Backyard Travels

This post comes a couple of weeks out from the one year anniversary of my last post (Bali), and that’s bloody depressing!

2020 huh! Oh 2020… the joys you were supposed to bring. An anniversary trip to Melbourne to see Harry Potter. A winter family holiday to Fiji. The beginning of planning Craig’s Greek 40th. Yup, we had big plans for you. Instead of Melbourne in April, we took a trip (well, make that many, many trips) around the block… and boy do I know that block well now. I’ve well and truly ticked that block off of the list.

Look, that’s a list of major first world problems, but everything is relevant, right?

Post lock-down though, we’ve made up for some of those cancelled joys, with some backyard exploration joys! In May my Mum flew up to Christchurch, and we road tripped down to Dunedin, where we stayed in the beautiful St Clair, in a hotel room with a gorgeous view. We then continued our road trip over to Arrowtown (not overly pleasant with a carsick two year old, but we can sort of laugh about that now that a couple of months have passed), where we stayed for a week before Craig flew down to join us for the weekend and drive home with us afterwards.

A trip to my Mum’s place in Arrowtown is always good for the soul – stunningly beautiful no matter the season, and a certain comfort that comes with mooching around the Main Street and a daily coffee from the fave cafes. Also the knowledge that when the toddler goes to bed, we will get out our knitting, have a cup of tea (or five) and a gingernut, and watch some Netflix. A highlight of this particular trip to Arrowtown was Mum shouting us a massage at Millbrook, although it will forever be ingrained in my memory that when the masseuse asked me to inhale and exhale, I did so, but exhaled through my mouth and then opened my eyes and realised that she was holding some aromatherapy oil under my nose, in her hand… nothing like mouth breathing on someone’s hand during a pandemic. Yep, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and think about that for years to come.

In June some great deals came out for the TranzAlpine Christchurch to Greymouth, and Mum and my Step-Dad wanted to shout us (Craig, myself, Jessie, my brother, and my brother’s fiancée) to go on it with them and stay the night on the coast.

I LOVE the coast. I don’t get over there often… I think the last time was when a girlfriend and I hired a stinky relocation people mover and did a wee roadie, and that was about four years ago now, so I definitely jumped at this opportunity.

The train departs Christchurch early in the morning and takes about five hours to get to Greymouth, stopping at stations along the way.

We arrived at the train and settled ourselves, but only after avoiding eye contact with the station clown (I can’t even begin to explain), into our table seats (which are allocated only if you are a family) which were across the aisle from each other – Jessie was incredibly excited, this being her first train ride ever, and was already eyeing up the buttons by the door (which we were right next to) to open and close them – and pulled out our snacks, toddler activities (play-doh), playing cards, and then lined up for a coffee in the cafe carriage. Five hours (half the time it takes to get to Singapore from Auckland, FYI) went pretty fast actually – it’s such a beautiful journey, with the highlight being the viaduct area. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of snow, but the weather was really stunning.

We arrived into Greymouth about half an hour late, and squeezed our way into the hectic station to find our rental car operator and get the keys to our super stylish people mover. I forgot my licence, so it was down to my step-dad to be our chauffeur for the trip.

Being 1.30pm, we were well ready for lunch, and got on the road towards Punakaiki, where we were staying the night, and stopped at the All Nations pub in Barrytown – a cute pub that a couple have done up, and made into a really attractive place to stop on the highway. Jessie loved the pool table and the house Rottweiler, and we loved the food! While we were there a bunch of locals turned up in their rotary cars, while we’re looking like a combination of the Fockers and the Millers in our Hyundai i-Max… real smooth!

Pulling into Punakaiki Resort, I was super impressed – the stunning weather helped, but the location of this hotel is absolute magic, right on the ocean front. We checked in and pretty much went straight to the beach to investigate the Dolomite (pancake) rocks. We did some climbing, I had a limpet placed on my cheek, and we almost got wiped out by a rogue wave coming through the rocks (headlines flashed through my mind)… heaps of fun.

As the day got on we headed up the road to the Punakaiki pub, where a round of drinks went down a treat and a pasta dinner for Jessie didn’t (but their basket of toys were a hit for one tired toddler who didn’t sleep after the train) – we even bought some of those tab things where you put in 50c and pull the lever down. We won a dollar.

After the pub, we went back to the resort and the boys wanted to build a bonfire on the beach (away from the resort, as they don’t allow it there) and so we popped Jessie to bed and mum, my step-dad and I snuck onto the balcony in my room, and sat in the pitch black and watched the amazing stars (no light pollution in the area) and ate muffins.

In the morning we got up and headed to the Pancake Rocks in the hope of seeing them blow, but no such luck – apparently it happens when the tide is coming in, which it was, but I am guessing the sea needs to be a little rough for it to go. However, it was still fascinating to walk around. Afterwards we went to the cafe across the road where they make… you guessed it, pancakes for breakfast!! I somewhat regretted those pancakes when we got on the road to Blackball for a drink… the road was windy, the car was warm, my tummy was too full. Yes, I got intimate with the side of the road.

Pasta straw at Punakaiki cafe

The Blackball Hilton (AKA Formerly the Blackball Hilton, since THEE Hilton group sued them over the name… somehow I think this one maybe have been there first, being over 100 years old) apparently is the most haunted building in the South Island, and I believe it! Blackball has an interesting history, being the location where the first ever Labour Party in NZ was born (thanks to the mining in the area)… it is now quite a rundown wee town, and yet there is something about it.

When we left Blackball to head back to the train, we stopped off at the memorial site of the Brunner Coal Mine… I would love to go back there and spend some time reading all of the plaques and things. It was a place where tragedy occurred, but the memorial they’ve made is just beautiful.

The train ride back to Christchurch went fairly smoothly, given a little girl who didn’t nap for two days… that may be why the poor lady who was sat at our table with us, spent the entire trip (except for the Otira tunnel) in the viewing car. It must have been freezing, and there aren’t any seats. Telling?

We had such a great time, lots of laughs and memories made. Definitely inspired me to make the most of the opportunity to travel our own backyard, while our borders remain closed.

Until next time, and I hope it is soon!

Laus ❤

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