Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Part 6: The Final Leg - Biking, brews, bathroom breaks, & back to the beginning

31 August - 1 September 2010: Greymouth, Arthur's Pass & Christchurch

On Tuesday, we awoke in one of the neatest hostels I have ever stayed in (Lauren - a tie with the Salmon Weir, our Gallway gem). Named the Global Village, this hostel seemed to be a converted two-story home, with the lounge on one side and the first-floor's long hallway of rooms below the second-story kitchen/bathrooms on the other side. Decorated with a global theme, it was filled with exotic furniture, tapestries, carvings and items from around the world, with a special emphasis on East Asian, Egyptian and African artifacts. A nice older couple, a Kiwi man and his Asian wife, had been running the place for the past 7 years. It was extremely clean and cozy, with lots of character. Check out the photos below...

Gabe's silly tiki face:
Having heard about Paparoa National Park, just a half-hour drive north along the coast, we had an early breakfast (fresh eggs, courtesy of the chickens out back - for sale for just 40 cents each!), checked out, and drove Sunny up to Punakaiki, home of Buttress Beach's "pancake rocks."

The photos explain the name:
How does this happen, you ask? Well...
Fun fact: Nature's Pancake Recipe - "Stylobedding"
  • Many, many years ago, under the shifting sea currents, the sediment on the ocean floor was buried and compacted, putting its grains of shell and skeleton under immense pressure. This pressure caused them to pass into solution, and for reasons still unclear, some of the minerals merged to form thin seams of mudstone between layers of limetsone.
  • The rock from the sea floor was eventually pushed to the surface, where weather and currents over 100,000 have eroded the mudstone more than the limestone, causing the pancake-like effect.
We had timed our day perfectly to fit everything in, so after a half-hour walk around, we jumped back in the car, returning to Greymouth to peruse the town shops, then back to the Global Village a little before 12. We then borrowed 3 of the hostel's free bikes for a jaunt down to the water. Erika and Gabe smartly chose some rusty mountain bikes, while I, on the other hand, being dumb and forgetting that they do not have gears or regular breaks, chose an old, stylish beach cruiser, with a plastic bag-covered seat. Wearing our dashing helmets, we set off down the road, trying to find some way to get out to the ocean, which we knew was close by. The way to the sea turned out to be an extremely bumpy (especially on my annoying beach cruiser) gravel road, which led from our hostel's road along a dirty retention pond and subsequent harbor.

Erika, lookin' sporty:
Gabe's bike tricks (what, no handstand?!):
We made it all the way to the end of an old pier, where Gabe decided to ignore (or just didn't see) the "Beware," "Continue at your own risk" signs and climbed out on the concrete blocks, resembling rocks near the edge. The waves were huge and the concrete precarious, but don't worry, we didn't hurt ourselves AND Gabe spotted some dolphins! They surfaced every few minutes or so in packs of 2 or 3, skimming the waves with their dark-coloured fins.

Posing on the pier with my pigtails and horrible-choice-of-a-bike beach cruiser:
We kept our helmets on, just to be safe :) (nice lazy eye Erika, muahaha):
Gabe and Erika searching for our porpoise friends:
Facing into the wind on the way back, the return ride was a killer on my already sore and out of shape legs, but we made it, with just enough time to have a snack before we headed on to our next adventure. We had a minor crisis when Erika's bike dropped a chain, BUT being the badass that she is, she didn't have a problem getting her hands dirty (aka black and slimy with grease) and fixed it right up.
Back to relax in the Global Village sun room/deck area for a few moments, while enjoying a snack, we then headed to Monteith's Brewery (after all, it was on our way out of town anyway)!

A much more up-close-and-personal tour, as compared to the Speight's Brewery, Monteith's tour took us through the entire facility, where they have been brewing since 1868, giving us a first-hand look at all the brewing stages - from the ingredient storage areas, through to brewing, bottling, and kegging, complete with a look at the huge coal boilers (whose operator is the oldest employee, 40 years and counting) and walk-in fridges.

Fun facts:
  • "Bright beer" is the finished product, beer that is ready for consumption.
  • Every brewery uses something different to filter their beer in the final stages to get rid of the last bits of debris, which cloud the brew. Monteith's uses diatomaceous earth as a filter powder, an extremely pure form of insoluble silica, also called "fossil flour." It's named as such because it actually consists of the tiny fossil skeletons of marine diatoms, which form a a filter sheet, capable of separating out particles that are less than one micron in size.
While walking through the brewery storage area, we saw a huge stack of boxes labeled as Monteith's Pear Cider (like hard apple cider). Turns out that this is an entirely new product, set for release in the coming weeks - too bad we couldn't sneak a taste!

We looped back to the brewery bar, where the guide led us through a very detailed (and delicious!) tasting, which included food pairing recommendations for each brew. For example, a whitebait fritter (aka little white NZ fish made into a pancake-type delicacy) is a perfect match for Monteith's Original ale. Monteith's holds an annual contest, open to restaurant chefs, who offer up recipes that best compliment a particular brew. This was by far the best tour I've ever been on and probably the best beer I've ever had (Blue Moon's neck and neck). If you're interested, this is a link to a list of the beers with descriptions. As a craft brewery, each beer had a very unique taste - I especially liked the Radler (hints of lemonade), Celtic red, and their new Spring brew. Sadly, Monteith's is only available within NZ and only exports to Australia, parts of the U.K. and D.C., Maryland, and Delaware in the U.S. Trader Joes used to stock a few, but has since stopped (I think a letter requesting the return of Monteith's is in order!).

Gabe acting like a cowboy, entering the tavern doors, which led to a display about the brewery's history:
After over half an hour of the guide's mouthwatering food-beer combo descriptions, we were compelled to stop for fish and chips, which we complemented with some Radlers and ciders we bought in the brewery shop. Needless to say, Gabe and I were very happy, and particularly giggly, after such a good tour. Erika (still slightly sick and not a beer fan) was a savior and offered to take her first try at NZ driving, fearlessly navigating Sunny on the last leg of our journey while we enjoyed our delicious purchases (I must say, she did a fabulous job, despite our humorous distractions). We had around a 3 hour drive ahead of us.

Highlights include when, I, in need of a toilet break, ventured into an auto-repair shop. "Excuse me, this is a funny question, but do you have a toilet I can use?," I inquired. "Uhhh... there're dirty pictures on the wall..." replied the mechanic (nervous laughter) haha. Also, in a seemingly deserted area, full of animal pastures, we paused for a roadside, group sheep-petting ADVENTURE - epic fail. Gabe had just hopped the mini fence into the paddock when a car's headlights were spotted, approaching in the distance.
Erika and I ducked, laughing, and hollered: "Gabe, act casual!"
This is what we got hahaha:
Later, we stopped again in a valley surrounded by mountains, located smack dab in the middle of the pass for an epic, sunset photo shoot by the Arthur's Park National Park sign:
We finally arrived in Christchurch around 8:30 p.m., checked into our hostel (Charlie B's... not great, but infinitely better than the Base). Then, met Phil and Brian, our Queenstown, U.K. friends for a drink at, ironically, of all bars, the Base's Saints & Sinners, which, to its credit, wasn't as seedy as I thought (but pretty seedy). From there, we played a few games at a pool hall. Although pretty much deserted, as it was a Tuesday night, there was a live band. Note to self: you suck at pool after a beer or two. Overall, a very good night. We were back in the hostel well before midnight, and sleepy, after such a long day of driving.

In the morning, we got up early, checked out and meandered around the city so Gabe could see Christchurch in the daylight, before making our way back to the rental car place. We said a tearful (not quite) goodbye to Sunny. We officially drove 2,866 km (1,780 miles) in 11 days... not bad.

The South Island was amazing and I had a phenomenal time, thanks to Erika, Sam and Gabe, and the fun people we met along the way! New Zealand sure has some EPIC scenery, but its the people who make the trip worth taking!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely! Quite nice summing up of a wonderful trip. You did cover a lot of ground! Map's good!