Going West(land) to Punakaiki and Greymouth

The small town of Punakaiki features the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, along the highway from Nelson to Greymouth.

Luckily, our Intercity bus stopped there during the journey, just long enough to visit the park and hop back on the bus. The wheel-chair accessible park features heavily eroded lime stones, some of where the sea spits water through numerous vertical blowholes when the tide is high. The stones were layered through millions of years into a form which resembles a stack of pancakes – hence the name.

Michi and the fern

Although being crowded and touristy, the geological features were unique and well worth the visit along the Punakaiki park. As soon as our regular “Intercity” bus left from this scenic stop, hordes of backpackers arrived on the “Kiwi Explorer”. They behaved a bit like a (stereotypical) Japanese tour group as they left the bus to grab a picture or two and then go back to their seat and continue to nap through the rest of their journey. Definitely an alternative to experience the country – in their dreams.

The weather during our trip was mainly rainy. Fortunately for us – at least for the time being – we only do encounter bad weather whenever we sit on the bus. Good weather sets in as soon as we’d arrive at our destinations. Let’s hope it stays that way. Well, the tour operators in New Zealand (obviously trying to sell their “experiences”) would argue that there is no such thing as “bad weather” – only “wrong clothing”.

We gave up on looking into weather forecasts here in New Zealand. They are absolutely pointless and playing the lottery might have better odds to win than predicting the local weather. It seems to be a sport for the weatherman on the evening news to go through the day’s weather by detailing how warm or cold it was that day in various cities. Moreover, the official “Met Service” is very good at telling what weather you would see – if you would look outside your window. But the forecast for the next day (we definitely gave up on three to five days forecasts) has a 50 percent chance to be correct or not. Therefore, we take what we encounter – weather wise – and plan without any meteorological predictions.

Road in Greymouth

Although the Intercity buses run mostly on highways, trips take a little longer in New Zealand. The notion of highway on the south island does mostly mean a winding two-lane road. This however, turns out to be alright, since the views are splendid and therefore any of our trips from town to town ends up in being a scenic ride.

Having to drive mostly on country roads (as we would call the New Zealand “highways” back home) obviously means that we cover less distance for a certain amount of time. Therefore, covering the key tourist sites in the country in four weeks is quite a challenge – although the distances aren’t really that big. Being a challenge also tells stories about how much is there to see. We ran into people who would spend two months exclusively on the south island and who told us that they had to skip places.

Greymouth harbour

Another strange thing in New Zealand (and Australia – to be perfectly correct) is the material of their banknotes. They are made out of polymer with transparent inlets. The material is pretty resistant and most of the bills look quite new. There are actually more than 20 nations using polymer bank notes, because of another advantage: They are certainly very hard to fake. It’s a perfect example of plastic money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last longer than traditional paper-based banknotes in my wallet.

Counting the remaining travel money after the visit to Australia and halfway through New Zealand gives me headaches. These countries used up all my reserve money. It seems that I will have to fly back home around the end of March. More or less on schedule. But I still hope that I win the Lottery in Chile or Argentina.

Well, I went off topic, sorry. What was this post about? Oh, Greymouth… Yes, it’s a good place where buses and trains connect. It features a harbor, an industrial and small downtown area.

This sounds not like much and to be honest we had a bit of mixed feelings while strolling around the scenic dam walk. Nevertheless, we did enjoy our one night stay there. Probably, because people were really nice (we were constantly greeted by the locals). Obviously (for any Swiss reading this), Greymouth therefore reminded me of the city of Olten back home. This is the Swiss transport hub which has both – very ugly and very beautiful sights.