Greymouth – When NZ Threw A Wobbly


Population: 9,750

Distance Travelled: 349 km

Total Road Trip Distance: 668 km

13th – 14th Nov

Our drive from Blenheim was a scenic one. We were headed for the west coast along State Highway 63 (SH63) and SH6 and, because we needed an extra night to recover from our wine tour, we were lucky enough to be seeing it all in the daylight.

We stopped off at a gorge to eat our next packed lunch and the sun came out to join us too.

We were staying in Greymouth that night but we were taking a slight diversion. Our fuel tank was far too quick to tumble down for our liking and we had read that this partucular section of New Zealand is a little sparse on man-made things so when we got to the coast we saw signs for a town with a petrol station and we went for it. After we’d refuelled we saw a sign that informed us there were no more petrol stations for something like 90km so we were pretty pleased.

The purpose for our detour was to see Punakaiki Rocks or Pancake Rocks. They are pillars of rock that have been eroded by the sea to resemble stacks of pancakes.

A short boardwalk takes you around the bulk of these pancake stacks as well as a a ring of cliffs that, when the tide comes in through the small gap at the bottom of the cliff nearest the sea, forms a kind of giant blowhole. We did not turn up at the right time for this but apparently (according to the pictures in the visitor centre) it is quite the spectacle.

After the rocks we drove the last section down the coast to get to Greymouth. We parked up, checked in and hoofed out. We were heading out to Monteith’s brewery for their last tour of the day. Monteith’s started up in Greymouth in the 1800s and were bought out by DB brewing in the 70s. They were going to shut the Greymouth brewery as the bulk of the brewing was done elsewhere but the locals wanted to keep their history. So they kept it and now brew a small amount of craft beers on site.

We had our tour around the rather small facility before ending the tour, as all good brewery tours do, by pouring out a pint before we got our three free glasses of beer.

That evening we went back and cooked tea and sampled one of our Marlborough purchases. Kate was again pretty tired so went to bed but I stayed up for a little bit. I went for shower and then afterwards whilst cleaning my teeth I noticed my legs started shaking in time with my brushing. I thought I must have been brushing a bit vigorously so I stopped, but my legs kept going. I figured that wine must have been stronger than I thought but when the lights started flickering it slowly dawned on me that it was an earthquake. I quickly got changed, grabbed my stuff and headed downstairs. On my way down the shaking had eased and an elderly gentleman rushed out of his room. He said “Did you feel that?” to which I responded that I had indeed felt the rather vicious wobbling of the earth and asked if it was finished. He replied with “No! Get outside!”

So I went to our dorm to check on Kate. I asked if she was ok and if she had felt the earthquake but she barely woke up to mumble something in response and went straight back to sleep. We had four Germans in our room that had feared for their lives, the shaking had been so violent. But Kate slept through it all. We didn’t go outside in the end as the shaking had stopped completely and I think I would’ve had to have carried Kate out.

I spent a good hour or two checking news and informing people we were safe. During this time there were two shorter aftershocks but having never experienced an earthquake before it was all a bit nerveracking.

From what I could gather we were far enough from the water to not be worried about any tsunami threat and as the epicentre was on the east coast, any tsunamis would have been on that side of the island so I was satisfied any danger was over.

When I woke to the news of just how big this earthquake was I was shocked. It was understandably all anyone was talking about and looking at the news we realised just how lucky we’d been to be where we were. Over the coming days we learned of the destruction and chaos in Kaikoura and we had missed it by two days.

We checked the news once more and asked the receptionist if he knew of any road disruptions on SH6 (the only route down the west coast) and thankfully discovered the west side of the island had come out the other end unscathed. So we set out to carry on our road trip as planned.

The hostel

Global Village was a great hostel. We had booked last minute so were only able to get beds in a dorm but it was a nice cosy six-bed. The kitchen was huge and it was stacked full if facilities we didn’t use as well. The place was clean, quiet and stayed upright the whole time which is all we ask for in a hostel.


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