Pancake Rocks, Greymouth, Franz Josef Village, Glacier, Tom!, Ice Hiking, Hot Pools, Bday Muffin!, Lake Matheison Walk, Fox Glacier, Lake Wanaka Sunset, Sauvignon Blanc and another muffin!
We left Abel Tasman National Park and Maharau after a lie in (I don't think the staff were too happy!) and made our way south, along the famed Westcaost of the South Island. Our aim was to get to Franz Josef village, but we knew that we may have to break the journey and stay at a town on the way. Along the route we stopped off for some lunch, and then stopped again at the Pancake Rocks at Punakaika. These limestone rocks have been eroded over time by the sea, but at different rates, and because of the rock layers have formed into what looks like 'pancakes'. There are also holes within the rocks and these are like 'blowholes', in that the sea water can burst through them- with quite a lot of force. It is also pretty noisy, even if the jets of water don't come shooting through!
By the time we left the rocks it was getting dark. We stopped off in Barrytown (although it was more like a village) to check out whether we could stay there, but we couldn't so kept driving until we arrived into the rather aptly named town of Greymouth. We went to a hostel in which the main plus was a big TV (so we could watch the Ireland vs Aussie match- which Ireland won, yay!) and free wireless, which we rinsed. The people staying at the hostel were all weirdos to be honest, and had all obviously been living there for far too long, so it felt like we were intruding. Plus, the kitchen had mice- great.
We left as soon as we could the next morning, and got to Franz Josef Glacier village in good time. The village is the main place that tourists stay in the National Park, mainly to check out the glaciers just outside the village, and Fox Village down the road, along with some picturesque walks and lakes and views of Mt Aoraki and the moutains in the Mt Aoraki/Cook National Park. After finding ourselves a place to stay, we had lunch and Ajay went off to book himself onto an ice hike. As I had done one the last time we were here, I decided to have a day to chill out and have a wander around the village. We then drove up to Frnaz Josef glacier and decided to do some of the suggested walks to the various look out points. On the walk back from the glacier to the carpark, I heard someone call out may name infront of me- and who should it be but Thomas Mitchell! I hadn't seen Tom for 4 years (the last time was his leaving do in Liverpool before he left to do a Geology post doc at the University of Hiroshima, Japan). Tom was in NZ as part of his current post doc post in Dusseldorf, Germany, looking into the options of drilling in the local area. It was a bit random to bump into him to say the least! We exchanged numbers and agreed to try and meet up later, and then carried on with our respective walks.
After making ourselves some dinner, and a quick conversation with Tom, we drove down to the village he was staying in and spent the evening catching up, finding out how mutual friends we doing and remininscing- and also congratulated him on his engagement that I had thought was a joke! We also made tentative plans to meet up again. Small world eh?!
Ajay got up early the next day and went off on his ice hike, and I had a lie in and late breakfast! I then went for a wander through the village and found out about the hot pools and what time they closed. I also popped into the local supermarket and found a jaffa cake muffin (birthday cake for Ajay), some candles and a bottle of Marlborough Sauvingon Blanc!
Then I caught up some emails, blogs and general jobs like laundry. Ajay got back from his hike late afternoon, and after some dinner we went to the hot pools for a soak underneath the stars. The pools were in a beautiful setting, and were so relaxing I could have stayed for another few hours- as it was we left at closing anyway (10pm), and had a very warm and cosy slumber.
The next day was Ajay's birthday, and I made breakfast and surprised him with his cake and a poor rendition of Happy Birthday to You! I had asked Ajay what he wanted for his birthday, and as he had never done a skydive -(I did one a few years ago in NZ, in Taupo)- I said that I would buy him a skydive as his pressie! We were hoping to drive to Wanaka by the end of the day, so he rang Skydive Wanaka and made an appointment to do a jump first thing in the morning. After sorting out our bags and packing up our gear, we drove south to Lake Matheison, and did a walk along the lake and took some pics of the amazing view- which included views of Mt. Aoraki and Mt Tasman. We were lucky that the weather was warm and sunny and the sky was clear. We then drove to Fox glacier and walked up to the viewing point.
We then continued the drive to Wanaka and stopped off for some frankly unbelievable sunset views over Lake Hawei and Lake Wanaka- the sky was literally pink and purple, with reflections over the lakes. Amazing. We found our holiday park for the night, which was next to Lake Wanaka, and made dinner. We had Ajay's birthday wine with dinner and I had got him another surprise birthday muffin which we shared as a desert. Fab day and great to be back in Wanaka.
The next morning we bid goodbye to Abel Tasman and hit Route 6 along the western coast towards Franz Josef village. Along the way we stopped at Punakaika to have a look at the famous Pancake Rocks, a series of limestone rocks that have been weathered into what looked like piles of thick pancakes.
The rock formations were also riddled with caves and blowholes and we saw jets of water threatening to surge up through the openings - a pretty awesome sight and the noise caused by the crashing sea waves was deafening.
We didn't fancy the drive all the way to Franz Josef that evening so we stopped at Greymouth, a non-descript old gold-mining town at the mouth of the Grey River. We ended up camping at a strange kooky hostel full of a weird assortment of characters so we didn't stick around too long the next morning. Indeed, the highlight of our brief stay in Greymouth was watching Ireland pull out a superb win against the Aussies in the Rugby World Cup.
By midday, we had rocked into Westland Tai Poutini National Park and Franz Josef village. The National Park's most famous attractions are the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers which have developed over time due to snow moving down the valley from the Southern Alps. After checking into our camping spot and having lunch, I booked myself onto an ice hiking tour for the next day and then we headed out to a viewing point for Franz Josef glacier. The Franz Josef Glacier has been retreating up the valley for years now and so it's external wall is steep but enclosed within the valley and not as visually mindblowing as the Perito Moreno Glacier that we saw in Argentina which is still advancing and spilling out of the valley.
At the glacier we bumped into an old university friend (Tom Mitchell) of Am's who was out here for a geological survey and whom Am hadn't seen for at least four years. How random, you know, in the middle of a glacier, in New Zealand, as you do. So that evening we went out for a drink with Tom for a good old catch up.
The next morning I woke up early and went on an all day ice hike on the Franz Josef glacier. Am had already been ice hiking on Fox Glacier in a previous trip to New Zealand so decided to sit this one out and spent the day relaxing at the holiday park. The ice hiking trip was awesome. After being kitted out in crampons and protective overalls, gloves and a helmet my group was taken to the viewing point from where we would begin our hike. It took us a good thirty minutes just to get to the ice but as we started to climb further and further into the glacier we began to see waves of blue ice walls rolling into each other. To navigate through this ice kingdom, we manouerved up through the ''alleyways'' of the glacier in a zig-zag manner, walking over ice steps and pathways, cut energetically by the guide with his ice axe, and squeezing through tight crevices between walls of ice. The weather was awful at the beginning of the hike and progress was slow; however, after lunch the sun came out and by mid afternoon when we had reached the summit point for our trek we were finally rewarded with great views of the valley below. We then hiked back down the glacier back to the valley floor.
After returning from the hike I met up with Am and we both headed for a soak in some sumptious hot pools nearby. A perfect way to soothe my aching muscles after a tiring day.
The next day was my birthday! Am cooked breakfast for me and I also got a jaffa cake muffin with a candle as my birthday cake - it was scrumptious. After breakfast we left Franz Josef and headed to Lake Matheison. It was a gorgeously sunny day and we went for a walk around the lake and enjoyed some great views of the western faces of Mt Aoraki and Mt Tasman. We then drove up to and checked out Fox Glacier.
We continued the drive onto the lovely town of Wanaka - on the way we got some amazing pink and purple tinged sunset views reflecting over Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawei. In the evening, at our camping spot we enjoyed a lovely rustic Italian-inspired supper washed down with a glass of Malborough Sauvignon Blanc and another jaffa cake muffin! A perfect end to a brilliant day.