Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

View on the road to Greymouth

River at Greymouth

Main street at Greymouth

Miners statue at Brunner

Mine area at Brunner

The Blackbakk Salami Co

Formaly The Blackball Hilton

Lake Brunner

Looking across Lake Brunner

Moana on Lake Brunner

Sylvia's comments.

This morning I awoke to the sound of the waves rolling in on the beach and Jeff moaning about his sore arm. I make no comments that I was trying to shine the torch in his direction but he went off to do his own thing. So today it will be me that is doing the driving and Jeff navigating, that means we could end up anywhere as he usually goes to sleep.

Our first stop was to call at the internet café where our laptop wouldn't connect but we managed to get all our photo's and write ups on to our memory stick to use the computers in the café. We got the pictures uploaded but not our written accounts as they did not have the office programme on their computers. As it takes the time to upload photos we at least got those done.

It was a lovely sunny day and our drive took us along the side of the coast with some really great views of white capped waves and some great rock formations. At one point we came around a bend and saw a formation that reminded us of the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Drive in Australia. Our destination was Greymouth were we thought we would spend a few days to let Jeff's arm recover rather than being bumped around by my driving.

Greymouth was once a Maori fortified village known as Mawhera (Widespread River Mouth). The town is the largest on the west coast and stands at the mouth of the Grey River. Despite having a flood wall, known as the Great Wall of Greymouth the river still inundates the town on occasions. Later we would meet a native New Zealanders who said of Greymouth, that they have had floods, a fire and not long ago there was a tornado, and yet they still don't get the message. We did not find it that bad. It is also the destination of the Transalpine train, and we had spent one hour here when we did that trip a couple of weeks back.

We called in at the local supermarket and I felt quite pleased with myself having negotiated the busy streets and supermarket car park driving this big baby. Well there were at least a dozen cars on the road. We then headed for a camp site just off SH6 south of the town. As we were arriving just after lunch time we had the pick of the site so pulled into one that was very close to the amenities. It was a really hot day so we got our chairs out and sat basking in the lovely sunshine reading and being lazy. From 4pm onwards the site filled up with all the rental motor homes and we had some new neighbours from North Wales. One thing the camp-site brochure did not mention was that we were on the main flight path for Greymouth Airport and at 4.30pm the West Coast Airways plane ( a small 6 person aircraft) came into land. I was pleased I had parked our van at the right hand side of the camp road as it looked as if the wheels of the plane were going to run over the tops of the vans parked on the other side of the road.

The main amenities were in the centre of the park and dotted around were some smaller toilet blocks, such as we had close to our van. These were unisex and it was quite funny when in washing one's hands at the basin to see the men's expressions when they would come in and find me there.

On Tuesday, after a lazy morning sitting in the sunshine, we walked the 2 miles into the town along the beach and then by the river, had some lunch and a beer in the new pub we had been recommended to visit and then walked back. We had some new neighbours tonight who hailed from near Hull and new the small village of Reedness that our friends live in.

Wednesday we were treated to a full day of New Zealand rain so we spent it inside the van reading or working on the internet. We looked at other people's web sites for NZ to pick up tips of places to visit or avoid. Then in the evening we did the Monteith Brewery tour, after a tour of the brew house we got to sample all eight beers that they brew. They were proud to tell us that they had entered their beer in a competition in London and won a silver medal and took gold in an Australian competition. After our tasting session we were taken to a local hotel where we were given a barbecue tea and a pint of Monteith beer.

Thursday morning Jeff felt his arm was feeling a little better; it now was a lovely shade of black, blue and a dirty yellow around the edge. We felt it was time to move on and we had received an e-mail from some fellow campers giving us some ideas of places to visit in the area. So acting as the driver I pulled out of the site and headed back through the town and on to the smaller Taylorville Blackball Road. This road took us up to Brunner, the site of the worst mining disaster in NZ history. A statue now stands on the site where at 9.30 am on Thursday 26th March 1896 an incorrectly placed charge caused a blow back in the mine setting off several explosions killing all 65 people working in the mine that morning, some of them only boys. A Royal Commission Enquiry found the fault lay with the miner laying the charge, the company being exonerated. The miner's families was disappointed and although they won a court case awarding compensation, much of it was never paid. One widow received compensation of £75 and a bill for legal expenses of £55.

Continuing up the road we were following the Grey River and travelling through some lovely scenery. A short detour took us to the small town of Blackball established in 1866 to service the gold-diggers and later the coal mining industry between 1890 and 1964. It was here that the National Federation of Labour (a trade union) was also formed after an epic strike in 1908 and in 1925 NZ's Communist Party moved its head office here, such was the town's reputation as a hotbed of socialism. Today the Blackball Salami and Glasson's honey are two healthy businesses in the town. We called at the salami shop and stocked up on some really nice salami and home made sausages. Inside the glass counter I noticed some black and white puddings. I pointed this out to Jeff with a comment that it was like being at home. His reply was that the only thing missing was a haggis; to our surprise the lady said they had haggis in the freezer. It seems the owner is an ex Scott, so now our freezer is stocked with sausages and a haggis just in case we get home sick. Now feeling like some refreshment we headed to the local hotel known as Formally the Blackball Hilton. This hotel has been designated a NZ Historic Place due to the part it played in the miner's strike. The title Formally was added after a certain global hotel chain took umbrage. Taking pride of place on the piano in the lounge is a letter from one of the Hilton's directors saying how nice the hotel is and how they will have to ensure their hotels keep up to their standard.

After lunch we continued on our way till we reached Ikamatua where we turned onto SH7 and returned back down the opposite side of the Grey River until we reached the tourist drive to Lake Brunner. This road took us up the Arnold Valley to Moana and Lake Brunner, which is reputed to have the best trout fishing in NZ. We would not be fishing but did undertake some of the bush walks around the lake. Our camp for the night was close to the lake affording us some views across the lake to the snow capped mountains in the not too far distance.

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