Monday, February 25, 2019

A train ride, Kiwi, and beer

We like train rides, so when we heard that one of the world's great train rides went from Christchurch to Greymouth over Arthur's Pass, we booked it. That was before we adjusted our RV route to go from Greymouth to Christchurch - over Arthur's Pass. I am generally against retracing my steps, won't this be a waste of time when there is so much to see in New Zealand? Jim said no - when we're on the train, I'll actually get to enjoy the view! So we kept the reservation and I'm glad we did. Train rides are relaxing - just sit back, eat and drink, and watch the beautiful scenery.

I think it is possible to go over and back in one day, but that's not relaxing! We had heard that the small town of Hokitika was very nice, so we found a place to stay on AirBnB and took a bus from Greymouth.

What a great AirBnB we found! It was upstairs in a building that used to be an old movie theatre. People bought it and converted it to a home with the upstairs as a separate apartment. We had a full kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom. And the WiFi was screaming fast.

We had our own separate door ... the Green Door ... and the key was in a place specified on the website. We were home. For 2 nights. We almost did one of our YouTube shows from there, because the WiFi was so good - but thought better of it and went to the Kiwi museum instead!

We were just a couple of blocks from everything. Restaurants, beach, museum, bars, everything.
In case you don't know - Kiwi is not only a fruit, and the nickname for people in New Zealand, it all started with the bird. Kiwi is a flightless bird known only in New Zealand.

Did you know that, as an island, New Zealand does not have any native mammals. None. No deer, no bear, not even any squirrels. If you see a four-legged creature  in New Zealand, it was brought here by people.  The only type of animals here as natives were birds, and fish. The Kiwi is the national symbol. You simply do not see them in the wild, not only because they are almost extinct, but also because they are nocturnal. So, when we learned there was a Kiwi museum in Hokitika, and you were guaranteed to see a real, live Kiwi, we had to go. What a funky little museum. To build up to the Kiwi, you were led along a path alongside a pond full of eels. Apparently eels are a major food source? And whitebait - a kind of minnow.
Then you go down a very dark corridor with darkroom lights and arrows pointing to the pen where you should see a Kiwi - indeed, we did see a bird - kind of a cross between a partridge and a penguin. You weren't allowed to take any photos because, well, it was dark - and the flash would blind the poor bird. There was only one, but he/she was quite active. They must have left food along the edge of the pen so that it would be running along where we could see it. When you left the museum, they gave you a printed photo of him/her.

We also enjoyed walking along the beach in Hokitika and picking up some Fish and Chips to take back to our BnB. You hear that Hokitika is a place where you can buy some authentic New Zealand Jade, aka Greenstone, aka Pounamu. Yep - I counted at least 6 different Jade jewelry stores, but I couldn't find much of anything in my price range. But, after hunting through several stores, I settled on a sweet little pair of gold earrings in the shape of a spiral. We learned that the spiral is a symbol of continual advancement in an upward, albeit roundabout, course. There tiny dot of Jade in the center of the spiral, making the price affordable at near $100. After putting them on and wearing them for the day, I decided I liked them a LOT. I'm so glad I bought them ... err ... rather that Jim bought them for me! It is considered bad luck to buy jade for yourself, you always buy it for someone else. So, Jim took them to the register and bought them for me :-)

The next day we had bad news ... our bus back to Greymouth and the train was cancelled. It was coming up from further south and part of the road had been washed out in a storm. Yikes! What do we do?

Lemons to Lemonade

We emailed our AirBnB hosts, Luke and Jose, to ask if they had any suggestions. How wonderful they were! Of course, they said, they know someone who is driving up from Hokitika to Greymouth this morning and they'll get us a ride with them and take us there. Wonderful people. He is a New Zealander and she is an American who has adopted Hokitika as her home. We loved meeting them.

They got us a ride with the van than transports bicycle riders. There is a well-known bicycle trail along much of the west coast of New Zealand south island and a shuttle service for the bicyclers. It just so happened that they were driving the shuttle van from Hokitika to Greymouth on the day our bus was cancelled. It's called the Wilderness Trail Shuttle and they were only transporting bicycles that morning so they had room for us!

In Greymouth there is Monteith's Brewery. This is a stop we wanted to make, but our original bus schedule didn't allow enough time so we wrote it off. Because of our bus cancellation, we were on the Wilderness trail shuttle and, guess where they were going? ... Yep! Monteith's Brewery.

And we arrived a good two hours before our train was scheduled. We were able to take the tour as well as taste a few beers and enjoy some wonderful food - I remember a Lamb pizza that was exquisite.
On our tour, we met fellow travelers who had a car and offered to drive us to the train station! Isn't it wonderful how things work out?!
The train ride from west to east was equally delightful as east to west.

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