Glow-worms and the Poo Pub

Trip Start Apr 01, 2006
Trip End Jul 08, 2006

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Saturday, April 29, 2006

First order of play today- Jet boating! A little scary, extremely fast, but quite fun; and an excellent opportunity to see more of the Southern Alps, with a trout's-eye view. The rain forests really do go on for miles, and it's bizarre to think there are so few people here really- and even very few animals.

Apparently until humans arrived here, mammals were a real rarity, with just two species of bats waving the flag for us- the islands were pretty much the preserve of birds. That really does help give a bit of perspective as to how much ecological damage has been done, albeit accidentally, by the arrival of humans.

Later in the day we went to visit the Punakaiki, or 'Pancake Rocks', some fairly weirdly shaped rocks on the West Coast that look like stacked pancakes (apparently!); we even got to see some penguins, albeit a little way off, standing on some rocks.

Having just passed through Greymouth, we came across a very scary local road feature. The single-track railway has pretty much followed our route all the way from Christchurch, and we'd crossed it several times. In New Zealand there don't seem to be level crossings in the conventional sense, it's more a case of stopping just before you cross the line and looking both ways (no, really!). In addition, nearly all the roads only have one-lane bridges. It pretty much makes sense, as there's really very little traffic, so it's rare to hold anyone up who's coming the other direction.

However, what we hadn't been prepared for was a bridge where both railway and road share one and the same lane. You just hop onto the bridge and hope to God a loco isn't coming in the other direction! Bonkers!

Lake Mahinapua is apparently pretty huge, but unfortunately it was dark by the time we got to see it. This wasn't such a downside though, as it meant we had the opportunity to see the glow-worms that line the road to it. They're not easy to spot if you have any artificial lighting, but switch off your Maglite and they're everywhere, in the bushes either side of the track, and even in the tree trunks.

The evening was spent in the pub that our dorm rooms are based in. Known as the 'Poo Pub' after the local lake (MahinaPUa), it's run by Les, who's rather a character, even by local standards (Think Father Christmas in a lumberjack shirt). He occasionally makes the regional or national media claiming that he's seen a UFO or similar (could it be the glow-worms, perhaps?). Nothing's ever been proved of course, but a happy side-effect is that the occasional alien-seeking group visits the pub. Convenient for him, given it's the only builiding for miles around :-) He's a top bloke though; due to a shortage of bed space, it was looking like Jonny and I would actually have to be in seperate dorms. When he found out, he was kind enough to put us in one of the doubles at no extra charge. Admittedly these were two bunk-beds shoved together, but the privacy was very welcome, and given they normally charge more for the privilege, it was very generous of him.

Les cooked us all venison steak on his grill, which was a welcome change from self-cooked hostel fare. I should add though that it's not as good as my Dad's Bambi-burger!

Having said the pub's a bit isolated, the amazing thing was just how crowded the place was. Of course, our group made up quite a lot of the numbers, but there must have been over a dozen regulars, who seemed remarkably chilled out given most of our lads were dressed in drag and the girls in bin bags (our driver Dave had decided the dress theme for the evening!). I had a chat with one of the locals, who said it was worth the drive simply because you never knew what you were going to see when you walked through the door...
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