Greymouth and the Wild West coast of NZ South island
27.10.2010 - 27.10.2010 16 °C
Today was a pretty special drive along the rugged Wild West coast of NZ South Island. Another stupid o’clock start was quickly forgotten when we caught our first full view of the majestic snow-capped Alps, the direction we were headed. We stopped several times for short walks and to admire the views. Beaches on one side, mountains on the other; Superb.
During a stop to see yet another NZ fur seal colony, we encountered a peculiar flightless bird, plodding along the ground looking a bit stupid. Turns out this was a ‘Weka’, one of the few remaining flightless native birds left in NZ, another one being the famous kiwi bird. Prior to human occupation by the Maori Polynesian people, and later the Europeans, new Zealand was cut off from the rest of the world for millions of years. Because of this isolation, NZ evolved its own unique plant and animal life. As there were no land predators, birds did not need to fly so many native birds lost the ability to fly to conserve energy, why bother? The problem came when humans colonised NZ, hunted the native birds for meat and introduced new predators such as ship rats. I was determined to make it a bit of a sub-mission of my time in this country to understand more about this and see as much native wildlife here as possible.
Anyway, just before we arrived to our overnight stop in the town of Nelson, we stopped and took a stroll around some pretty impressive and famous coastal rock formations ‘Punakaki’, otherwise known as ‘Pancake Rocks’. I was starting to get a little cynical with the ‘ol sightseeing at this stage ‘Oh blimmin heck not another famous rock formation’ but these ones really ‘Rocked’ hehe! The thirty million year old pancake rocks were formed under the sea from limestone erosion caused by water pressure on solidified dead marine life. Earthquakes subsequently caused the seabed here to rise above sea level and the rocks further eroded to give the interesting effect of pancakes piled on top of one another. These natural forces have also created some interesting caverns and blowholes. It wasn’t a particularly rough day when we visited but we could still see a bit of a blowhole effect, the ocean swell misting through the holes in the rock and giving us some beautiful rainbows. All this talk of pancakes made me peckish so enjoyed a nice boysenberry icecream yum!
Onwards to Greymouth, an important mining town on the West coast but not a terribly exciting place, as dull as it sounds. As I hated the hostel the Nelson that the magic driver had ‘recommended’ (commission more like!) I chose to stay somewhere a bit different , Noah’s Ark, perhaps the best hostel I had stayed in during my whole 7 months of travel. My single room had a big kingsize bed and an open fire place, real character. It was a quick check in and out again though as we were off for an evening out, more beer tasting at the local brewery ‘Monteiths’. Interesting tour mate but just show me the beer! Hehe not really! After tasting some interesting (radners lager delicious) and not so interesting (what was that Guinness rip-off all about?) beer, we were let loose on the beer taps, oh yeeeeeeaaaahhhh..... This was followed by beer jugs and a kiwi grill in the pub nearby with Magic the Disco bus driver, THREE Swedish girls (we found another one from somewhere!) and Bernie. So, there was much Skalling (cheers) that night (Anne, I miss you, mariposa).
Sleep is for wimps though right? Up and at ‘em next morning to leave for more Wild West action. Just outside of Nelson we stopped for breakfast at the cute little mining town of Hokitika. Here there are many Greenstone/Jade sculptors. I had met a guy over from the US, the night before at the hostel who was telling me all about his work as a jade sculpture, so it was interesting to see this. Final stop of the morning was at a touristy mock-up of a goldmine panning station before heading off to Franz Josef. Here I was planning on hiking up a glacier. Ohhhhhhhh I sense some adventure coming our way......