Up early for the drive to Fox Glacier. Estimated that with our scenic stops it should take about 5 or so hours to cover the 320 klms. Day started out overcast but by the time we got underway the sun was breaking through and we were at a nice 6 degrees. Problem was, the forecast for the majority of the south island was for afternoon rain with the centre based on where, right where we were headed.
First stop, Arrowtown. Once this place was the centre of the gold mining in the area and the town has maintained its historic buildings and is something special to see. All buildings restored and newer buildings with facards to match the period depicted by the rest of the town centre.
From Arrowtown we headed for Lake Wanaka. By relying on the GPS and the navigator having not checked the map, I have just realised we didn't take the highway but took the road less travelled but apparently quicker by GPS. Climbing a steep section of the Crown Range Road and getting a great view of the valley below we continued to climb through a long valley eventually dropping down to the town of Wanaka on the shores of Lake Wanaka. A break for smoko then it was off on the long section with the GPS saying "Turn left in 258 klms".
About now the temperature quickly rose to 14 degrees, a nice warm day, then started dropping as we headed into rain. With the temperature now at 6 degrees, the rain started and for the rest of the drive the temperature fluctuated between 2 - 6 degrees as we passed through heavy and light rain. Travelling over Haast Pass then dropping down to sea level for a run up the coast then inland again with occasional fine conditions until we reached Fox Glacier in the rain at 1:30pm.
It was raining here then and as I write this at 8:30pm, it is still bucketing down outside as it has been all afternoon. No chance of going anywhere as walks are involved and with the forecast being for this to continue tomorrow, there currently looks to be little chance of Therese getting her helicopter ride onto the glaciers. At least we have pit the afternoon to good use in repacking in preparation for the trip home on Thursday. With snow forecast as well, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will be able to get out of here on Tuesday.
Well, it kept raining almost all night. Stopped for an hour or so early in the morning then kept raining on and off until about 10:00am. No helicopters flying to day. Four companies in town and none flying. We decided to go view the glacier even though the runoff from the rain last night meant the viewing area had been moved back to a point 600m from the glacier. Well, we arrived at the parking lot in the rain, then we had a flurry of snow so in true motorcyclist tradition, on went the wet gear, and no more rain. Typical.
Unfortunately, while the walk up the valley was interesting, the view of the glacier was almost non-existent. To try something else, we took another road that offered views of the glacier and that worked much better providing clearer views of the upper glacier and revealing it in true ice-blue colour. Even now at 6:30pm, although it has not rained since noon and the sun has been shining over the town, the cloud has remained over the mountains stopping any chance of flights over or onto the glacier.
After the glacier, we took a drive to Lake Matheson, a small lake at the base of a mountain in a beautiful stand of rain forest. The 90minute walk around the lake provides a number of view points for the lake and distant mountains but the best part of the walk is the rain forest. We climbed out of the car into strong winds and a temperature of about 9 degrees. Rugged up to keep out the biting cold, we headed into the walk only to find the the moment we hit the rain forest, no wind, much warmer and you could believe the wind had dropped. It remained that way until we walked out again and wham, the wind and cold was still the same. Incredible difference.
Tomorrow we head north to Westport via a short stop at Franz Joseph Glacier. The actual route planned may be a bit long so where we go on the way will depend on our progress.
Another day during which we were wishing we were on the bike. Even if the temperature was 2 degrees when we left Fox Glacier and dropping to 0 shortly thereafter. First stop was Franz Joseph Glacier with a decision to do the 30 minute walk. Sounded like a great plan until we reached that point and the 1.5hour walk would take us to within 250 metres of the glacier terminal face. Another great walk up a glacial valley with the tell tale broken rock underfoot. One thing about the Conservation and environmental department over here is that in their parks, a lot of effort is put into the construction and maintenance of the walkways. Hence, even a long walk is pretty good going.
One of the surprises was about 300 metres from the face we came upon a very large block of ice. Hard to see due to its partial covering with broken rock. From the glacier, you could not see it at all as it was completely covered. Really good to get so close. Like everything else among these mountains, the glacier does not look all that big until you watch a helicopter take off from it and the helicopter looks like a toy.
A number of waterfalls were flowing and while the runoff from under the glacier was quite dirty, the water from the springs and waterfalls was crystal clear. Yesterday I tried to show the blue colour of the ice; check the photo of the large block.
After getting our breath back at a smoko stop beside Lake Mapourika we continued north through the historic town of Ross and on to Hokitaki. This is a town of craftsman and is a major centre for the carving of Greenstone, NZ Jade, wood carving and glass blowing to name but a few. Hokitaki is on the coast and a interesting site here is the beach. Absolutely littered with driftwood, not small stuff, but large trees. This is where all the stuff that comes down from the ranges and goes out to see ends up.
From Hokitaki we followed the coast up to Greymouth, (to where we return tomorrow to catch the train), then up to Punakaiki. Now be warned, you will cop a few photos of what we found there. Called the Pancake Rocks, these are an incredible sight. Just on this point of the coastline and apparently no-one understands why the limestone has eroded the way it has. The photos don't do the majesty and mystic of the place justice and to stand there and listen to the sound of the surf pounding and actually feel the shudder from the occasional wave is breathtaking.
Tonight in Westport is a new experience. A home stay B&B at the Havenlea Homestay. Really nice couple who have been doing this for a number of years. Right near the centre of town, which I might add, apart from a couple of pubs and a couple of other eateries, closes down at 5:00pm.
Tomorrow, it's back to Greymouth most likely by a different route and then drop the car off and catch the scenic railway back to Christchurch.
Rain again during the night and still raining this morning. Great breakfast provided by host Jan along with a couple of fresh baked muffins for smoko as we travelled. Keeping to our philosophy of taking the more roundabout route we headed out of Westport toward Reefton. One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was when we arrived in Westport there was a smell in the air that seemed familiar but I couldn't recognise it. Later when we went for a walk to have dinner, it hit me. Steam trains. Westport is a coal mining centre and most of the town burns coal to provide central heating to the buildings. Funny how the smells of our youth never leave us.
After being told that it was an uninteresting route compared to the costal way, in spite of the intermittent showers or heavy rain, the drive through the dairy and timber country via the Buller Gorge and Reefton to Greymouth was well worth the extra 45 minutes.
Into Greymouth on the Grey River with plenty of time to spare to drop the car off and catch the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch, we killed some time just wandering around the town centre and having a cup of coffee.
Due to weather and track work, the train was delayed for one hour on the east-west journey, eventually leaving at 2:45pm meaning an arrival in Christchurch at 7.30pm. The trip was very enjoyable with great scenery which changes dramatically from the rugged wet west side to the dry high country of the eastern side to the flat farmland of the Canterbury Plain. During the trip, there is an almost continuous commentary available explaining the country through which the train travels, the history of each area and an explanation of all the current and geological features. Coming from the west, the Southern Alps are crested through an 8 kilometre tunnel opening onto Arthurs Pass at a height of 737 metres. The trip down the east side is a continuous kaleidoscope of rivers, mountains, deep or wide valleys all created over the ages by glacial action. This section also has numerous short tunnels and high viaducts to maintain a constant climb and fall.
Into Christchurch and with bags in tow into our last motel. Pick-up at 5:00am arranged for tomorrow morning and home we come.
There will be a last update tomorrow after we get home. Thank you for sharing our holiday with us and I hope you have enjoyed the photos and maybe read some of the story.
Well, if you have returned for today's update, then I'm afraid I can't offer you much. Early start to make the 6:45am flight. Ordered the shuttle for 5:00am. We were ready to go at 4:50, it arrived at 5:08. The driver asked what time we had to be at the airport; 5:15 or thereabouts was my response. That got a, "You left that a bit tight" comment. I didn't bother to make the point that it wasn't us that was 8 minutes late.
Through check-in and boarded by 6:30am and in the air on time with a promise of an early arrival. Of course with Brisbane's reputation for landing delays, that was never going to happen.
I hoped to get a few photos on the way as we were flying pretty much over the Southern Alps country we had travelled yesterday, just bit further north. Unfortunately things conspired against us with dirty windows, an engine in one window, a wing in the other and cloud and a haze over everything. I have included a few photos but the quality leaves a bit to be desired.
Landing in Brisbane at 7:30am local time, 3hr time difference, temperature of 20 degrees, warmest start to a day we've had in 3 weeks, through customs without any problems and time for a cup of coffee while we waited for our lift.
And that's about it. I'll put a synopsis together over the next few days and include some of the fuel and cost information together with some details of the actual route we took if anyone is interested. It may even help you with some planning if you intend to go to New Zealand at some time in the future.