My time in Nelson had come to an end, and I was being taken by Phil and Derek for a trip down to the West Coast. There were three objectives, end up in Greymouth to catch my train to Christchurch, visit Erik’s father Pete in Granity and see the church he and Helga bought at an auction which was the start of them moving to New Zealand and spend a couple of days in a Bach on the West Coast belonging to friends of Phil and Derek. I hadn’t really questioned much about this Bach and therefore had absolutely no idea what I was going to experience.
We were ten minutes late setting off, my fault I could not get my act together after the previous night out. I don’t seem to have the same stamina I used to have, not sure whether I am just out of practice or it’s an age thing, probably out of practice. It was a four hour drive to Granity and after a while the road hugged the coast, with little places like bridges and overhangs which were one way, and quite interesting to traverse. One in particular stuck in my mind, one way but we couldn’t see the other end as it went around a bend and we had to give way to oncoming traffic, apparently it had flooded many times and Derek was trying to show me the water mark but I was more worried about what might appear from around the corner any minute now. I really must stop worrying about everything. There was a railway line, which we crossed at least three and maybe four times, and it actually runs around the back of the church and the house next door which they also bought and lived in.
There were also a lot of roadworks on the way and men and women holding stop and go slow signs at either end. At one particular stop we were the first car in the queue and the young man told us that it would be a while, we asked if he got to do other jobs or just this one? Just this one because I am a foreigner, laughter. Then we got out of the car for a stretch and he offered to let Phil try his hat on and hold the stop sign, here is the evidence, I definitely think she should consider a career change.
We stopped en route for tea and coffee in a little town I think it was called Karamea and the coffee shop we went into had a little shop at the back which Phil and I went to peruse. I spotted these possum fur nipple warmers. I am afraid I shrieked like a 14 year old, and the owner of the shop who unbeknown to me was in the cafe came in and started to tell me they sell lots of them and they come with an envelope so that they can be posted! That put me in my place. Later on Phil and I were pondering how you would attach them. Nuf said methinks.
Eventually we arrived at Granity, a tiny place, just one street really, but there were some shocks. The Drifters cafe had closed and a new sort of motel/ backpackers place opened where the old pub had been. Meaningless to most of you reading this, but I have heard about these places for years so discover they no longer exist as they did was a bit of a surprise. Apparently Drifters is up for sale and what has been described as a highly inflated price. Peter bought the old Masons Lodge across the road from the church many years ago and has been doing that up slowly but surely. So we knocked on his door, well I walked in as it was wide open, into a huge space which is used for music rehearsals and various other things, a working space not a living space. Pete appeared from around the back and gave me a huge hug and told me how well I looked. He then gave us the tour of his living quarters and had arranged access for us to go and look at the church. When they bought the church the idea was to set it up as an Arts Centre and it was used for all sorts of things from exhibitions to choir practice for a local choir which they were involved in setting up. Helga had painted the ceilings and like many works of her art around England it has been kept in tact.
Here are some photographs of the church and Pete’s Masonic Hall, which opens out at the back to the beach, quite blissful.
We then went to lunch at the new motel/ backpackers restaurant which was very expensive for what it was I thought, but the guy has to make a living and in such a tiny place with little passing traffic it must be really hard. Derek was going to have the pork, but there was none left so he plumped for a salad, I had been looking at it myself and thought it sounded really nice. But the owner who was serving us insisted he should put a bit of chicken on it for him! Bear in mind he was also the cook and it was his menu, we simply could not stop laughing about it, he said something like you can’t survive on a bit of rabbit food, I will put a piece of chicken on, which despite Derek’s protestations is exactly what he did. I did wonder if he would have said the same to me had I ordered it, probably not because I am a woman and women do eat rabbit food, don’t we. He was that sort of a man I think. Anyway jolly lunch over, catch up on Erik, Peter and life complete and time to move on the the Bach. It was during lunch that I found out that the Bach was over some rocks with the sea below us on high tide. A Bach by the way is short for a bachelor pad, a lot of these small buildings were built by men to use when they were working away from home, many are illegal and only being allowed to be used by their current owners for their lifetime after which they will have to be demolished. The one we were going to had been legalised when they purchased it. We still had quite a drive to get there, and it did become a bit ‘are we there yet? ‘. We had had to back track from Granity which didn’t help. But the scenery was fabulous and made up for all the time we spent in the car.
A lot of the names of places on the way were Irish and it transpired that there were many Irish immigrants in the area explaining why we saw Kilkenny on the way.
When we did finally arrive, the Bach was very well camouflaged from the road, and even on the beach below it was quite hard to see. There was some talk about sleeping arrangements and a sleep out, on arrival I discovered the sleep out was a separate building to the side, downside no handy toilet for night visits, upside the sound of the surf whilst in bed, so I volunteered to sleep there. Lynn who is one of the owners came for dinner too and things were soon organised for her arrival and a pre prepared dinner was in the stove, gin and tonics poured, and chatter and catch up going on. Then the sunset happened it was so amazing and I took a zillion photographs.
So before I go any further I must talk about the blessed sand flies. Phil had warned me that they are viscous and as I am constantly being bitten by anything and everything we agreed I would be a prime target. I had been pretty well covered all day including socks and trainers, but I really needed to free my feet when we arrived and stupidly put on some flip flops. I was wearing jeans so it was really only my feet what were uncovered. Within seconds I saw blood on my feet, yes blood, these blighters bite really hard. It really was a matter of minutes and my feet were completely decimated. I still have the scars and it is now three weeks later. The itching of course doesn’t start straight away it waits until the middle of the night. I had been covering myself in insect spray as well which made no difference whatsoever. I have almost gone through one full tube of cream for bites since I left home and I am using other things as well. What a mess is all I can say, I soon rushed to put some socks on but all too late. The only thing that made me feel better is that it wasn’t just me that got bitten.
We weren’t too late to bed and it was wonderful in the sleep out all I could hear was the waves crashing in the rocks and it sent me off to sleep like a lullaby. I got up about 6 am to go to the ladies room, restroom, loo, toilet whatever you want to call it. When I got back to the sleep out there were loads of sand flies hovering outside the door and unfortunately lots of them followed me in. I sprayed them, that did the trick, I think I must have killed about fifty and I hid under my sheet and went back to sleep.
When I got up about ten it was like a pajama party in the main house and I was all dressed. Lynn went home but we had agreed that Phil and Derek would drop me off at her house in Greymouth the following morning and she would take me to the station in the afternoon for my train. We then clambered down to the beach for a ramble across rocks and a bit of a walk. Many of the rocks were completely covered in mussels. Tiny baby ones and I was trying my hardest not to tread on any of them, so it took me four times as long as the other two to get anywhere, then Derek told me they were never going to grow because they were out of the sea too much. So they then got my size sixes all over them. Sorry mussels.
The beach was beautiful, but they wanted to take me to a couple of other places as well so we clambered back up and set off in the car for the Paparoa National Park to see the pancake rocks. But before we dash off there some photographs of the beach and the hidden Bach, my sleepout and my friend the seagull.
The park has a few shops and we did a bit of window shopping and browsing, I nearly bought a t- shirt. Oh and there were some earrings that I had seen in Nelson and had my eye on and they were three dollars more here. They were off the list. When I had originally seen them I showed them to Derek, we were in the Wow museum and gallery. He gave me a big lecture about not needing any more jewellery. There was a man and his wife standing next to us and I was joking to them about the fact he wasn’t even my husband and she was saying all she could see in the cabinet was pure joy and I agreed wholeheartedly with her.
Then we went for the walk to view the pancake rocks. It was a built walkway which led you around to see the various views. The rocks are layered like pancakes and in places some had broken off. It was a spectacular sight. There were many signs telling people not to be stupid and climb over the railing because they could lose their lives. There was also a new road sign which banned drones.
The next stop was the Truman track, which was a walk down to a beach through a beautiful bit of bush, some of the tree trunks were intertwined and very gnarled. The path used to lead down to a beach, but they are building a platform to view they beach so it looks like access is going to be denied. The beach hosts sea lions when they are giving birth and is classed as a marine reserve so this is probably why they have now made this viewing platform.
Back to the Bach stopping for a drink at a local pub on the way, I had a cider and it was very dry almost clear in colour and delicious. Dinner and another wonderful evening on the veranda. There were quite a few seagulls around as you might expect, but we had our suspicions that they were being fed by visitors because they were constantly on the roof and fence watching us.... I got quite a good bit of video of one, who let me get quite close.
We had a reasonably early night as we wanted to be away early for breakfast in Greymouth as Phil and Derek were off to the east coast to visit his sister. Greymouth seemed a bit of a sad old place but we found. Good place for breakfast Which was extremely yummy, and then our goodbyes at Lynn’s until next time. Thanks guys it’s been really great to spend time with you and your friends and to see the sights with you and do all the tramping. You made my visit to the beautiful South Island more than memorable.
Lynn and I spent a lovely morning chatting and had some lunch and before I knew it, it was time to get to the station to be checked in for my journey to Christchurch. My final stop in New Zealand where in earth did that month go?
See you on the train. But before that some final pictures from the balcony at the Bach.