The gorge has high limestone cliffs rising tortuously on each side of a narrow river. Occasional house sized boulders lying on the bank show that the combined effects of rainwater on the hills above us. Wilding pines grow everywhere giving it a very un-New Zealand appearance but it is nevertheless beautiful. Walking is definitely the right way to see it as there are tiny details of vegetation and rock formations that would be missed when viewed at speed and through glass.
By 12:30 we had emerged onto SHW1 and walked along to the start of the Millennium track at the beginning of the Moeraki peninsula. Here we were joined by Jan and Jane from the Hampden church and we turned left along the beach and walked the final 4 km into Hampden past the famous Moeraki Boulders. Some of us hadn't seen them before, and for me who had, it was interesting to see the other collections of rocks lying along the beach. North of the main group, the ones in the photo above, is a f Moeraki Boulder graveyard, where hundred of them have disintegrated, leaving old fractured cores and pieces of their outer layers lying everywhere. South of the main group are a collection of them made of softer material; these have eroded into large open circles, sitting on the beach like giant broken eggshells.
At Hampden we were greeted by a very welcome sight. At a picture table on the beach were 4 huge paper bags of fish 'n' chips, supplied by Lockies' Takeaways. he proprietor had heard of the Hikoi and wanted to help. He certainly did. Lots of people sell fish 'n' chips but not many people sell good ones. These, quite seriously, were amongst the best I've ever tasted: perfectly cooked blue cod with just a hint of crisp golden batter; great thick chips hard and crusty on the outside and soft crumbly white in the middle; none of it with any excess grease. The trip advisor review has 24 customer reviewers each giving the shop a five star rating, and it's pretty easy to see why.
So tonight we sleep in this quiet little town and tomorrow will walk to Maheno. We have, with local advice, changed our route away from the main road and along the coast road, adding another hour and considerably more scenery to the journey, and significantly reducing our chances of encountering semi trailers.