Travelling down from the alps we were still in wet weather, however now at sea level. The landscape has changed dramatically. From dry summer fields and yellowish hills we were now driving through lush green semi tropical vegetation with tall trees and a myriad of ferns. And misting rain, of course! This is after all the we(s)t coast.
We met the first of many intimidating roundabouts where the train line runs through the middle of the roundabout or crosses two of the arms of the roundabout thus providing the train with the opportunity to have a couple of goes at collecting cars as it passes through.
On the west coast we were lucky to stay again with family of Lindsay and Frances, this time Lindsay’s sister and brother-in-law who live in Greymouth. They live in a rustic house set in its own glade of delightful rain forest where they have carved out a garden (and huge vegi patch) from the surrounding tall trees and palms.
A delight for me was to be welcomed by Tika, a chocolate retriever who is so loveable and pattable. She lies on her bed inside stares at you with big brown eyes inviting waving hands to descend on her and give her a long, long pat or tummy rub! Rob is training her as a gun dog: he is an outdoorsman who fishes, hunts and shoots. For dinner on the first night we were treated to whitebait fritters with whitebait caught by Rob, home grown vegetables and venison that Rob had shot recently. He was disappointed not to have some duck or salmon as well!
About Greymouth: Lindsay was born here and his Dad still lives here, so it was of significant interest to us. Also Greymouth is the major town on the West Coast with a population around 10,000 with hospital and council headquarters. It was also once a major port, but now the river mouth is too dangerous for all but the fishing fleet to cross.
The West Coast is noted for being wet, and it did live up to its name. It rained most of the time we were there: not that it mattered too much as rain is not unusual and it was not heavy, just the occasional shower which means you always need to have a coat/umbrella nearby.
While in Greymouth we drove north to Punakaiki to visit Dolomite Point and look at the Pancake Rocks. These rocks are a very distinctive as a layering/weathering process has carved the limestone into what looks like piles of thick pancakes. The pancake rocks are quite fantastic.
This is a rugged coast line and the relentless pounding of the sea has carved the rocks along the shore into many fantastical shapes. One has the nickname of ‘the gumboot’.
On this point there are also a number of blowholes through which the tide surges and blows. Unfortunately, the surf was quite tame this day so blowholes only huffing and puffing but still interesting to see.
We walked along the Truman track, a short half hour walk out to the beach. The fascinating aspect of this track is that it passes through three distinct zones of vegetation where the trees and flora change quite obviously: big mossy trees with little ground cover and epiphytes and ferns growing high in the branches, more scrubby lower trees with dense vegetation under the trees, then flax and low ground cover. The track was very well signed with information relating to the geological features and the zones of vegetation. A beautiful and interesting walk.
Although we set out in misty and misting rain weather, nevertheless it did clear during the day and became quite pleasant.
Returning to Greymouth we visited Monteith Brewery, originally Western Brewery and very much a landmark in Greymouth. It was taken over by DB Brewing who proposed closing the Greymouth facility. This caused a boycott of DB beers across NZ with such success that the Greymouth facility was saved. Now owned by Heineken, who invested in upgrading the facility, and produces batch produced craft beers. The tour of the brewery was short on technical information but long on history and entertainment. We were then taught how to ‘pour’ a beer from a tap. Some serious tasting of beer by John and Lindsay then followed.
The night out with Lindsay’s family and Dad with local fish and salad was a treat.