January 13, 2008

South Island Trip continued...

If you are keeping track, we are now on Day 4 of our holiday adventure!

We got up early and headed out for the train via cab, even though the hotel had a "free shuttle". You get what you pay for, I guess - while they are the closest hotel to the train station, and cater to the TranzAlpine, they don't do that on the weekends.

The train ride from the East Coast to West Coast is truly spectacular. Once we left the Canterbury Plains, we entered the lush green areas in the middle of the island. Much of what we traveled through is protected land and unpopulated - with a very notable exception of Lake Brunner, "where the trout die of old age". Only a couple hundered people live here, but during the summer holidays, the population often increases to 3,000!
After just three hours, we made it to the lovely town of Greymouth. We completely forgot to take pictures of this lovely town, so we googled one (photo credit Dr. T. Gregory Guzik).

Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast of the South Island (approx population of 13,000). I think tourists often use Greymouth as a hub for daytrips around the West Coast, but we only planned to stay one night so we stayed in town. Once we were settled in at our B&B, we walked into town to explore a bit. We had a fabulous lunch at a little pizza place, then played a round of putt putt golf before heading over to our tour of the Monteith's Brewery. This was my favorite part of the trip so far because I learned that I like beer! Well, just Monteiths, but it's still beer!

We did the typical tour (sorry, no pictures of this) which for the most part I didn't understand. How many different ways can beer be made, though? I did find the ancedotes about the employees quite interesting - most of the employees have been at the brewery for over 20 years! Many are chemists and engineers. One in particular has invented a machine or two that not only saved the company money, but has helped the environment a bit too - he invented a machine that takes out the dents of kegs so that they can be reused (patent pending). Fabulous! Monteiths has used a few of the keg cans for other purposes as well....

After the talk, we headed into the lovely bar area (open only for tours) and tried each of the seven beers currently produced: Original, Golden, Radler, Black, Celtic, Pilsner and Summer Ale. I liked all of them except Black and Celtic. After we tried all the beers, we were given a full glass of our favorite (Summer Ale for me, Black for Darren). And although I can handle more beer than wine, I was quite toasty by the end of the tour!
The next morning we kicked around town a bit before boarding the train back to Christchurch. More lovely pictures from the train:

It was a great trip - we would definitely return to Greymouth, perhaps stopping for a night or two along the train route. One of the best parts of the trip was the commentary by an employee on the train. He not only provided fun facts about the towns and sites we passed, but a lot of hilarious information about his marriage, career and children!

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