We stayed in Picton for 3 days in a small hostel called 'the villa'. It wasnt the cheapest place, but they had free bikes, a small gym, a tv room and FREE APPLE CRUMBLE!!! We were won over instantly. Picton was incredilbey small so there wasnt much to do, but we still found things to waste away the time. I went for a little wander, ipod and map in hand, to the tops of some nearby hills to get to a number of viewpoints around the town. Picton had only 3 main roads so to be honest i didnt really even need a map - but then what would a wander be without one :D. Me and alec also rented bikes and rode down to one of the headlands. Picton is situated in the Marlborough Sounds. They were created when the earths crust collapsed in on itself forming valleys and mountains, and after the ice age these were flooded creating spectacular landforms - bays, mountains and hidden lagoons. Clear and fresh air (fecking cold though) meant you could see straight through the valleys. The water was crystal clear and in many places you could see the bottom. A stunning place during the winter, but during the summer it would rival areas like the Perhentian Islands.
From Picton, we moved down to Greymouth on the west coast. Situated on the mouth of the river Grey (obviously) Greymouth was another smallish town the lonely planet and various other travellers raved about. We stayed in what was perhaps the nicest hostel to date. Called global village, it was themed with african masks, reds yellow and blues, had central heating in every room and mahoosive great fire place in the lounge - not to mention a tv room with a vast selection of movies. I started my Greymouth experience with the Queen Charlotte Walk (i think it was called that anyhoo). I strated walking along the beach, quite happy that i had found a whole load of jade stones (which later turned out to simply be green quartz, but anyway), the 3 hour walk takes you along the hillside to a viewpoint which over looks the headlands, the bays and you could also see seals. There was also prmise of a pub nearby so thats was the incentive. I walked down a path not much wider than a metre, with trees and bushes curving upwards and over me. As I navigated through the temperate rainforest, up hills and cliff faces, I was pleased by the fact that there could potentially be a pub at the other end - I would get a burger and a cider I decided :D. After 2 hour of walking, there end was near. I climbed a few steps hoping the pub would be round the corner. I turned, aforementioned corner, and saw a small bench on a platform over looking the sea.... Yeh...... so.... no pub. Just a bench on an incredibley windswpet platform. I was far from amused. It was 4pm, getting dark and I had another 2 hours left till I got back to the hostel. I comforted myself with the thought of KFC. That made it all better. (With my immense self control I never got a KFC in the end - just a small sugar cake from the supermarket. Was a well deserved snack before my kilogram of pasta and pesto on the evening).
The next day I undertook a walk up ANOTHER mountain to ANOTHER viewpoint which overlooking greymouth and the river valley. Being a spoilt traveller who has obviously seen far more spectacular scenery than a normal guy should be allowed to see in his life, I was almost only slightly impressed by the views of the rolling hills, snow capped mountains in the distance, and the sea peaking up between 2 peaks. After a few photos, down I went back through the forest to ground level, where I walked to the flood wall. Greymouth seemed to have it all - earthquakes, fires floods etc. In the 80's a large floodwall was built to prevent flooding. The flood wall swept into the sea for a good 100 metres so I walked along that just as the sun was setting. True to form, it was another photo moment. I have always heard about scenery that could take your breath away, and even after a trek in the himalayas where the scenery was almost monotonously perfect, it wasnt QUITE enough to render me breathless. However, with the wind beating the livign shite out of the town and the jetty, waves smashed into the surrounding rocks sending spray a good 5 metres in the air up onto the jetty. As the sun began to set, the waves would eb lines of pink and black ominously approaching the shores, before breaking up in sparkling white on the pebble beaches. The southern alps and Mt Cook in the distance, all caught the sun as the snow caps glowed a little pink and red in the darkening sky. Although my core temperature was dropping far below recomended values, I couldnt pull myself away as the sun lowered, the sky turned orangges and yellows, silhouetting the light grey clouds, the mountains appeared to glow red hot in the sun, and the whitish spray covered the rocks - peeeeeerrrrfffecct. Anyhoo, after feeling quite content that maybe the earth is quite a nice place to live afterall, I began the long and cold walk back to the hostel..... for another kilogram of quick cook pasta with cheese.
From Greymouth we went to Barrytown, where we undertook the bizarre activity of 'knife making'. Strrongly recommended in the lonely planet, and on a number of leaflets we thought, why not - when in NZ.... make knives. We were greeted by Steve and Robin, in their front garden. After some general banter he showed us some old and dirty looking materials - a length of old steel, a rotty bit of wood and a shard of brass. From this he said we would make our knives. We had seen the photos of already made knives, and were unconvinced that ours would not look that good.
After forign the steel in a furnace and beating it sneselss with a hammer to get its shape, we sawed it down with a hacksaw and attached the brass handle guard with glue and brass rivets. With a jigsaw - never used a jigsaw in my life, we cut the wood to shape, glued it and attached it with mroe brass dowels before sanding the whole thing down to a handle shape. Applying a whole load of toxic materials to seal te knife, we had lunch, stroked some mini ponies, went on a 'huge' (not soe much huge, as just quite big) swing, and did some axe throwing. Lunch was sandwiches we made ourselves with a load of toppings Robyn took out her fridge. After eating lunch at her dining room table as she knitted in front of the tv, we went back out where steve was just finished doing the final shaping of the handles. My G-d did they look good. Almost perfect. John Lewis could not sell better knives. After a series of sanding and further polishing and varnishing, we had a glass of champagne and left. All in all, it was one of the most random days of the trip and VERY much recommended. A fantastic day with a knife I have used at every opportunity. The only thing left now, is to ensure it, in no way manages to make it into my hand luggage for the flight home, which is approaching imminently in 11 days. From Greymouth we will move in to Hokitiki for some Jade carving, off to the fox glacier for some glacier wandering, then to Queenstown....