We began our south island trip with a brief (10 hour) overnight stay in Christchurch. We stayed in a hostel converted from a jail building. It was comfortable and the cells were cosy!
The next morning we boarded the Transalpine express to Greymouth. Crossing from east to west coast through the southern alps, it is rightly described as one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. The morning sky was cloudy in Christchurch but luckily cleared for the train photos (that we managed to get when wrestling through other tourists on the viewing deck) before the clouds returned on our arrival in Greymouth. The train runs once a day and is the only passenger train to use the town’s station.
Greymouth is a small town that feels like being transported to another place and era, maybe a frontier town in the ’50s or ’60s. Many of the shops and cafes are closed down or in need of refurbishment. We also saw the presses still printing the Greymouth Evening Star.
We stayed in a sunshine haven on the outskirts of this grey town. The Global Village Backpackers is a beautifully decorated and we’ll equipped place to stay and attracting visitors from over the world. They offered free bike and kayak hire so we explored the town by bike on our first afternoon.
On our second day we drove south to Hokitika Gorge (actually half an hour from Hokitika). We took the short walk across the bridge to see the supposedly turquoise water, that was pretty green when we visited, but still an impressive sight.
In the afternoon we went on a Tree Top walk – a 45 min track on metal bridges across the trees, which gave some good views but probably wasn’t worth the $38 we paid for the pleasure.
We kicked off Saturday night in Greymouth with a tour of Monteith’s Brewery, which was much better value. A half hour tour with 4 beer tastings was only $18 each. The brewery tries new recipes on site and our group were the first to try their American Pale Ale. It’s citrus notes met with our approval. We enjoyed the remainder of our samples while chatting to an Argentinian couple who were doing something similar to us, having worked in Auckland and travelled south. They told us that only 1000 working holiday visas are available in Argentina each year and that they had flown East for 48 hours (rather than the shorter route West) to get a flexible flight. This coupled with a 16hr time difference makes for killer jet lag!
I’m writing this on the long drive from Greymouth to Kaiteriteri on the edge of Abel Tasman national park. It’s been showering on and off all day and we got caught in a downpour when stopping off to see the pancake rocks.
We have our fingers crossed for a dry day for kayaking in the park tomorrow!