With some R&R behind us, we hit the road again on a cloudy Sunday morning after a stop in Westport for some shopping and a coffee. Stocked up, we arrived into the town of Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks and blowholes, and stopped at the visitor centre to explore. The Paparoa National Park was beautiful in itself and thus a lovely spot to wander around and take in the beautiful rock formations and be taken quite by surprise when the ocean eventually exploded into the air. A quick trip to Punakaiki cavern yielded no glow worms as the cave didn't quite go deep enough to escape the sunlight that kept the nocturnal creatures in hiding.
Greymouth was the next stop and our overnight spot for the evening. We pulled into Central Park Camping however; the parking lot behind the petrol station didn't give off the nicest nor safest vibe and with no staff onsite we turned back around and drove to the safety of a Top 10 Holiday Park! With hardly any other campervans in residence we had our choice of pitches for the evening. After selecting what we believed to be the Goldilocks spot we walked back into Greymouth and somehow managed to end up in Monteith's Brewing Company for some food. With no plans for the rest of the day we joined the 15:00 tour with Brodie. He had a fantastic sense of humour and conducted an entertaining tour that culminated in pouring our own beer with Craig clearly having the golden touch with the pump as Katy's was described as a German poured beer.
With our sensible hats on, we returned to the van and enjoyed a leisurely evening however, as bed time approached, the winds picked up and the heavens opened leading to a rather restless night as the rain crashed into the side of the van.
Next morning, we ran between the van and the shower block and then the kitchen as the rain continued to fall. Already soggy, we set off to Hokitika Gorge to see the famed blue-green water from the swing bridge and then grab our morning coffee from the onsite cafe. The enduring rain and stormy clouds sadly changed the picture of the gorge but we pressed on, crossing the swing bridge and completing the short walk up the gorge. Soaked from the walk we returned to the car park in search of the cafe however it had totally vanished (although still appearing on google maps)!
Caffeine deprived, we drove into the town of Hokitika and made for Ramble & Ritual, the first cafe we saw! Amazingly, instead of a greasy spoon, we entered a stylish cafe/art gallery with super friendly staff, who made us feel very welcome, as we revived ourselves in such comfortable surroundings. Recharged and the rain finally off we rambled around town taking in the Clock tower, avoiding the National Kiwi Centre (a zoo for Kiwi's) and then heading to the beachfront. The drift wood 'Hokitika' sign greeted us and, after the obligatory photo's, we walked headlong into the gusting, salt-tasting wind out to 'Sunset Point'. With the clouds continuing to come in from the Tasman Sea we decided not to bother coming back at sunset and instead enjoyed the view at the moment while watching the whitebaiters hard at work, just off the shore.
We had some soup from Stumper's to help warm us back up and then onto our accommodation for the evening, Seaview Lodge & Backpackers (hostels seem to be called backpackers here). We pulled into the car park of a rather dilapidated series of buildings, entered the reception, where we were greeted by a poster informing us that this complex was formerly Seaview Psychiatric Asylum. The receptionist, reminiscent of a janitor type character from Scooby-Doo, told us we could only pitch on the tarmac just outside the reception building due to the sodden nature of the grass and so we did. Our usual exploration felt more unusual than normal as we walked past a room set up as a hospital room (complete with 1ml and 2ml needles and, bed restraint straps), the obligatory creepy doll sitting on a wardrobe and the long, deserted corridors. Unperturbed, we played table tennis, until an Australian gentleman popped up behind Craig to ask us how we were, tell us a campervan had gotten stuck in the grass in the morning and then left chuckling away to himself. As he left, we took the chance to sneak back to safety of the campervan.
Breaking the 4th wall, why did we stay I hear you think!? Well, the site sat above a glow worm dell that we were both desperate to see! The evening was spent curtain twitching and watching the Lord of the Rings as we waited for darkness to fall which also brought with it, the return of the rain. The mud path walk down to the dell was a little creepy with only our head torches as a guide (we walked past a dead eel lying on the ground). We arrived, killed the lights and marvelled at the spots of luminous green that surrounded us in the dark, damp dell. Trying to avoid walking into other people, we shuffled around really enjoying and appreciating this natural wonder.
Upon returning to the van we ventured on a joint trip (for safety (from the ghosts, ghouls and the creepy characters from earlier in the day)) to the bathroom and after both triple checking the van lock we headed off to a pretty restful nights sleep, all things considered.
The next morning was the first we haven't showered before leaving a campsite. The reason was 2-fold:
1) we were planning on hiking a fair amount today
2) we didn't want to spend any longer than we needed to in or near the asylum.
The latter was the most pressing! We also later discovered that, what we had assumed was a village, 100 metres along the road, was actually part of the asylum and was now abandoned adding to the creepy, unnerving feeling of the place.
After a spot of lunch from SnakeBite Brewery (no snakebite was consumed), we headed onto our pitch for the next 2 nights, Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park. When we arrived the receptionist, very graciously, gave us a spot right beside the facilities so the relentless rain didn't soak us too badly anytime we needed to go outside. With the weather not playing ball, we spent our evening planning out our remaining time in New Zealand and watching documentaries (we also got round to showering!)
The early start next morning was worth it, as the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. First stop of the day was to the Fox Glacier Lookout and we were so fortunate to be the only 2 people there to get this view which included Mt. Cook.
As we were both quite tired from the days exertions we had a relaxing evening before getting to bed sharp for our early start in the morning. This long sleep however, did not last. At 04:45 an air raid siren went off. We both sat upright quickly in semi-panic and in our sleepy state we were trying to work out if it was a tsunami alarm, a landslide alarm or an actual air raid! We finally woke up enough to decide it was unlikely to be any of those options as we were too far away from the sea and the mountains. With nobody else moving in the campervans around us and a quick google search we discovered that it was an alert for the local firemen. It went on for 10 minutes before it was switched off but we both took a while to settle back down from the fright it had given us.
We now venture across the mountains to the southern lakes.