The coach to Greymouth would have been ok, if not for the overexcited driver whose regular and long commentaries that just waffled banal nonsense "have a sausage, have two. Maybe you could try an egg, that's right, that's the one" or "I love the train, the best thing about it is, if you look down to the left of your seat, you'll find a plug socket. Great for drying your hair".
The scenery was very different too, everything seemed a little flatter, the terrain wasn't as awe inspiring and the colours of the hills and lakes were lacklustre. We stopped in a tiny village, the official population is 2. The driver had told us that the cafe was run by two great guys and we were going to love their establishment. We rolled up to a dilapidated wooden hut, a huge papier mâché bluebottle was mounted on the outside wall, what a welcome! Inside the cafe was dimly lit and had signs everywhere stating you'd be killed if you shoplifted, you'd have your arm hacked off if you went in their 'museum' without paying, you'd be tied to a chair and beaten if you were rude to the staff etc. The place had such an angry and negative vibe that all but the coach driver walked in and straight back out and waited for the departure in the drizzle.
We reached Greymouth after a couple more hours, there was rain in the air and it was pretty cold. Our hotel room was rundown and a little depressing, so we just went straight back out to see the town.
Greymouth is rundown and a little depressing too. The walk along the quayside was spoiled by the signs advising not to swim in, drink or eat fish from the tributary due to a raw sewage outlet. I guess even in a country that is so clean and picturesque as NZ, the crap has to go somewhere.
Many of the shops lay empty and graffitied, those that still operated were closed and simply had a sign in the window stating "Go Jackie". All around town "Go Jackie" was the mantra plastered on lamp posts, mailboxes, doors, windows "Go Jackie" we even just started sporadically saying "Go Jackie". It turned out that Jackie wasn't being run out of town by an angry mob, no, she was a finalist in NZ's version of the X Factor and we later found out the 'our' Jackie won, what a privilege, what an honour to say we went to Greymouth the hometown of Jackie from NZ X Factor 2013.
Our reason to come to Greymouth was that it is a terminus for the TransAlpine train. The route connects Christchurch to the West coast and is said to be one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world. It transpired that even one night in Greymouth was too long, the deserted streets, the depressing hotel and second-hand chips for dinner, did nothing for us.
We boarded the train in the early afternoon, as we took our seats we noticed to our left a plug socket, was this going to be the best part of the journey like our coach driver had said? No.
The train left Greymouth and immediately everything outside seemed to cheer up, the grass looked lush, the river was clear and there were even a few patches of blue sky overhead. The journey took us through snow-covered mountains, along side pristine rivers and blue lakes. The views from the thin metal bridges that straddled across valley floor below were vertigo inducing but so spectacular we didn't dare look away. There were viewing cars which were open-sided affording unobstructed views across the peaks and valleys, the only drawback was the freezing temperature and biting wind but they were worth tolerating. We made a brief stop at Arthur's Pass before pushing on to Christchurch. Slowly the peaks disappeared as did the daylight, there was a full moon which lit the meadows and fields until the street lights of the city relieved it of its duty.
We had a stopover in Christchurch before heading North to Picton.