Greymouth, New Zealand
Wow, this place gets better and better. There’s no question that South Island beats North Island hands down for scenery based on what we’ve seen today. Many miles driven (320km) but we took lots of breaks along the way so it didn’t feel too bad.
Started the morning in Nelson, a bit cool and overcast as we abandoned our motel and went in search of breakfast. A big cafe called “Lambretta’s” was doing good business and looked very cool, so they hooked us in too. Their eggs benedict were ace and Wendy couldn’t manage all her omelette. After break we wandered round the market that had been set up in one of the car parks. Very interesting – lots of craft people mingled in with local produce. Shame we don’t need any bread or cheese or sculptures made from driftwood and wriggly tin.
From Nelson it was south on our old friend Hwy 6 towards a date with a train at Greymouth. The sun had appeared by now and about an hour down the road we stopped at a little town called Murchinson for a cuppa and a KitKat. Up until then the drive had been nice but normal for New Zealand; however between Murchinson and Inangahua we entered the Buller Gorge on the edge of Victoria Forest Park. The road followed the path of the River Buller down towards the sea and was incredibly spectacular, to put it mildly. All bridges were single track and at one point the road was a single track that clung to the cliff face. Luckily it was traffic light controlled!
At the foot of the gorge and still reeling from the views we took a small detour into Westport for a late lunch. A nice quiet town that was largely… you guessed it, closed. I know it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, but surely closing shops on a Saturday dinner was something we never did in the UK? All the time we keep getting passed by groups of motorcycles. It was nice to see them out enjoying the sunshine and twisty roads, but little did we know this was going to have ramifications later!
From Westport Hwy 6 runs along besides the Tasman Sea for about 50 miles to Greymouth. This was the second scenic surprise. Mile after mile of clifftop views, deserted beaches and waves crashing onto the shore. Absolutely astonishing. If this were the UK it would be packed all the time, never mind on a holiday. After over an hour of this we crossed a bridge over the Grey River into Greymouth, and finally that’s where we found all the bikers congregating. Seems like there is a big series of motorcycle races this weekend and every hotel and motel in the town is booked up! Luckily we recalled a beautiful place about 30 mins back up the road, so we did a U-turn and headed back to Punakaiki, to a little motel right on the beach. For the first time we don’t have Sky tv and I don’t have internet access, but otherwise (or perhaps because of) it is perfect. The restaurant has just served me fish and chips for tea and I have just seen the most staggering sunset over the sea. Sometimes you just drop lucky because from what we had seen of Greymouth it was the usual NZ town, whereas here is little short of amazing. There’s even supposed to be a market in the morning and somewhere very interesting to visit tomorrow just a km up the road. But more on that in the next instalment.