Last week I flew into Westport on board a Beech 1900D. It’s a little 19-seater, narrow, with one seat on each side of the aisle. One of the nice things about it was that we didn’t need to do all the security checks before boarding. It was a pleasant flight, taking about 45 minutes.
For someone from Wellington, Westport is like stepping back a couple of decades: wide streets, low buildings, all with verandahs, not much traffic. In fact, I didn’t see a set of traffic lights on the whole West Coast. It seemed sleepy and slow: perfect for someone on holiday.
The West Coast is famous for forests, coal mining, gold mining, pounamu (greenstone), whitebaiting, fishing, rain, and a rugged breed of people.
Museums aren’t really my thing, but I wanted to fill in some time, waiting for my partner, Deb, to drive down from Marlborough so I took a tour. The museum had several exhibition areas, devoted to coal mining, gold mining, minerals and shipping. Stuff was crammed in, and occasionally labelled. There were some interesting documentaries screening on coalmining. There was also a faint whiff of coaldust in the air.
North of Westport is the Deniston Incline, famous for its extremely steep grade, up and down which trucks ran on rails, using an ingenious gravity system to take coal down the mountain and haul up the empty trucks. Unfortunately we were travelling south, so I didn’t visit the historic site, but in its time the incline allowed millions of tons of coal to reach the ships at the coast which would deliver it where it needed to go.
Westport was a pleasant place, the people friendly, and with a generally relaxed air. Once Deb arrived we went down to the pub for a darned good and inexpensive meal. Then it was time to relax, catch up on news, and sleep.