Greymouth again

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Greymouth beach with foam

Greymouth beach with foam

It made me shudder just to think about it. I drove straight through the town centre to look at a couple of free campsites on the far side of the river.

I didn’t like the look of the Cobdens Bridge site, it was a little too close to the main road. The next one, Jellymans Domain was a metalled car park right on the water’s edge. It had no facilities, but that didn’t bother me, I don’t need them anyway. What I didn’t like was the general feel of the place.

There were four rubbish bins; all overflowing cans and bottles onto the ground… and all of the bins had been set on fire at some stage. It was right next to a sports field and had the look of a hang-out for the local youth at night.

All that was missing was a sign saying “Looking for trouble?”

I wasn’t. So I left.

Greymouth also had a “Top 10” campsite. I don’t like these very much, which is a bit unfair, but that’s how I feel about them. They always have everything you could need, they’re always clean and neat, and everything works… but they’re soulless places; they’re like motels for campers. People that go there are only passing through and they don’t stay long. They tend to keep to themselves, and generally appear to be looking forward to leaving.

Still, if I wanted to sleep soundly, then this was my place… I was out of other choices. I’d checked it out on Google Maps, and this place did have one redeeming quality… I could park up right next to the beach.

The path from my van door took me through a few metres of bush to the beach… 40 steps in total. The strip of bush was on top of the boulder embankment that marked the back of the beach and it also served as a wonderful wind-break.

I had some important work to be getting on with. I needed to advance Tasman to the point where he was about to sight New Zealand, and I needed to advance the Ngati Tumatakokiri across to the South Island and into Golden Bay. But I also had something geeky to do as well and I’d been looking forward to this for quite a while.

I have some special technology on-board; it’s called GIS (Geographic Information Systems). I’m using it to prepare and manage the map on the Blog, but I also have some special tricks planned, and I now needed to prepare the first of them.

I want to do a proper spatial analysis of Tasman’s first sighting of New Zealand. There are enough details in his journal to allow me to calculate precisely where he was when he sighted land. I know his distance from land, the curvature of the earth, the atmospheric visibility limit and the contour of the land. I know all this and I’m geeky enough to want to extract a definitive result… what land did Abel Tasman first see?

Visibility analysis of Tasman's position and land features

Visibility analysis of Tasman’s position and land features

So I did that analysis.

And what was the “large, high-lying land, bearing south-east of us”?

It wasn’t the Southern Alps… but I’ve already told you that, so what was it?

Well.. . you’ll have to wait a few days more… I’ll put it on the blog after I’ve finished the illustrations.

Here’s a preview.

… back to Greymouth.

I’ve bagged the town a bit, but the beach in Greymouth is something extraordinary.

Stones collected within a few paces

Stones collected within just a few paces

The variety of stone on the shore is simply astonishing. Each wave lifts stones and drops them back to the floor. As the wave recedes you hear stones cluncking like snooker balls. This action has polished everything on the whole beach; marble, granite and greywacke… everything, ground into round potatoes of smooth rock.

Most startling are the pieces of pristine white marble, looking like forgotten snowballs melting on the ground. It seems they should be cold to the touch, but they are not, they warm quickly in your grip, and are a delight to roll around your hand as you walk.

The other wonderful thing about the beach is the driftwood.

In no time I had a pile the size of a small car stacked up right in front where the campsite track came to the beach. I placed the fire just where the tide would clean away the embers, and set it going. I remembered Terry’s words… “there are no prizes for being uncomfortable”, so I went back to the van for a few bits and pieces.

I came back a few minutes later with my fold-up chair, my Swandri, a full flask of coffee, a beef and pickle sandwich and a bag of Licorice Allsorts.

Sunset over the sea, Greymouth

Sunset over the sea, Greymouth

That evening I had a couple of local teachers for company. They asked what I was doing in the area, and I started to talk about Abel Tasman and waka’s etc.

I hadn’t got far before they started telling me all about it. It was quite apparent that they knew all about the subject and they weren’t going to deny themselves the opportunity to bring me up to speed.

I kept my mouth shut. I mean really… what was the point? How could I possibly be right and them wrong?… after all, they were teachers, and they knew the curriculum inside out.

It was tempting to let them know that most people’s understanding of the origins of Maori is completely wrong, and it is completely wrong because the curriculum is wrong … and it has been ever since it first entered a standard school text in 1906. Did I really want to try and convince a couple of strident young teachers of this? No, I wanted to enjoy the evening.

Anyway, soon they moved on from Abel Tasman and Maori’s to what they really wanted to talk about; themselves and what everyone else was doing wrong in the world.

They didn’t stay too long,they were busy people… after all, they had the whole world to set straight.

Soon enough I was on my own again with my fire, the night sky, the rumble of the surf… and the roar of jet engines.

Did I mention that the campsite was under the end of the runway?

Before I left I picked up my camera and walked to the beach for one last photo. For those that might follow, here’s a tip that will save you some time.

The best picture of Greymouth is to be taken from the beach… facing west.

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