The west coast of New Zealand’s south island is somewhat less inhabited than many other parts of these two isles, which has led to its locals having a somewhat more, shall we say, frontier approach to life.
This is no bad thing. Surviving off the land is a noble effort. And in the case of the Bushman’s Rest cafe, surviving off someone else’s efforts at surviving off the land is the order of the day.
A quick aside at this point, to provide some quick facts on the creature known to science as the Trichosurus vulpecula, and to the rest of us as the Common Brushtail Possum. Native to Australia, New Guinea and Sulawesi. Not native to New Zealand.
In fact, the possum in New Zealand was brought here by settlers, who had this brilliant idea that it could be used to start a fur trade. The possums had other ideas, and by the mid eighties, had multiplied in number to a fairly staggering 70 million. Which was about the same number of possums as sheep, and worked out to about twenty possums per person. Plenty of fur to go around then.
The point of this aside, which I hope you have gotten now, is that New Zealand is practically knee deep in possums, lovable little critters who have no natural predators here, and who munch their way quite happily through 20,000 tonnes of prime New Zealand greenery… per night.
Which means that there are more than enough possums to go into pie, in fact, there are probably enough possums to outfit everyone in New Zealand with plush possum fur clothing for roughly the rest of their lives.
The bushmans cafe on the west coast, a little south of Greymouth, is home to some people who are waging their own two person war on the possum blight, with the general outcome being Possum pie. Which was where I ended up, on my quest I had started only earlier that day, to eat some of said pie.
Sadly, the fur trapping and possum pie making trade in New Zealand is, well, a bit crap as a form of pest control. The only working solution that anyone has come up with is to blanket most of New Zealand in deadly 1080 poison in order to kill the little chaps. This means all kinds of nasty environmental side effects, but the most direct affect that it had on me was that the Possum Pie, normally available on the menu at said Bushman’s Cafe, was off, due to a recent 1080 drop that had rendered the meat somewhat poisonous. Still. I tried.
Having now wasted nearly five hundred words on how I failed to eat possum pie, let us move on to another part of my recent trip down the West Coast, that being the town of Greymouth, and just a bit north from there, the Pancake Rocks.
I don’t actually have much to say about Greymouth. It is notable for being the last stop on the spectacularly scenic Trans Alpine train journey which leaves from Christchurch, and of which you can read far more about over at A Dangerous Business, on Amanda’s rather scenic looking post about the same.
Greymouth was, when I visited it, fairly wet and fairly grey. It wasn’t named for it’s colour – rather, it sits at the mouth of the river Grey. Clearly, settling a nation does sometimes mean that running out of awesome names can become an issue.
Luckily, a little further up the coast, the rather remarkable looking Pancake Rocks did a fine job of proving that however awful we are at naming places, nature will always be around to provide us with marvels to gawp at.
The pancake rocks are a whole bunch of rocks which look, as you may have guessed, like giant stacks of pancakes. No degree in place naming was required for this one. Formed via a process of weathering over countless years, and sitting right on the coast, the result is a seriously odd group of rocks and blowholes, which the sea crashes into regularly. Very scenic, even if somewhat wet from the rain.
Which is about the last thing I’m going to talk about in this post. The west coast of New Zealand’s south island is famous for being wet. For good reason, as this area experiences a yearly rainfall which averages out to seven metres.
The good news though, is that there is actually quite a lot of sunshine too – the reason the rainfall is so high is that when it does rain, it comes down in fairly bucket like quantities. We managed to avoid the rain for most of our cruise down the west coast, other than our time at the Pancake Rocks and Greymouth, so we did pretty well.
Next up on the list of things to talk about on the west coast are the quite frankly awesome glaciers of the southern alps. Where we managed to get some sunshine in. That post will mostly be in the form of photos, and will be coming soon. To get notified of exactly when, check out either the RSS feed, or the site’s Facebook Page. Until then, thanks for dropping by!