Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the road again to Greymouth

Day 6 (Fri, 25 Nov 2011)

Nelson to Greymouth: 324km

In the South Island, due to its vastness, some days are spent simply driving from town to town. This was one of those days. After the difficult drive to Nelson yesterday, Kenneth was a little apprehensive about the long drive today but his worries turned out to be unfounded. State Highway 6 is a terrific route. We're discovering that the roads in NZ are generally in excellent condition. In fact, we passed by many road works on our drives, seems like they are constantly maintaining the roads.

We started out later today, so we could enjoy the Mercure Nelson to the fullest. It was hard to say goodbye to this lovely place.

Morning was mostly uneventful, except the further south we went, the more beautiful the landscape became. Gushing rivers, lush foliage. It's no wonder Peter Jackson decided to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy here.

We made a pitstop at Murchison. Not much to see here but this is considered a larger town as it has at least a few streets centred around the highway. Some of the small towns are simply drive-throughs, with just a cafe and toilets.

Our pitstops are mainly opportunities to stretch our legs and use the toilet but often, we can't resist getting a hot drink or a bite to eat. Even though it's late Spring, the weather has been chilly and gusty. Temperatures have been averaging about 14 degrees celcius in the day time, so a cappucino or hot chocolate is always inviting.

The kiwis also make fantastic chips - hot and mealy on the inside, and crisp on the outside. I think it's the type of potato they use. Even better than their potato chips though, are their kumara chips (sweet potato). We order it whenever it's available.

Enroute, we drove to Tauranga Bay to see the seal colony in its natural habitat. The kekeno is the NZ fur seal and from mid-November, you're able to see the pups in this windy part of the west coast.

There's a short easy walk just 15 minutes to a viewing platform overlooking the seal colony. Along the path, we passed by some fantastic scenes - wind-swept scape and waves crashing against the rocks.

We were there at about noon, so there weren't many seals about. According to Kenneth, the adult seals were probably out at sea hunting for their pups. We did see quite a few pups though, sunbathing on the rocks. It's really something to see the mammals in their natural habitat.

Close-up shots along the trail.

Also along State Highway 6 was the Pancake Rocks, located at Punakaiki. A natural phenomenon, the Pancake Rocks are strange limestone formations caused by the solidifying of dead marine creatures and plant fragments into compacted rocks.

It's a 20-minute round walk to several platforms to view the rocks and blowholes. Unfortunately, it started to rain quite heavily so halfway through, we had to make a run back to the entrance.

Finally, our rest stop was the Apostles View Motel just 2 minutes outside of Greymouth. It appears to be in the middle of nowhere, just one motel along State Highway 6.

To get to the reception, we had to drive past this one-lane bridge. The external of the motel is very modest and we were questioning whether we had made the right decision to stay here.

Then we opened the door and... WAH! It's very inviting, with 2 bedrooms containing 1 queen bed and 3 singles beds. Electric blankets on all the beds, a large living room and a fully furnished kitchen. It looks very new, like it's just been recently built or refurbished. Fabulous!

The living room window overlooks a quaint, rural scene.

We find that motels in NZ are generally very comfortable, spacious and well run, much better than the ones in Australia which tend to be more basic, run-down and sometimes, not too clean.

Greymouth is a city with a history in coal and mining. It's quite large by NZ standards, with supermarkets, shops and restaurants. Not much to see for us here though, it's purely a drive-through stop.

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