Friday, December 4, 2015

4 Dec 15 – Day 5 (Auckland, Christchurch, Punakaiki and Greymouth)

Today we took the domestic flight from Auckland to Christchurch. As it was self-check-in system, Cynthia briefed us on how to operate the kiosks while we were on the way to the airport. She told the group to wait for her at a designated meeting point after checking-in the luggage so that she can try to arrange for family members to be seated together. After that, we strolled slowly to the boarding gate and stood around because all the seats were taken. Cynthia came along and seek SWT and my help with the seating arrangement. Turned out that she had to split us up because she was not able to split the other families. So SWT and me took one aisle seat each. As most of the seats allocated to our group were near the back of the plane, we had to board the plane from the back. Got up the plane and we managed to find our seats quite easily. 

After everyone was boarded and seated, our plane took off. Snacks and drinks were distributed and as per what Cynthia recommended, we opted for the Cookie Time cookie, which was also one of the must-eat items on our list. The cookie was nice but a tad too sweet. So one item off the list but don’t think will be getting any to bring back home. Soon we reached Christchurch airport and we took quite a long time just to clear custom. After we were cleared, Cynthia told us to wait at a designated area because she had to receive another tour group who will be joining us for the rest of the South Island tour. Soon we boarded our new coach and made our way into Christchurch where we were to have lunch at a shopping mall. As usual, most of the group settled their lunch either at the food court or at the fast food restaurants. SWT and me just went to get a vegetarian burger and a hot chocolate each from a stall and ate sitting on a bench. Yes, I know… For someone who claim to be a foodie, I shouldn’t be eating this as lunch and I know I will probably be criticized for contradicting my blog title with my choice of food. 

Anyway, after eating, we soon gathered back at the coach and began our itinerary. Cynthia informed us that there was a change of plan. Instead of doing the sights in Christchurch as per the schedule, we headed straight towards Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks, which was almost four-hour’ journey. According to her, she said that the weather forecast for the next day is not good. It is going to be a wet day and according to the schedule for tomorrow, we were supposed to be doing Pancake Rocks in the morning and Fox Glacier in the afternoon which means outdoor activities which means we may have to wear ponchos the whole day. So to avoid that, she made the decision to make some changes to the schedule. Since it was a four-hour ride, most of us took the opportunity to sleep on the coach or watched the sceneries. The landscape of the South Island differs from the North Island; it is more mountainous than the North Island. We had a comfort stop at Arthur’s Pass after about two hours and reached the Pancake Rocks location around 5:40pm.

Cynthia went to buy tickets and told the group members to visit the toilets. The queue for toilet was long and so Cynthia told SWT and I to go ahead to see the Pancake Rocks which are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides. The 'pancake'-layering of the limestone thus gave the name Pancake Rocks. We happily went on our way and along the way took photos. But soon, the rest of the group caught up and then it was beating them to get the best photos without getting bombed by them. Other than that, the Pancake Rocks were really an amazing view. However, I felt that they look more like kuah lapis than pancakes. Heh. Took lots of photos even though it would have been better if the weather was not so overcast. 

Left the place around 6+pm and we made our way to Greymouth where we will be spending the night. While traveling, Cynthia handed out some papers to the group for us to indicate the optional tours that we would like to do over the next few days as well as the dinner options that we want for tomorrow’s dinner. After a short discussion with SWT, we settled on the helicopter ride, jet-boating and the day trip to Milford Sound. We also decided on the dinner options and we passed the papers back to Cynthia before we got to the hotel. Reached our hotel, Kingsgate, which is just next to the Grey River, checked into the hotel, went up to the room, quickly settled down and went down to the restaurant to have buffet dinner. After SWT and I were done with dinner, we went to the reception counter to get a map before heading straight out to explore Greymouth.

As it was already 8+pm at night, most of the shops were closed and the streets quite deserted. Walked along Mawhera Quay and took photo of the clock tower before turning into Tainui Street. Along the way, we came across a big greenstone structure with water feature and we took photos of it. We then saw a railway track and then MacDonald’s. Popped into the shop to check out the menu and then walked across the street to check out the menu of KFC. Recalled that Cynthia recommended that we try the KFC few days later in Queenstown because the chicken is more tender and juicy compared to those back in Singapore. So we quickly made a mental note of what we are going to order few days later. Continued on and we saw Greymouth Evening Star, took photos of the wall murals.

Soon the sky darkened and it was after 9pm, slowly made our way back to the hotel and we saw the young adults from the fashion show family across the street photographing the wall murals at the Greymouth Evening Star. Nearing the hotel, we saw some interesting displays describing the Westlands Gold Rush back in the days as well as display of the tools used back then. After the row of displays, we saw a railway station with Countdown the supermarket nearby. Walked on and we came across a mobile toilet and a lone jogger. Finally, back along Mawhera Quay and we climbed up the steps of the clock tower to get a view of the Grey River before calling it a day.

Thoughts: Cynthia made a good call to visit the Pancake Rocks today even though it was overcast and was rather late when we got there. As usual, I would repeat the point that I wish we had more time to explore the place. Greymouth seems like a ghost town. Probably because we were seeing it in the late evening where most of the shops were closed and most people would have been home for the day already. Still, the place seems very small with very little activities. Wonder how Greymouth is by day.

No comments: