We stayed a second night in the Glowworm cottages, and already traumatized by the truely awful food available in the local pubs, we decided to play it safe and 'take the soup' on offer from our hosts, and hang out in the lounge for the evening. The next morning we headed back north again on our way to Punakaiki - home of pancake rocks and blow holes (what now?)
But before arriving there, we stopped off in a place called Shantytown, just outside of Greymouth. Shantytown is a reconstruction of a goldmining town. So much of white New Zealand history is bound up with this metal. It's discovery secured the future of the then-colony, attracting tens of thousands of prospectors from all over the world. The most exciting activity in Shantytown by far (even more exciting than the ham and cheese sandwiches) was panning for gold. Here, you are guaranteed a find. You're given a pan with stone and a very small amount of real gold, and instructions on how to pan. I was helping Nina and Sara (by edging them out of the way in order to make sure that they didn't lose whatever miniscule amount was in the pan) and discovering how unnervingly addictive it could be to stare into a pan of gravel, looking for flashes of gold.
The place was very quiet - it is off season - and felt all the more twee for the lack of crowds. There was a ride on a steam train which went all of 100 meters in one direction, before reversing back again.
I'd like to say that 5 months on the road has raised Nina and Sara's expectations and standards when it comes to entertainment. But it hasn't - they loved this place. To be fair to them, they loved the fact that the found gold and got to take it away with them. And I suppose to be even fairer to them, deep down I really like that they can enjoy a place like this without turning their noses up at it.
Interestingly enough, when we were there we met a lady from Clare (where my dad is from) who lived in the UK now but who had a niece in Carrigaline (where we call home). So if you're from Carrigaline, and you have an auntie Bridie (who's married to a kiwi) - she says to say hello!