In continuation of our counter-clockwise trip on the South Island, we drove further toward the west coast. We headed for the town Nelson, at the Tasman Bay. Nelson is famous for being the gateway to the “Abel Tasman”-hikes, a minimum 1 day tour through the stunning landscape of the Abel Tasman National Park. Unfortunately the both of us are neither in very good shape nor had we equipment for a multi-day trip with us. So we skipped this track heavy-heartedly.
We had fun in Nelson none the less as Nelson is famous for is its craft beer culture. So we started to explore this sweet little brewing city.
Our first halt was at the Founders Heritage Park. This place has at the same time a brewery, a museum of the founding of Nelson and a bar. Next to old and relocated buildings you can see the last New Zealand mail plane, restored firetrucks and shop inventory from the early 20th century. In the center of the area you can taste the current brews of the Founders Brewery wich are fresh on tap.
Using a map from the information center we drove to the next brewery: Liquid Alchemy… which turned out to be a distillery. Not what we had expected, but who does’t want to know how a distillery works? The head distiller introduced us into the works of his trade. How to make rum, whiskey and gin. What is the “Angels Share”? Has the age of rum or whisky really the “older is better” use? Also because the headmaster is a cooper by trade we learned a lot about barrels as well. A really unexpected but welcomed surprise in our search for breweries. Eddyline Brewery was our next stop and we were happy not only to find beers to taste but also some Pizza to stave off hunger.
We had our next brew in a bar for dinner. The Sprig and Fern Bar only sold brews of the Sprig and Fern brewery. Besides the excellent beer the food got stuck in memory as I never had something like that: Gammon Steak. A slice of ham, with egg and pineapple. It seems to be a typical pub dish in New Zealand as well as in England, yet I never had it before.
Fortunately for our livers we didn’t only drink beer in Nelson: we also took a short walk up to the top of one of the hills next to Nelson, with a splendid view over Nelson and the Tasman bay. This hill was once referred to be the center of New Zealand. After recalculation they realized the Center is somewhere else but still tourists come to enjoy the view.
Nelson surprised us with a lot of bars and cafés which inevitable led us to like Nelson. The good weather did the rest, Nelson will hold a place in our hearts.
After we took our farewell from Nelson we drove to the west coast. On our way we came across the Buller Gorge and the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge. The both of us took the chance to cross the bridge, which runs over the gorge and the corresponding stream. I even took the opportunity to fly back with the zip line. This was the closest we did in New Zealand to what one could call extreme sport.
Because we couldn’t reach our target destination, the Franz-Josef-Glacier, on this day we stayed close Greymouth. The city itself wasn’t that interesting, yet it is near to the Pancake Rocks and as everyone loves Pancakes, we decided to delay the glacier and visit these rocks. The Pancake Rocks are a stone formation (disappointingly not a dough formation) north of Greymouth. The name derives from the layered formation of the rocks. Because of reasons unknown every other layer of the rocks eroded over time so only the other layers remained. The resulting structure resembles Pancake towers (although without maple syrup). If we have had a higher tide and a bit more wind we would have been able to see the blow holes the Pancake Rocks are famous for as well. Under the right circumstances, the water is pressed in underground caves and forced through holes in the cave ceiling. The resulting fountain can be seen from above the rocks. So if you plan to visit the rocks, get the tide time table and arrive there shortly before high tide.
The landscape in New Zealand is stunning and versatile. We saw mountains, beaches, bush and steppes. But one of the most impressive landscape features we saw was the Franz-Josef-Glacier. The both of us had never seen a glacier or the surrounding landscape. The sheer force with which the glacier created a valley within the mountains–through which we strolled to see the glacier–is unimaginable. Boulders high as houses lay around, huge waterfalls fell from the surrounding mountains and here and there you could see ice underneath stones and dirt. As impressive this view is, as frightening is the retreat of the glacier in recent years. Since 2008 the viewpoint from which the glacier can be seen had to be moved quite a bit. Although the glacier advances and retreats cyclical, the current state is one of the smallest (yet still impressive) versions of the glacier.
Deeply impressed by the forces of nature and thinking about our role in the retreat of the glacier (after all we are driving a car through the country and flew thousands of kilometers to New Zealand) we left the glacier and drove further south.