February 22, 2003

Hi everyone.  We're about to leave Auckland, and New Zealand, and we're frantically trying to get ourselves up to date with our updates.  I'm going to try to remember what we did between February 2nd and February 5th.

Bob helps himself to another beer.

We arrived in Greymouth and checked into Noah's Ark backpackers, where we were honoured to stay in the Giraffe room.  As you can imagine, it was all done up in a Giraffe motif, from the cartoons painted on the walls, right down to the giraffe-print duvet covers.  We wanted to go white water rafting, but found that we'd have to wait until the next day, so we got to spend all day in beautiful downtown Greymouth.  We'd actually seen Greymouth before, with Sylvia and Indira.  It's not the most exciting place but we managed to entertain ourselves...

We started with a tour of Montieths Brewery, one of the microbreweries that we prefer.  One of the first things we learned was that it is actually owned by Dominion Breweries, one of the largest in New Zealand, but it has maintained its integrity, which comes out in its fine beer.  The tour guide was a Canadian who had recently moved to Greymouth to take a greenstone carving course at the local polytech.  She taught us all about how they make beer, and then escorted us into the tasting room, where we got to sample every beer that they currently make.  After the tasting session, she left us alone for awhile with our glasses and the kegs of beer, and it was a free-for-all.  Mmmm, beer.

After our day on the Buller.

We then staggered back the few blocks to the cinema, where we bought tickets to the 2nd Lord of the Rings film.  If you're a Kiwi, please don't read the next part..  We didn't think much of the film - perhaps it was the beer coursing through our systems, making us extra sleepy - but we felt that there were too many characters, and too much fighting and running around, without much plot or character development.  Oh well.

After the movie we went shopping for dinner, and then went back to the backpackers and cooked up some smoked chicken risotto.

The next day we went white water rafting on the Buller River.  We drove from Greymouth to just outside of Westport, and met up with our guide there.  We spent all day on the river.  It was beautiful (gorgeous even), cruising down the gorge in our raft, and it was also very exciting at times.  When we first got on the river we had a few kms before the first rapid, so our guide, Bruce taught us how to paddle, and some safety info.  Generally we're all supposed to paddle together (there were 4 of us in the raft, plus Bruce), but when you want to turn quickly one side must paddle forward while the other side paddles backward.  When Bruce wanted us to do that he'd yell "Right Back" or "Left Back".  Occasionally, when we're in the middle of a really big rapid, he'd yell "Hold On!!!".  Then you just forget about paddling and hold on for dear life.  It was during one of those "Hold On" moments that Carol didn't quite manage to hold on in time, and then next thing I knew I was down in the bottom of the raft looking at an empty space where Carol used to be.  She'd been thrown from the raft!  She was fine, not even shaken up much. 

Looking down the track from the ski hill.

A couple of other things we did while we were on the river included swimming down a grade 2 rapid, and jumping off a rock that was 9 metres above the river - into the river.  That was pretty much the scariest thing I've ever done.  I didn't have the need or want to jump off the rock, so I stayed in the boat.  To hear Bob tell it in person, it was terrifying, and I made the right decision.  At the end of the trip we enjoyed a good ol' kiwi sausage sizzle on the riverbank, then we drove to Murchison, where we spent the night in a standard cabin in a holiday park.

The next day we drove to St. Arnaud, which is the gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park.  We spent two nights at the Yellow House backpackers, where our room was in a little cottage out back.  There were only two rooms in the cottage, and it had its own bathroom, lounge (with TV), and kitchen, so it was really like having our own motel room. 

The St. Arnaud Range is in the distance.

We did two walks in the park - the first one, up Mt. Robert, was quite strenuous.  We spent about an hour climbing about 500 metres, then climbed a bit further (up to a ski field), and then down to a hut, where we had lunch and visited with some young Danes.  It was another 2+ hours back down to the car.  The views of the St. Arnaud range were spectacular - I can see why so many people have told us to go to that particular park.  The second walk, which we did the next day, was much shorter and much more full of sandflies (which are an infamous feature of the park). It was on the second major lake of the park, so we got to see both of the Nelson Lakes.

The weather had been nice for a few days, and the forecast said it would continue to be fine for the next few days, so we decided to head over to Kaikoura the next day to do some whale watching.

>> On to Kaikoura


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