Glaciers here we come... and the one where Andrew bigs up Teva sandals!
09.12.2005 22 °C
Leaving Wanaka on Monday morning was rather like leaving an old friend. It has the same charm as Queenstown, if not more, and the same good quality food, friendly locals and the same selection of activities, just a little less formal and busy, and there are some lovelly features to the place. The cinema just made the trip for us. Its the only destination we will visit twice on the trip because we want to.
So taking the Haast Pass we headed North, towards the West Coast. The pass passes through deep cut river vallies, steeply wooded, with some crystal clear waters flowing through them. Sadly the water was drizzling down the window pane so we didn't fancy paddling. A tea stop also brought home the truth to us of this area. BLOODY SANDFLIES!!! Any one who has met these creatures knows what we are talking about. They do make the Welsh midge look a bit small... however the midge does have the most anoying habit of getting everywhere. The Sandfly is just anoying! They leave you with huge blemishes on your legs and you end up with huge puss filled lumps! So we moved quickly on.
We continued north passing... well not much. The road hugs the coastline. Cook described the west coast of the south island as inhospitable and uninhabitable. He was not far wrong! We passed miles and miles of dense bush. I slept as there was nothing to see.. the mist was down, covering our views of the southern Alps and out to sea... so there was nothing left to do after I had cleaned my toe nails, empied the receipts and credit card slips from my walet and rearranged the stereo speakers and minidiscs. Even a lunch stop at a picturesque lookout was spoiled by the damp and the flies.
We rounded a corner, passed over a bridge... and there was a sign to the Fox Glacier. "Should we take that road" Nettie asked... as we sped past. Que squeel of breaks, hasty three point turn and we were heading up the vally to a glacier! We emerged from the bush onto a flat damp plane, below a huge vertical rock wall. The Fox glacier carved this gorge out... now it was retreating up the hill. We thought we would go and hunt it down. Nettie was sure there would be a little factory producing mints or something nearby.
After a few minutes of walking we found the glacier. A huge wall of dirty blue ice met our eyes. We tried to get up close and personal with the face. Our Teva's were put to their test. And can I just at this point say how good we have found them. If any Teva sales bods are reading this... you can take it from me... they do go everywhere, and you can get them wet and they still grip on the damp rock surface. And if you would like to reward us with a free pair next year we would love to have them!
Sadly for safety reasons you can't touch the glacier unless you are with a guide... I assume thats so they can dig you out when the ice falls. We missed any big falls but there were some seriously loud cracking noises and rumbles when we were there. The glacier doesn't move very quickly.. for ice, so gets a lot of debris washed down onto it. You can see bands of the debris layered in the ice. Oh it felt good to walk to a huge glacier in shorts and tshirts and Teva's, whilst the rest of our fellow glacier viewers walked in yellow pacamacs and boots... and in the case of the Japanese tour busses, carrying their shopping bags and camera cases.
We overnighted in Franz Josef Galcier... near to the Franz Josef glacier apparently. We couldn't see it through the rain. So we did the next best thing... went to a Bar and got drunk. It was Happy Hour after all. Sadly the rain cleared up so we made a dash for it back home to bed.
Day 18...some clear patches in the cloud gave us a view of the glacier the next morning. We took the decision to miss out FJG and save it for another trip. We had some serious driving to do. We started the day on 3091km... we would clock up another 300km today. Driving out through the bush past miles and miles of nothing again. We were entering gold rush territory.
We headed along through Hokitika and Graymouth, stopping briefly to contemplate going into Shanty Town. Sadly the rain put this outdoors attraction out of commision for us... why get wet when you can stay dry in the van and see sooooo much more!
Greymouth looked, well, er, grey... though we did have a good coffee in an internet cafe but there was little more to detain us. Most of the towns here were located as a result of the Gold rushes from the 1850's. Then with the claims giving up the gold the locals turned to trees for income. Sadly after they had cut much of the native bush down the timber trade fell apart. Now coal mining keeps them out of mishief, but that in itself is not going to be enough to keep things going much longer. The coal gets exported to Japan.
In the afternoon the sun came out so we stopped to look at a pile of rocks... at Punakaiki there is a National Park. The feature here is the layers of sandstone and lime stone, which has alternatively weathered to produce a stack... looking like a pile of pancakes. Hence the term pancake rocks. The sea action here has also caused blow holes to develop so as the see washes in with such great power the spray is sent skywards like dolphin blow holes. Sadly the sea was not strong enough, but the power was there... you copuld hear large booms and crashes as the waves broke against the rocks.
We chugged the last few km up the coast to Westport, a town just about as far west as you can get on the north of the south island. Here we found a lovely beach front site, and spent the night listening to the sound of waves crashing on the shores. Rain threatened too, so we tucked up with a bottle of red wine and had some tasty venison for tea. Such good meat at such reasonable prices in the supermarkets here. Wish we had the same at home.
The van was quiet as we settled down for the night. Sadly someone forgot to point out to me that you should try to get some sleep. I just had to finish my Ben Elton book... so I did. Tomorrow is Netties birthday.. I wonder what the birthday bunny brings... tune in next time folks.