A Travellerspoint blog

From the West Coast back to Christchurch

Knife-making, sandflies and another weekend in the city.

semi-overcast 20 °C

Friday 5.3
With an early start we drove towards Barrytown passing some beautiful coastal scenery on the way; N Zealand has such a spectacular and varied landscape you don’t know what to expect round the next corner. Barrytown is really a misnomer as we had driven through it in a blink – just a few houses and nothing else. We had booked to do knife-making today but we had to drive back through the little settlement to find the place where it was taking place. The centre was run from the home of a couple (Steven and Robyn) who had been knife-making for over 14 years with over 12,000 clients. We were the first of ten to arrive so we were shown round by Steven while waiting for the rest. The furnace, anvils and all the machinery were just outside the back of their house; an array of tools safety goggles, old shirts and gloves were laid out on benches. When Steven showed us round he stoked up the furnace, adjusted the airflow into it coming from an electric fan blowing air through a plastic pipe, and put some composite of coal and coal-dust on the fire. The object of today’s course was to make a professional hunting knife from a piece of steel, wood and some wire for rivets. While chatting we sprayed ourselves with insect repellent as the west coast is notorious for sand flies; they are very small but their bites give an irritating itch and leave a mark for days later. The rest of the group arrived in dribs and drabs; one chap I had met the previous evening on the brewery tour. We got kitted out with the over-shirts, goggles and gloves and had a safety talk from Steven. We eventually got started heating up the length of raw steel in the furnace and gradually forging a blade with a heavy hammer; we had to heat it quite a few times to keep the steel pliable. Steven We then used a range of belted sandpaper machines to gradually file down the blade. Each stage of the process took longer than I anticipated. We broke for lunch for an hour; we tried our skills at target practice with axes – Steven was a master at it - , went for a walk to the fields to feed their horses, and had a go on their giant swing (a homemade one erected between two huge poles on a mound).Throughout the afternoon we cut, shaped and riveted the handle on to the blade; we then further sharpened the blade and sanded and polished both the handle and blade. Our finished products looked really professional – we were all proud of our craftsmanship. After a photo shoot of all of us brandishing our weapons we had dinks (homebrew Barrytown bubbly wine) and nibbles.
We drove on to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki and had a walk along the coast admiring the force of sea erosion and the power of the waves dashing against the rocks. The unusual stacks looked like layers of pancakes. The sea waves crashed through narrow openings in the rocks sending vertical sprays through fissures. We found a good restaurant on the way back for a meal and returned to our accommodation in Greymouth for the night.

Saturday 6.3
We made our way back towards Christchurch to spend the weekend there. There was more traffic on the road than during the week, particularly camper vans; generally there is very little traffic on the roads anywhere in N Zealand, and it’s not unknown to drive for quite a few miles without passing a vehicle. We came across an area where most of the houses were brick-built – quite unusual for NZ as most homes seem to be weatherboard or other wood-based material. The large tracts of land were divided with high leylandii trees shaped into hedges – these formed effective windbreaks and grew to great heights. We also passed three distinct usages of land as we got closer to the city: first there were fields of grazing llamas (not just white ones but black and brown); then the landscape was dotted with small tin huts for pigs; and finally paddocks, some set out with jumping fences for horses.
We met up again with Aideen, Kieran and Philip; after settling back in we planned to go to the rugby match at the AMI Stadium. We first met up with some of their friends at a pub near the stadium for a few drinks before the match. The pub and the area around were teaming with fans on their way to the stadium. There was a good turnout for this needle match. The Crusaders (local team) were playing the Blues (from Auckland). Though the score at half time was close the Crusaders ran away with it in the second half. The atmosphere was quite different to matches I had been to in the UK & Ireland; the crowd was very vocal when the opposition was taking a penalty kick and there was a lot of hype when the home team scored, and huge gas flames shot into the air from strategic positions around the side of the pitch. The South African couple who hosted last weekend’s BBQ came back with us to Aideen’s place for a meal. We stayed up until the early hours chatting over a few glasses of wine.

Sunday 7.3
Today was very much a rest day, apart from a game of tennis in Hagley Park nearby. The amenities there were a good standard; there were about 15 courts – mainly grass with some cement and others all weather astro-turf. We had a few sets – great fun. Not many others were using the courts though there were quite a few in the park. Kieran took his trial bike for a run along one of the dry riverbeds just outside the city. We had another BBQ when everyone got back.

Posted by JShevlin 12:31 Archived in New Zealand

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