Greymouth and Blackball. New Zealand | Should you go there?
Greymouth is the largest town in the West Coast region in the South Island of New Zealand. It is known for devastating river floods in the past. Even it's name comes from a river Grey-mouth that describes that the town is located at the mouth of the Grey River. It also has a history of coal and gold mining and of course for its Pounamu ("Greenstone", a form of Jade) carving industry which goes back to Māori origins.
So there wasn't a particular reason for us to visit this city, but it was on our way, so we decided to explore it.
It was also Aldis birthday so we went for some cakes in The Gap cafe.
The city is cute and not really big. You can easily walk accross it by foot. There is a nice promenade - flood wall along the river and couple of cute cafes and stores.
The railway station is also something mention worthy.
It is the turnaround of the Tranz Alpine train journey, recognised as one of the top train trips in the world. This train connects Christchurch and Greymouth. Along this journey you can see breathtaking landscapes, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traverse the Southern Alps, and see miles of native forests.The TranzAlpine is covering 223 kilometres (139 miles) one-way, taking just under 5 hours. You can book a ticket HERE.
The train station was originaly built in 1876 and served as the first railway line on the West Coast, from Greymouth to Brunner coal mine.
We had some time so we decided to visit the historical and tragical site of Brunner coal mine. In 1896, 65 mine workers were killed here in one single explosion because of safety issues. Brunner Mine remains New Zealand’s worst work place accident site. It caught the attention of the whole nation. It ultimately led to improved workplace safety legislation and practices.
We were looking for a cheap camping ground for the night and so we ended up in Blackball. It was quite in the middle in nowhere, but we figured - why not!?
So here we were alowed to stay at Blackball district community center building for 5 NZD each + we could use the showers for extra 2NZD. Which was a pretty good deal.
So we arrived in this little village and the Community center looked kind of creapy. Like those old spooky houses from the movies (I was patiently waiting for the face to appear in one of those windows :D ).
The old abandoned house right next to it surely didn't help the atmosphere.
But instead of taking a hot shower and curl up in our bed and hope for the ghosts to be friendly to us, we took a shower and Aldis decided that we need to take a walk. I was really hesitant, but I couldn't let my future husband to go alone. Or could I?
When a coal black cat suddenly crossed our path and started to follow us, I was convinced - something wasn't right. But turned out there was a salamy factory, and perhaps that could explain the cat beeing really insistent, trying to get our attention and maybe even let him in the building where the salamy smell is coming from. :D
And so we continued our late night stroll and even found a center of all the happenings in this community - Blackball Hilton. A little bit different from the original though... :D
While most businesses and organisations have shut down in the town of Blackball, the hotel still lives on. Although now known as "Formerly the Blackball Hilton" due to a lawsuit by the Hilton hotel chain (Of course Paris just couldn't let it go.. :D.. ), the historic hotel remains in business as a place to sleep and symbol of the towns historic background.
But there was something else that really intrigued us. Turned out that Blackball like many other small towns in the neighbourhood was a miners town once. And it even become famous in miners community. You can read about the Strike that started it all in a picture below.
Blackball was a centre of New Zealand radicalism and workers' militancy. It is the place where the New Zealand Labour Party was created, which followed the 1908 miners 'cribtime' strike, at ten weeks the longest in New Zealand history.
Another interesting fact about Blackball is that it's still there. Why? Because most miner towns and willages disapears after mining has stopped. But Blackball has a story on it's own. Because of the hippie community the village returned to life. Empty houses were occupied again. And so the willage is still as lively as it can be.
If you have an extra time defiinitely come and check it out. And don't be afraid of the spooky houses, it's just part of the fun.