Pancake Rockin’ the West Coast

We left Franz Josef driving north along the coast, and passed through the towns of Hari Hari and Ross. It seemed that every town we entered had several big speed limit signs, plus a camera telling you your speed, and then all the locals seemed to know where it was acceptable to blow through doing 20 over.

…Wait, Ross? We had to stop and pull over, because we have a good friend named Ross (on Acushnet), and we had to see if we could find him a T-shirt. We could not; the likely place would have been the Goldtown Museum(!), but it was closed. Still, we got some pictures.

There was also a shop with a fun dress in the window, and while Jazz tried it on, Captain got to meet the friendly little shop dog.

In search of a little more cat enrichment, we found a short animal-friendly path not too far out of our way, the Tunnel Terrace Walk. One of the tunnels was out of commission, but it was still a great hike. The scenery changed seemingly every fifty feet, from fairy forest to moss-covered rock bridges; many scenic backdrops for Captain pictures. Plus we only saw one other group the whole time! This was Jazz’s favorite hike in New Zealand.

Our evening stop was in Greymouth, where the most pet-friendly restaurant option turned out to be Monteith’s Brewery. There was a nice big enclosed garden area for Captain to explore.

We checked into the night’s AirBnB to find the most manic welcome card we’ve ever seen. The owner was clearly a musician, because the house had like 5 mismatched cups and like $50k of amps and synthesizers. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to meet her! As we unloaded, we heard some rustling in the bushes outside, and got excited thinking it might be a kiwi! It turned out to be a Weka, aka bush hen, aka trash chicken. Not nearly as rare and exciting, but still new to us.

We packed up in the morning and headed out to breakfast, where we ran into a big group of costumed revelers, the Steampunk Society on their way to visit a nearby pioneer town. (Sadly not a pet-friendly one.)

We finished breakfast and headed north towards Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks. We judged the “no dogs” sign to also include cats, so Captain had to wait in the car while we took the short and very well manicured walk out towards the viewpoints. (Passing several noisy Wekas along the way.)

We managed to coax Captain into his car seat for the next leg. (Never did figure out what the truck sign was all about. Trucks crossing? Just excitement to have trucks out here at all?)

We saw a sign for the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge, so we pulled over and stopped. This turned out to be another no-cats affair, so we made it another quick stop, just over the bridge and back instead of exploring the larger park on the other side. On our way back over, we had to pass a couple of other people on the bridge. They were, we’ll say, much less comfortable being up there than we were. Signs on both ends marked it as two-way traffic, but we’re pretty sure we gave the couple we passed a new heart condition. We’re merrily walking through, lightly rattling the bridge with our footsteps, while they cling white-knuckled to the steel hand ropes… Andrew had to point their expressions out to Jazz, as it hadn’t occurred to her that some people might have sought this out as an adrenaline rush and not just a pretty view.

The lady at the bridge reception recommended a cafe in town as a pet-friendly location. When we arrived, we found that she’d called ahead to tell her mother, who works there, that a really cool cat was going to come through. So Captain got some nice positive attention, and we bonded with one of the NZ Hell’s Angels bikers, who came up to us to show us pictures of his cat. We had intended to ask to take a picture with Captain and the Hells Angels jackets, but got tied up when another (unaffiliated) biker came up to us to tell us about how his dog is trained to kill possums, and can’t tell the difference between possums and cats, wink wink. This was creepy and awkward, and the Hells Angels guys left as we tried to extract ourselves from this unwanted conversation. It is incredibly weird to us how often people who don’t like cats feel it’s their prerogative to come up to us and tell us so; it happens so often that it must just be culturally acceptable here.

Back at the car, Captain resumed his favorite perch and was not going to be moved. This was OK, because in the land of the orange traffic cone, your speed will not exceed 30 kph.

We made one last stop for the day, at a small winery with “the world’s biggest grape vine rugby ball”, surely a hotly contested title. While we were there, we met a trainee wine-maker from California, who was doing a six-month fellowship at a neighboring vineyard, and we got to chat about New Zealand versus California wines. We were served by a transplant from Belgium whose main hustle was exporting New Zealand beers back home. We’ve found that almost everyone we meet here in the service industry is from somewhere else.

We checked into our AirBnB for the next few nights, and discovered that the view from the tub was excellent. Jazz could not be extracted; this is where she lives now. This is the end of our story.

Just kidding! We left Captain and went out to dinner at what turned out to be a pet-friendly brewery (d’oh), Golden Bear out on the Mapua Wharf, owned and run by a couple of Californians making supposedly California-style beers.

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