The 2014 Spring Challenge was held just out of Hokitika on a typically wet West Coast day. My team was not so successful, but we won't dwell on the dark conversations held in the middle of Lake Kaniere aboard an inflatable Canadian canoe at 9.30 at night. I'm here instead to sing the praises of the little town of Greymouth and all it's surrounding natural splendour (read dense impenetrable bush). After spending 15.5 hours of the previous day soaking wet and on the run, the sun was a shining beacon of hope and opportunity. Leaving my soggy race gear to dry at the motel we headed into Greymouth to scout out a hot breakfast and a caffeine fix. The little cafe we stumbled into by the river had interesting service but the food was pretty reasonable. As it was a Sunday, the range of establishments open was diminished but don't let that put you off - we managed to explore half the town in the process and it still only took 5 minutes.
After breakfast we set out to find Woods Creek Track, navigating by a vague memory Jeremy had from visiting there as a child. Thankfully it's also quite well sign posted if not a little rough for the last few kms. We had borrowed a Suzuki Swift for the outing (the owner knew little of our intentions for her car) but it made it through unscathed if not a little dusty. This is definitely of the picturesque day walk variety of track and could be easily negotiated in jandals by the less active traveler or hyperactive toddler. The paths are really well maintained and the loop takes less than an hour to wander around even if you stop to explore the tunnels and climb on things. The track makes its way through old gold mining spots and even up through the water races they used to wash the gravel and dirt as they chipped it off the cliff faces. There are lots of info boards and even a few tunnels you can walk through with a torch if you aren't claustrophobic. The natural bush is so different to the east coast that it was cool just to walk through and take in all the little streams and paths created there by the miners. There are several other spots on the map above that you can check out if you have more time but we were pretty interested in heading back to town for lunch.
The Monteiths Brewery is located on Herbert Street and is definitely worth a visit. They run tours throughout the day or you can relax in the restaurant and enjoy one of their many great beers with a meal. Not to do things by halves, we decided to go for a full tasting platter (6 different beers) and a massive plate of wedges with sour cream between the two of us. I'm not a huge beer drinker despite growing up in a country pub but I loved getting to try so many different flavours - they even threw in a cider for good measure. My two favourites were the Summer Ale and the Radler - neither are overly bitter, but the Black Beer was also nice in all its malty goodness. We spent some money in the gift shop before heading back out to our accommodation. The rest of the team had been revisiting the good old days of the west coast for the afternoon over in Shantytown.
Located 10kms south of Greymouth, the Shantytown Heritage Park is somewhere every child born in the south island has inevitably been taken to by their parents. Open every day and costing just over $30 for adults and $15 for kids, this is still well worth a visit. If you have made it to the Monteiths Brewery beforehand, you can grab a discount pass for Shantytown and some of the other local attractions with your beer platter - yes, another great reason to beer. Pan for gold, ride the steam train or get photographed dressed up as a saloon girl, we're not here to judge. In the evening you can head to the Speights Ale House back in town for great fish and chips or other dishes reminiscent of our student days in Dunedin. Not to talk about beer too much but the menu helpfully suggests which Speights would best compliment your dinner.
Accommodation is plentiful but we stayed north of town at the Apostles View. The apartments were well set out with lots of room and amazing views towards the mountains. The trip from Christchurch is only 3 hours and the drive south through to Queenstown takes you past both the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.