Reefton, NZ to Greymouth, NZ

47.9 mi / 11.1 mph / 1609 ft. climbing
Home: Noah’s Ark Backpackers

We finally had a day where we didn’t need to balance timing! All factors were in favor of an early start, so we set the alarm for 5am. By the time we were ready to roll at 7:15, a few other souls had roused, but we had the facilities to ourselves through breakfast.

The early start would help us beat the traffic on SH7, which is again back up to ~1200 vehicles/day, double what it was on yesterday’s segment. And wow, that worked far better than I had hoped! We had 17 miles to cover before we could turn off onto a secondary road, and in the 85 minutes it took us to get there, we had maybe 5 cars pass us from behind.

Exiting Reefton’s farming outskirts, with the sun barely above the mountains.
I don’t know if these trees grow naturally like this, but the leftmost one is a perfect wizard’s hat, including the slightly-upturned hem.
We had a big climb to get over in the first four miles, and after that we were inside this new ring of mountains with their own ring of clouds.
The clouds almost create the illusion that these are steam engines, puffing away. Greymouth has a rap as an unattractive industrial city, and this tanker train heading there is helping it live up to its reputation.

The Grey River valley is an unusual and unexpected region of dairy farming. There were even some fields planted with corn (“shoulder high by the 13th of… January…?”), something we’ve barely seen in New Zealand. And despite being a broad valley with a direct connection to the frequent year-round rain of the West Coast, there was a surprising amount of irrigation equipment, and plenty of yellowed grasses.

A nearly-mature corn crop behind a fully-mature tree.
The Grey River valley.

Near the 30-mile mark, we had a second big hill to climb, and with perfect timing a rest stop appeared just before it (informing visitors about the history of the gold-rush community of Moonlight). It was 9:50am. We both looked at each other: “Lunch?” It was more than 4 hours since breakfast, so why not?

Once over the hill, traffic from the town of Blackball, plus a freshening midday headwind, made the riding more annoying. Hooking onto SH6 for the final approach to Greymouth was especially rough, but once over the long bridge (a rare one with plenty of space for bikes) it was easy to get to our accommodation, the Noah’s Ark Backpackers. “Backpackers” seems to be an NZ synonym for “hostel”, and while it has shared dorm rooms, we had a private room booked for two nights. Because a day of that West Coast rain would be coming tomorrow.

That gap between the rounded mountains is so flat because nothing lies beyond it but the ocean! (well, the Tasman Sea, they would say).
Two tallish buildings in Greymouth stand out against the blank backdrop.
The day’s ride felt a bit like we were following the Columbia River in the US to its mouth on the Pacific Ocean. So I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising that Greymouth, on the southern bank, had echoes of a less-attractive Astoria, Oregon

We hauled all of our bags up to our second floor “Leopard” room, and then our host locked our bikes in their garage (they’re quite familiar with bike tourers, being both on the Tour Aotearoa route, and the start of the West Coast Wilderness Trail). We skipped the shared kitchen and walked to Monteith’s for early-dinner, a shiny huge brewpub complex sticking out like a healed thumb amidst Greymouth’s arthritic fingers.

Day 2

Rett remembered that she doesn’t really like hostels, due to the uncomfortable ambiguity of the shared spaces, so she barely left the room all day while I managed the shopping and cooking. I certainly feel something similar, which is strange because neither of us feels this way at holiday parks, which is effectively the exact same setup: your own sleeping space, and shared kitchen/bathroom/lounge space. My only guess is that the somewhat-younger (though there were plenty of guests older than us too) and definitely more-European demographic just feels “cooler”, more “world-traveler-chic” to us, while we’re awkward old neophytes. Which is doubly-stupid, because #1 we almost surely have more travel experience than these kids, and #2 who cares?! But, we do, because we’re old and lame and dumb.

There wasn’t nearly as much rain as the 36 straight hours the forecast suggested, but still plenty to make the low-cost roof worth it.

Lamby chose Noah’s Ark Backpackers as our Greymouth shelter, because each animal-themed room contains a physical version of that animal. We were assigned to the “Leopard” room, which initially felt disappointing compared to sheep or cow, but “Leopard” was one of Rett’s mom’s goofy nicknames given by her daughters, so Lamby then was excited to hang out with the spirit of her grandma that she never got to meet (but who would have loved her very much).


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