Greymouth, New Zealand – February 22, 2016
Our 120-mile journey from Fox Glacier to Greymouth took about three hours. I think all of the driving was beginning to wear on us since we did not stop along the way for anything.
We arrived at our “home,” the Gables Motor Lodge around noon. We were too early to check-in. The owner gave us directions to the central business district so we could find somewhere to eat lunch. By chance, we parked on Mackay Street, just across from Maggie’s Kitchen. The restaurant was full of people. That is always a good sign for good food. We were not disappointed with the New Zealand home-cooking fare.
After lunch, shopping was the order of the day. One of the stores we stopped in was Shades of Jade on Tainui Street. The young man operating the shop was very nice. He hunted and ultimately carved greenstone for sale in the store. Greenstone is a type of jade found in New Zealand. We were aware of that before we made it to Greymouth. In fact, at Gillespies Beach near Fox Glacier, I had found some green stones that I hoped were actually greenstone. We asked the young man if he would look at the stones. He said yes, so I ran back to the SUV to retrieve the stones. Returning to the store, I gave him the stones. He quickly, but kindly dashed our hopes. They were stones that look green when they are wet, but they were not greenstones.
Our next stop, to kill time, was about two miles away. We drove to the end of a spit of land on the north side of the mouth of the Grey River (Mawheranui in Maori). We watched the waves from the Tasman Sea crash onto the spits on either side of the river mouth. Several other people were doing the same thing. Having lost its entertainment value, we decided it was time to return to the motor lodge and check-in. Upon arrival, we were able to check-in, just in time for a nap.
The next morning we checked out of the motor lodge and went directly to Maggie’s Kitchen for breakfast. Within 100 meters of the restaurant, we could feel our arteries clogging, but we were ready to take on the homemade breakfast. Once again, we were both thoroughly satisfied and thoroughly stuffed.
The plan for the day was to catch the 13:00 train from Greymouth to Christchurch. However, before doing that, the owner of the motor lodge told us about the pancake rocks at Punakaiki. Since it was only about a 40-minute drive to the north of Greymouth, we decided to visit it prior to catching the train. That was a great decision.
The highway skirted along the coast for nearly our entire route. It was mostly cloudy that day, but it was still a breathtaking view.
The Pancake Rocks Blowholes are part of the Paparoa National Park. At the site, there are a few gift shops, some cafés, and a National Park building. Across the street from all of that is the path to go view the Pancake Rocks Blowholes. The path was asphalt. It was a fairly easy one-half mile round trip walk. I categorize it as “fairly easy” because of the stairs. There are some stairs that can prove to be a bit of an obstacle to those with mobility issues. However, those areas can be bypassed. The views are worth the walk.
Pancake Rocks Blowholes are a limestone formation. The many layers look somewhat like a stack of pancakes. Over millions of years, the formation rose above the ocean due to seismic activity, forming the existing cliffs. Erosion by the sea and rain formed holes in the rock formations. These are the blowholes. Now, when waves crash against the formation, some of the water and force goes through the holes, resulting in spray coming up and out of the blowholes. We were there about halfway between low tide and high tide. That had a dampening effect on the blowholes, but it was still very interesting to see and experience the phenomenon.
We departed the National Park, bound for the train station in Greymouth. After arriving at the station, we turned in the rental car, checked in our luggage, and confirmed our tickets. We had plenty of time. While Leslie and Lorraine sat at the station, Hillary and I walked to Subway to get lunch. Returning, we all ate while we waited for the train.
The train was a little late arriving. After the passengers disembarked, the engine pulled the train farther into town, out of our site. At first, I was not sure why that happened. Then it dawned on me the train had to go to the main rail-yard so the engine could move to the front of the train cars for the return trip to Christchurch. The train returned and we all boarded. However, we did not depart. I imagine the employees needed the time to load the baggage on the train. While on-board, waiting to depart, Hillary and I stood in the observation car, taking photographs.