|Driving down the west coast the scenery is becoming increasingly stupendous, rugged coast sandwiched between high mountains. The drives themselves are becoming a little bit longer, but they are continually punctuated by little stop offs on the way for photos, activities and all that goes with that. Making our way from Abel Tasman to the west coast we followed the Buller river and gorge for quite a long time.
Despite apparently always being on a tight schedule, trying to get to the next stop by a certain time, indeed probably for the bus driver Curry to have a drink, she was excellent at seeing other opportunities on the way and just pulling over for any worthwhile stop. This is what happened at the beach here - the tide was low so she decided that we had to stop, and really glad we did. The caves and rocks all along the beach were really cool. I believe some of us were compared to dogs being let out from the back of the car, just charging around the beach far too excited and trying to investigate as much as possible. But there was no stopping, these beaches were incredible, so lots of rock clambering, and running etc was definitely required.
The next stop was the famous Punakaiki Pancake rocks, so called because, well, they kind of look like layers and layers of pancakes stacked on top of each other. There was a 20 minute track to walk around, with people stopping to take exactly the same photos as each other every 100 metres or so, but when they are worth taking, so what. Quick half hour stop and its back on the bus again to get to Barrytown our stop for the night.
Barrytown itself is a tiny slightly Welsh-themed old mining 'town', where our accommodation for the night was in an old pub. Once we had all piled off the bus into the bar area, and after the landlord had then sprayed the waiting crowds with the soda syphon. There was definitely something in the air that was building to be a big night. The walls of the pub were plastered in photos of previous buses all having an excellent night. There were about 4 or 5 boxes filled with all assortment of fancy dress and random clothes to get kitted out in. Rather than try and make up a theme, we just decided to go for anything goes. Cue mad scramble to try and get the best gear. Eventually I decided on a gangster, given that some of the only clothes that were left had obviously been used for that purpose before - they had "playa ready to play" written on them. Everyone made an pretty good effort though. After a few pre-drinks in the room is was time to go up to the bar, and have some cheap local brew - Baz-Vegas. An excellent night followed, brewing up from all those long bus journeys. More worrying was seeing the bus driver enjoying herself just as much as everyone! Still, what happens in Barrytown stays in Barrytown.
Next day was not so good. While some people went off to do bone or jade carving, a few of us went to the beach to look for greenstone (a futile search) and I also went for a swim in the freezing cold water. Actually very refreshing and didn't feel too cold - a think more as a result of feeling so frozen I couldn't feel anything. Nice leisurely morning anyway, and then back on tour.