It was a reasonable departure time of 9am from Bazil's where we stayed in Westport! I was up in good time as I usually am on departure days but the same can't be said for one of the Geordie lads in my dorm, he didn't get up until about 10 minutes before the bus left, to be fair his mates could have woken him up earlier, but let him sleep in which he weren't too pleased about when they did wake him up and he had to rush around like a mad man to make sure he made it onto the bus on time! He managed to have a shower and get all his stuff packed that was sprawled all over the floor in 10 minutes though so fair play to him! It didn't stop him having a few run ins with his mates throughout the day though about how they didn't wake him up earlier!
Once we had all made it aboard we were on our way towards our next overnight destination which was to be Lake Mahinapua! The journey that we took between the two destinations stretched down the spectacular State Highway 6 along the rugged Tasman shoreline, the total distance of the road is 435 kilometres from Westport to the Haast Junction! We only travelled about half of the Highway before we reached Lake Mahinapua however! The road winds through a diverse series of landscapes, this includes fertile farmland, sparsely populated towns, deserted goldfields, lush green rain forests and the snow capped Southern Alps. The west coast has a special place in the folklore of New Zealand, there are only about 40,000 people who live on this coast, but the coast is accepted as a place where nothing is too outrageous to have occurred, and where the improbable is common. Basically there are many weird and wonderful people on the west coast all of whom however are harmless!
Our first port of call after we left the hostel in Westport was a Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay, which was only a short 10 minute drive away. Here we were able to walk along the coastline on a pathway where we were able to spot one of New Zealand's largest seal colonies! We got dropped off by the bus at the start of the walkway in Cape Foulwind, then we were picked up at the other end of the 45 minute walk where there was a little hut selling drinks and snacks which I resisted unlike many! There was one person called Joe who didn't take part in the walk however, as mentioned in the last blog we played alcohol related card games the night before, and Joe got slightly plastered to say the least, he was spewing up everywhere....even on his pillow where he slept for the night! So needless to say he was feeling extremely hung-over that morning which is the reason he didn't participate in the walk! Cape Foulwind is also New Zealand's closest point to Australia....so there was a whiff of Kangaroo in the air lol, and if we looked really hard into the distance.....we had absolutely no chance of seeing Australia :P
From Cape Foulwind we made our way down to Punakaiki (Poo-na-kai-key) where we got to check out the Pancake Rocks and blowholes! The Pancake Rocks are a series of stratified limestone stacks which, over many thousands of years, have been eroded to resemble giant piles of neatly stacked pancakes J Another prominent feature is the blowholes, which at high tide or in heavy weather explode with a spectacular spray. It was a pretty cool 45 minute walk around the coastline, once finished we ate our lunch, which for me was jam sandwiches and fruit but others stocked up on food from the cafe that we sat in! Once we had all had a good feast we left Punakaiki and made our way to Greymouth.
Greymouth is the chief commercial centre of the west coast with a population of about 12,000. The town was founded on gold, continued on coal and now relies on industries such as timber, coal, sheep, dairy and greenstone. Pounamu or Nephrite Jade both greenstones; have a huge significance to Maori! In Greymouth we were told what our theme for the fancy dress party would be for later that night at Lake Mahinapua! It was Anything But Clothes (ABC), self explanatory really we could wear whatever we liked except from clothes! We had been given a small tour around Greymouth prior to departing from the bus so that we knew where the best shops were to get our supplies for the party then we were given 2 hours to have a look around and get our outfits! As soon as we got off of the bus almost everyone headed straight for the Warehouse store which is a big name store in New Zealand that has various chains around the country, it is able to buy in bulk so hence is able to offer lower prices! Upon entering I hadn't a clue about what I was going to dress up as later that night, and nor did most people as we weren't given much time to think about it, however there were a few that had very clear ideas about what they were going to dress up as except they wouldn't tell any of us as there was a prize for the winner so they kept their idea hush hush. We all walked around the store aimlessly, thinking there is absolutely nothing here giving us inspiration, plus most of us were on a budget and there wasn't anything that was really that cheap to be honest. There was a massive stash of cardboard in the store so we all picked some of it up as a last resort if we failed to find anything else! One hour in and most people had split up from the big group that we had gone in has, some people had ventured further into the town in search of the dollar store and the Salvation Army store, I was still in the Warehouse and was still clueless as to what I was going to buy.
So I went into the local supermarket, which we were told didn't like the Kiwi Experience bus by the driver because of our loutish behaviour.....haha! Although the bus was trying to boycott the store, it was the only place we could stock up on supplies for the next few days as there were no really big supermarkets for another few days, so I ran round the store effectively to get my food supplies so save myself time in deciding what to buy for the fancy dress party! Then from the supermarket I went straight back into the Warehouse and after much more looking around the store, I have narrowed down my options, which were to either buy a sheet and make a toga out of it, which would have been a bit unoriginal and easy yet boring, or a garden waste expandable bin, which I felt may have prohibited quite a bit of movement during the night, so I went for getting a suit cover and duct tape, so that I could adapt it into something wearable! It also had a zip right down the front of it which meant that going to the toilet wouldn't be so much of a chore as the other outfits which people had chosen!
After a good couple of hours in Greymouth, we left at approximately 3.45pm and made our way to Lake Mahinapua, passing through Hokitika on the way. Just before entering Hokitika we had to cross a bridge that went over the Arahura River, it is unique because it is only a one lane bridge meaning that cars can only cross from one side at a time, so cars on one side of the bridge have to give way to cars on the other side of the bridge.....but it's not that simple, oh no, there is also a train track that runs along the road across the bridge so as well as checking for cars coming from the opposite direction we also had to check for trains coming as well! Once we had mastered the bridge it was only a further 10 kilometres further south until we reached Lake Mahinapua (Maa-he-naa-poo-a) Hotel where we spent the night. Hence the name the poo party which is what the fancy dress party was called. Upon arrival the legendary Les Lisle jumped on the bus and lectured us about what to expect from our nights stay, he really was quite a character and as nutty as a fruit cake, the long bearded 80ish year old bloke is the oldest publican in the whole of New Zealand and regularly appears on New Zealand due to his outrageous personality, which makes him quite famous on these shores!
Once we allowed off the bus by Les we were allocated a room each with four beds in unless we got a private room, the beds were terrible, we weren't given a duvet unless we paid an extra few bucks so everyone in our dorm settled for an alternative form of covering during the night, mine was a silk sleeping liner which I had brought with me, the beds also sunk really low whenever we got on them and the mattresses were thin as, but we did have a heater in the room which was our life saver that night as it made the room so nice and hot! After settling in everyone set about creating their outfit for the Poo Party later that night, I had a small pair of scissors thankfully in my first aid kit so this is what I used to adapt my suit cover which I had earlier purchased from Greymouth. After a good hour I had finished my outfit, I had to keep putting the outfit on and off however to make sure I got the right fit and made sure the arm, head and leg positions on the outfit were correct. I then gaffer taped it all up and it was complete, especially with the nipple hole on the front of the cover which was a landmark feature of the outfit. I got dressed back into what I had been wearing during the day and then went to dinner at 7pm which was cooked for us by Les and our driver. The total cost of the dinner and the dorm was only 30 bucks which was great value as the meal was excellent, we all ate more than we thought we could manage and were stuffed afterwards. The meal consisted of a hefty piece of steak which was cooked for us by Les, a bun which we could put it in, many potatoes, corn on the cob, salad, rice, and some lovely venison stew...yep that's right Bambi meat :P It was bloody lovely though, which I never thought I would say and had a spicy twang to it. Then a woman brought around second helpings, so no wonder we were all full to the brim. Following dinner we all got into out fancy dress outfits to party the night away, the dinner had got the night off to a good start and it only got better.
My outfit was a slightly tighter fit following dinner, the same as many people's outfits I would imagine lol! I had a shower before squeezing my way into the suit cover and putting a few more pieces of gaffer tape on it to keep it together. It was a little hard to walk in it but was much more wearable than some people's outfits which were impossible to sit down in and very hard to walk in, not to mention being such a mission to have to go to the toilet in, having to go to the extreme lengths of having a fellow passenger assist them to the toilet, which is why I was lucky with my outfit as it had a zip all the way down the front which meant going to the toilet was done with a lot more ease! We unanimously decided that we should all be able to wear underwear however so the majority did! I also slipped on my flip flops the same as the rest of the guys and made my way into the pub where the party was held, and was only greeted by about 10 people in there as everyone else was still getting ready...mainly the girls lol!
I brought a jug which was good value at NZ$9, and then started chatting to my fellow passengers. We were told that we all had to chip in for the jukebox as our entertainment for the evening which was primarily just another method of getting money out of us! The rest of the crew from the bus all crammed in within the next hour or so, there were many exciting types of outfits, these included someone dressed as a cigarette made form cardboard and another as a present also made from cardboard, there was also two people dressed in rubbish bins, one actually had loads of litter stuck to the lid which was on his head, and he was to be the winner of a Nevis bungy in Queenstown....which was not a bad prize considering the mighty NZ$225 price tag to do the jump. There was also a girl dressed as a baby and a bloke wearing nothing but a small piece of bubble wrap covering his prized possession which was kept up by a belt, this meant that in all the photographs throughout the night, his hairy arse would appear. They both won runners up prizes which were photograph and DVD packages for the bungy jump which was valued at NZ$70! There were also people dressed in shower curtains, and someone in a nappy, two people who went as batman and batwomen, cave girls, people in togas, guys as fairies, as well as many more which made for a very eventful and enjoyable night, it was a right laugh seeing what everyone had dressed up as, and was helped by the fact all us were getting through jugs by the bucket load. The driver was also dressed up for the party.....as a Tetley's teabag....but it looked so good! Time passed quickly as it does when you're having fun and after our group photo which was to be put up on the wall along with all the other group photos from the last 15 years that the Kiwi bus that been visiting Les, we had a bit of dance in the limited space available and then had a big game of Killer Pool, I didn't win obviously but didn't disgrace myself and stayed in a fair while before exiting just after the middle of the game, which was quite good yet the alcohol might have improved my game! After this it was getting late, there was still time for another cheeky drink but after that we all went back to our dorms ready for the next morning's adventure. It was about 2am that we got to sleep that night, after a very entertaining evening.
Love Toby xxx