There is just so much to photograph that we are pretty happy there are a few designated areas to do so. Otherwise, we have some sections of single lane road to meander.

Hello, Westport!

We reach Westport and the Bazil’s Hostel – a hostel Robin has been long anticipating as he has had some awesome stays here – where we are basing ourselves for the next three days. Upon just entering the reception area of the hostel, we are wowed by the murals and artwork that cover every wall on the way in! These are not just your basic murals, there are detailed stories going on here with kiwi birds, whales, pukeko, frogs… And, because this is a surf hostel, all of them are doing something “surfy”.

Laura with her serious biker face on Laura with her serious biker face on
Boardwalk biker Boardwalk biker
Weaving through the Kawatiri Reserve Weaving through the Kawatiri Reserve

Mountain biking mission in Westport

There’s still light left in the day, so one of our hosts, Steve, shows us some new mountain biking trails at the end of town. Bazil’s offer free bikes and helmets, so we know what we are occupied with for the rest of the day!

The Kawatiri Bike Trails

We cruise down the wide streets of Westport to the Kawatiri Beach Reserve. A boardwalk leads to a couple of different winding trails through a forest following the coast of North Beach.

The trails are gravel and pretty well-maintained so we have no problem cruising through the bush. (Although we do find ourselves drifting off the path onto a muddy 4×4 track where we were clearly not supposed to go – stupid tourists).

Every so often, we take a side track to the beach covered in sand dunes. There are even 4×4 tracks going through the dunes. This whole reserve is a playground down here! We are really starting to think we underestimated the adventure side of the West Coast.

The tracks emerge at North Tiphead, which is a piece of land extending out to a lighthouse and some surf waves rolling in. (Waves we hope to be catching during our stay in Westport). From there, we head back down the streets – open, wide and quiet – to Bazil’s.

Tomorrow, we are going out to hunt for seal colonies and check out that wild West Coast coastline at Cape Foulwind. See you then!

Laura and Robin

Spinning around on the Kawatiri Trails
Spinning around on the Kawatiri Trails Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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