My visit to Greymouth and the Global Village Backpackers was lovely, albeit brief. The bikes there were barely usable, so I ditched them in favor of a hoof into town.
Greymouth is rather unremarkable, actually. I walked past a number of car mechanic shops and the mix of light industrial buildings on my search of a coffee shop. I found one that could make a soy latte, and enjoyed a very yummy salad there of spinach, English bacon, brie and grilled scallops in a balsamic vinaigrette. I wouldn't have put those ingredients together myself, but everything's an adventure on vacation. :-)
I booked myself for an evening tour of the Montieth Brewery. I heartily recommend it! For about $15 USD, we merry drinkers got an hilarious tour of the brewery, with samplings of raw malt and (if you were crazy enough) hops, a look into a huge vat of beer, generous samples of five Montieth brews, and the equivalent of three large pints of your choice brew. Yeah, I got a little tipsy. Blessedly, our tour guide was six years sober and could get us back to the host hotel for our (included!) buffet meal with steak.
One of the other people on my tour asked if there was ever a time when Montieth had to toss out a batch of brew. Twice, replied our guide. Once, when the local water turned salty. It killed the yeast and, as a result, the beer. The second time was when one of the brewery staff, leaning over the vat to skim off yeast, fell into the beer. It turns out that there isn't enough oxygen in beer to keep you buoyant, no matter how good a swimmer you may be. He sank to the bottom like a stone. Not surprisingly, they tossed out that beer.
I spent the rest of my late evening back at Global Village, curled up in front of the television for a showing of Yi Yi. My choice: I hadn't seen it before and video showings at Global are free. It was a nice film. Or, rather, I think it might have been. I fell asleep in the middle of it. The thing is three hours long! I woke up, watched about 45 minutes more, then ditched it and went to bed.
I woke in the middle of the night to the strong drumming of rain on the roof. I managed to get back to sleep, but it woke me again in the morning. That hard, driving rain was predicted to last all day, so I decided that it would be a good time to push on north to Nelson and the Tasman Bay.
The west coast of the South Island, north of Greymouth, is spectacular. I know I have used the word before, but trust me when I say that I am not using it lightly. I ditched the idea of capturing its beauty with my camera; the rain was unrelenting. But I did make a couple of stops along the way to stand and gape in the rain.
One hour long break was at Paparoa National Park to see Dolomite Point and its famous pancake rocks. The 15 minute walk from the visitor center was intense, with high, whipping wind and cold, cold rain. I spent more time in the cafe then out in that crazy weather, but the view was breathtaking. The odd-shaped rocks look like stacked pancakes, and the water had carved out natural bridges under which the waves thundered and thundered. It would have been great to stick around...if I weren't soaked to the bone.
I dragged myself away from the warm cafe to hit the road again. It's a beautiful drive inland through the Victoria Range-- the kind of landscape deserving of an RV and a family camping outing. I was determined to get to Nelson by late afternoon, so my stops in the Buller Gorge area for the toilet and in Murchison for a muffin and water were very, very brief.
From Murchison it is long, lonely stretches of rolling hills. Please excuse me while I make a commercial break here. I couldn't have done the trip without my iPod and Belkin radio transmitter. Except from tracks by The The (Julian, I am deleting them when I get home), I jammed to Radiohead, Ziskakan, Ani diFranco, The Cardigans, A3, Cesaria Evora, Erykah Badu...you name it, my whole damn collection in six hours on the road from Greymouth. Ok, end of commercial.
I lodged last night in the Palace Backpackers. The place is in a worn-down but architecturally beautiful Victorian mansion. The place makes you eager to purchase and renovate. While my room had a fantastic view of the town and the distant mountains of the Richmond Range, a cat roaming the premises had me sneezing and reaching for the Visine. I am writing at the local internet cafe while they prepare my room at Tasman Bay Backpacker.
I am off to see the World of Wearable Art gallery this afternoon, and to take a peek in the Suter Gallery near the Queen's Gardens. I actually hope to get into Tasman National Park tomorrow. I want to kayak! Wish me luck.