The little girl runs off, leaving me to ponder the water. Maybe I will go for a swim like she suggested.
I shed my armor and leave it behind on the pebbly beach. I slowly wade into the water, finding it sharply cold and shocking at first. The deeper I go, however, the warmer it seems to get, and soon I am underwater, drifting downward to the darker depths. I find that I can breathe down here just fine.
I’m carried forward by an unseen force, and eventually come across an old sunken wooden ship. A gaping hole in the side of the bow allows me to swim inside. There, buried in the sand, I find a nautilus shell that shimmers and glows brilliantly in the darkness. It captivates me with its beauty.
Distance Traveled: 345 km with backtracking (Trip Total: 2109 km)
I start my day off like I usually do, with a mocha from a nearby cafe. I order mocha because I love chocolate in my coffee, but also because it’s identifiable. If you want to order a “regular” coffee, you can get either a flatwhite (which I think is just coffee and milk?) a shortblack, which is both short and black, or a longblack, which is a bigger, blacker coffee. At least, these are my casual observations. I haven’t actually worked up the nerve to ask for a detailed breakdown. The two ladies working the cafe are both American: one from Alaska, and one from Alabama.
My ride in the morning starts off very rural. I ride through the heart of farm country for a while. Not a whole lot of interesting pictures to show for it, but it is pretty in its own way.
The weather brightens up considerably when I reach the town of Hokitika, where I stop for brunch at yet another pleasant, comfortable cafe. New Zealand is littered with them, and they’re all quite excellent with surprisingly sophisticated menu options. I read the paper while I eat my food and drink another mocha. I read about the days long cricket test-match I saw on TV the other day between the NZ national team and Sri Lanka.
Outside across the street there is a closed-up looking building: The Sock Museum?
As I leave Hokitika, I realize that I’m actually a lot closer to my ending destination than I think. It’s not long before I’m cruising through Greymouth, where I top off fuel. The stretch of road from Greymouth to Punakaiki is a ton more scenic than the route earlier in the day, as the windy road zips its way alongside the pacific coast.
The air smells like saltwater and sand. It’s both invigorating in its sharpness, yet relaxing in its familiarity. At one of my other stops, I take some pictures of a new type of flower that I hadn’t yet seen along the roadsides. I love macro shots.
I check in at my hotel early. It’s only 2-ish in the afternoon and I still have half of my day remaining. The hotel is right on the beach, and my room looks out directly onto the ocean. I think about going for a swim, but I remember a sign I saw back in Greymouth, just in passing, that pointed down a side street for “Brewery Tour”. Screw my dream, beer triumphs over all! Also the road was a lot of fun to ride…
I find that in this coastal town is none other than the original Monteith’s brewery that was built in the 1860’s! It’s recently renovated with 21st century refinements, and actually a fun little place to spend the afternoon, as I soon come to learn.
I sign up for a tour, which really isn’t super thrilling since I already kind of know how beer is made, but it’s fun to see how it’s done on a commercial scale, 7000 liters at a time. It’s all very rockety: stainless steel vessels, ball valves, heat exchangers, filters, and tubing. Instead of thrust, it makes beer, which we can all agree is the more noble endeavor. Or rather, endeavour. This is the former British Empire after all. God bless the queen!
We take a look at the bottling machinery, and the tour guide shows us kind of a ramshackle looking machine called a “de-palletizer”. It takes a fully stacked and wrapped pallet of beer bottles and mechanically separates them and feeds them onto the bottling conveyor. The tour guide tells us that a commercial unit costs around $200,000 but this particular one was designed by their engineer and built around an old Bedford Truck that they found at a junkyard. Total cost: $7000. That’s the XCOR way!
I ask for details on how the machine actually de-palletizes the pallets, but the tour guide hasn’t the faintest idea. It is a machine made of Kiwi Magic.
After the tour, I strike up a conversation with a young couple who were on the tour with me, Kyle and Jess. They’re newlyweds on a month long honeymoon! They’re both teachers that work up in Auckland.
We really hit it off from the get go, and actually spend a couple hours chatting while Kyle has 4 or 5 beers. I’m riding back, so I just get one of my three free tour beers and let my liver work it all out before I gear up again. We talk about pretty much everything imaginable from our professions to down-under sports. Ever hear of Net Ball or Underwater Hockey? These two play both. Jess is a born-and-bred Kiwi while Kyle was born in Melbourne, lived in the Carolinas for a few years, and then moved to NZ. Super fun people to talk to. They’ll be heading north like I am, so maybe I’ll cross paths with them again. You never know!
On my way back to Punakaiki, the sun is *finally* getting lower in the sky now that it’s 8 PM. The ocean takes on a shimmering, majestic glow.
After some dinner at the local restaurant, I shuffle back to my room, put on a kettle for tea, and write this post. The white-noise of the waves ebbing and flowing on the beach outside is the only soundtrack I have, and the only soundtrack I need. I should sleep soundly tonight.
Tomorrow, I head to Mouteka which is on the north coast of this island. Soon, I’ll be leaving this land behind. It’s been a remarkable corner of the earth to explore.