Free breakfast at the hostel, Tasman Bay Backpackers. So I filled up on coffee and toast before checking out and getting the Magic bus at 8am. Today we were driving to Greymouth.

We went through a place called Bridgewater, which is home to someone Rutherford, who won the Nobel Prize for splitting the atom. And it was home to William Pickering, founding head of NASA. Interesting facts for you to share.

So we drove through the Buller Gorge, rated in the top 10 drives in the world by Lonely Planet. I can understand that: gorgeous thickly forested slopes with one winding road following the river. We stopped at Berlin’s for coffee: a cute little place on the roadside, with the river on the other side, and surrounded by steep, wooded slopes. The whole population of “Westland” is half that of Nelson (30,000 to 60,000), so it’s quite isolated! You drive for a while, pass a small town, drive a bit further, another small town, and so on… There are also lots of railway stations that were built during the gold rush, but then never used.

Early afternoon the bus dropped us off near Westport, for an hour’s walk along Cape Foulwind to the seal colony. It’s very rugged coastline, and the seals have found a very sheltered part, so they can bask on the rocks or play in the small pools. Back on the bus we followed the coastline, crossing a couple of gorges, to Punakaiki: the pancake rocks and blowholes. Called pancake rocks because they’ve formed in layers that look like pancakes stacked high. The tides were pretty low so the blowholes weren’t great.

We got into Greymouth around 3pm and checked into Noah’s Ark Backpackers. I was in the Pig Room with Anna, Cecilia and Annika. It was all pink, with a Babe poster, pigs painted on the walls and a few pig ornaments. Sounds cheesy, but it was kinda fun. Anyway, got some food at the supermarket, then sat on the veranda reading, with the cat on my knee.

We went on the Monteith’s Brewery Tour at 6pm, which lasted an hour and a half, and included tasting! I met an American guy (who looked like a short Freddie Prinze Jr) who said I had the most perfectly spoken English accent! After the tour and tasting, we got transported over to the Railway Hotel – proper local place – for our BBQ meal. We stuck around and had a few drinks, and were joined by Steph and Dave, also staying at the hostel. Steph is a huge LOTR fan too, and we managed to alienate everyone else from the conversation! We also had the longest game of pool ever.

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