Since the Buller river begins its journey at our lake we consider ourselves honorary Coasters. For anyone who doesn't live in New Zealand, I should explain that if you say " West Coast" people naturally assume that you're talking about the South Island (and, oddly enough, if you say "East Coast", they assume you mean the North Island - but I digress).
By the nature of where it is, the West Coast is almost a separate country - accessible from the rest of the South Island only by gorges and mountain passes , it's one of the more remote places in New Zealand. And that's how the locals like it.
The coast folk have traditionally been involved with mining (both coal and gold) and fishing , as well as other interesting industries such as sphagnum moss farming, whitebaiting and brewing fine beer. They have a reputation for being straight up , honest and tough but fair.
The country itself is challenging - the often wild Tasman sea arrives at the end its long journey from Australia and surges up the beach to fling itself at the cliffs , sometimes trumpeting upwards through spectacular blowholes. The road clings to the edge of the cliffs , winding its way over steep bluffs and down alongside lonely beaches. The cliffs are thickly clad with almost impenetrable rainforest , which threatens to smother everything in its way. I reckon if you had a house there you'd be checking each day to see if the bush was creeping nearer.
The climate? Well, the coast has a reputation for a huge amount of rain, but to be fair, this all falls in a short space of time and in between the weather is often quite temperate. This is the best place in the country to watch a sunset.
It can be sobering , though , to sit and watch this sea and remind yourself that we live on quite a small , narrow island and that people on other small islands are faced with the realities of sea level change - at least we have mountains that we can retreat to, not everyone is that lucky.
Each time we visit I'm drawn to the wildness of the West Coast , always a good painting subject.I hope that you enjoy this one of the view back towards Punakaiki - and that if you haven't visited the Coast yet that you'll get down there...