26.02.2014 - 28.02.2014
Westland, which also includes glacier country, has a tiny population - just 32,000 - which accounts for less than 1% of NZ's total. From the reading available on the area you get a sense that Westlanders are a pretty resilient bunch.
It was beautiful weather as we drove from Franz Josef to Greymouth but it would be a very wet and wild, and somewhat cut off, place to live during winter months methinks.
A different landscape altogether
You pass endless one lane bridges across wide river beds which are almost dry this time of year
Our first stop, Hokitika, seemed to exist for one reason. To sell tourists pounamu (local greenstone, i.e. jade) and other arts and crafts - every other shop appeared to be of the gift variety. Oh, and for us to sing Hokitika you and I know...
The almost wild west streets were quiet but we had a wander around and nosed at some glass blowing and stone cutting. We were also intrigued by the existence of Hokitika's Sock Machine Museum... although not quite intrigued enough to set foot in the door. A decision I now regret. At the very least they should surely be publicising this visitor attraction as The One, The Only, The Greatest Sock Machine Museum in the World! Or maybe there are more? One to add to the random things to google list...
'Welcome to the Grey District'... said the greeting sign as we approached the area just before Greymouth, the largest town on the west coast. If I had been at the greeting sign proposal committee meeting, I would have voted for 'Welcome to the Grey Area' just for the sheer joy of it.
Probably Greymouth's biggest claim to fame is that it's the end (or the start) of the TranzAlpine railway, linking Greymouth and Christchurch on the east coast. It's one of the world's greatest railway journeys apparently. There's a lot of 'the world's greatest' around here, you may have noticed.
It's also home to Monteith's Brewery, the product of which we've already sampled and appreciated. Time for a visit then.
The tour was at 10.30am, a pretty rubbish time to visit a brewery I think you'd agree, and of course one of us had to drive afterwards. So I did what any decent girlfriend should and took the camper's keys so Ant could sup up. There were a few craft beers to try and he didn't let the hour deter his sampling ability. Good work.
We both loved the brewery itself, the tour was quite short but we wandered around the front of house bit and were pretty impressed with the space, which was like a trendy bar.
Urinals courtesy of Ant
Love this... a sense of Kiwi humour
The drive from Greymouth to Westport was incredible. We later discovered it's billed as the Great Coast Road and Lonely Planet rates it as one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world. It was absolutely stunning, and in many ways even more impressive than the Great Ocean Road we did in Aus. The road was flanked by steep dense subtropical rainforests which cover the Paparoa Ranges, and offered rugged sea views to our left. The road twisted in and around the coast with many hairpin bends. It had such a raw beauty with little sign of development.
A famed stop along the way is Punakaiki, to see the geological wonders of Pancake Rocks. Due to a complex weathering and layering process, the limestone has formed into what looks like thick pancakes piled high. We certainly hadn't seen anything of the like before. Mmmm got me craving the real deal with berries and cream...
The coast road complete, it was time to set off on the drive to Abel Tasman National Park situated on the north coast of the South Island. Until the next time...