March 18, 2010
Today we were leaving the lovely, winery filled region of Marlborough and heading to the west coast of the south island. The start of our route took us across country and it was such different scenery to the north island, as everyone had told us. The north island was very hilly as a result of the volcanoes that were present there whereas the rolling hills and valleys here in the south are more as a result of glacial conditions.
The drive to Greymouth was quite long so we did a few short stops along the way. The first of these was in the lovely Buller Gorge where they have the longest swing bridge in New Zealand. We stopped and crossed the bridge and took the short loop walk to stretch the legs. There were some really nice views along the way, as well as some really old slow people blocking the narrow path!
The second stop was at a roadside parking area for lunch which consisted of more of our blocks of cheese. We were both a bit fed up of it by now and decided to think of other ways to get rid of them without chucking them out!
The next stop was the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blow holes. The little trail here around the forest and onto the coastline was another nice break from the car and the rock formations were quite impressive, the lines in the rock supposedly making them look like stacks of pancakes. I’m not so sure they looked anything like that but they did look really cool. Given the rock is all made of the same material around here it seems strange how such even grooves have been carved into the coastal rock faces. The surge from the sea here was quite strong and the blow holes and pools created were quite big and the waves crashing inside them equally so. We had stopped at a couple of places along the coastline as well as here to go onto the beaches to take pictures and the surf was definitely lashing the rocks all along it. It wasn’t a particularly windy day so I imagine it would be a lot worse with a bit of breeze.
We finally made it to Greymouth and checked into the YHA. The building was quite impressive from the outside and inside it looked a little aged but our twin room was a fairly decent size and nice and clean. The communal areas were nice too but as we were only staying one night it didn’t matter too much to us.
In the evening, we did the Monteith’s brewery tour. Prior to the tour we looked around the shop and picked up some souvenirs for Elizabeth who really wanted a beer glass and a clock shaped like a beer glass. She really did, I swear!
The tour was quite good and showed the brewing process. Here at Greymouth they only make the original ale and the new cider now. Since they were taken over by a larger brewery, most of the production is done at the parent company in Timaru and around the larger cities. The small team here (only seven permanent staff) worked crazy shifts and produced surprisingly large amounts of beer. Just today they had bottled and packaged up around 20,000 litres of cider. The girl who served us our tasters had been working today and she said it was a crazy, non-stop 5 hour shift of putting bottles into cartons!
The tasting was of course the best bit and we tried the lovely cider, Original, Radler (lemon and lime flavoured beer, quite horrible!), Pilsner, Golden, Summer (another horrible beer, tasting like ginger beer), Celtic Red and Black. We had already tried some of these as we’ve been travelling but it was good to try the whole range. Apart from the two mentioned specifically, I liked all of the others. At the end, we were given a chance to pour our own beers from the range and after having a lovely glass of Original I cheekily asked if I could help myself again and the barmaid said I could. This time I wanted a Black but the keg went as I poured so I had to settle for the Celtic Red.
It was a really good tour and as part of it, we got a meal voucher for a local bar. Another couple from the US had the same deal as us so we all headed off to a bar called the Revington. They had recently retired and were spending some time away from home travelling and it was another good evening meeting and chatting with people from a different background and who have been to different places. On top of that, the beer was good (more Monteith’s, of course) and so was the food. Just a brief stop, but a worthwhile one.