Images to come later, once I find them!
Tuesday was an early start, packing the car with everything we needed to drag back up to Wellington, it seemed almost as much as we brought down, even though we left a fair few boxes in the garage at Ian and Sally’s. We eventually got started, and headed out to Wanaka. We picked up a few groceries there, before heading off towards the west coast. Wanaka was quite pleasant in terms of weather, the sun was out, although there wasn’t much snow on the hills, considering it is still technically winter. Lots of blossom.
we cruised past the pretty lakes, then headed on into cloud, and everything suddenly became forested and green and lush – such a difference after spending two weeks in central, where everything is dramatic, dry and scrubby.
The sides of the road were green, and there was mossy forest everywhere. We stopped at a cafe in some random tiny place for lunch, then at all the waterfalls – the blue pools, fantail falls, Thunder Creek and Roaring Billy. I only collected a few rocks, and we saw a rather large number of sandflies.
We made it to Haast, stopped briefly at the Doc Info center, before driving on to Fox. It was all very epic and mist shrouded mountains. In Fox, we rocked up to a couple of backpackers before finding a cheap but comfortable one with a spa. The spa was out the back, surrounded by native bush, and we relaxed in it as dusk settled over the mountain, with kaka and all the other birds making their evening calls.
Once we got too hot, we dressed and wandered down the main street of Fox, until we found a suitable restaurant, the Cook Saddle Saloon, where we had an exceptionally delicious meal.
Wednesday we awoke early, and got on the road asap. We drove up to the Fox Glacier, and then had our morning run up to the glacier. We decided to run as we had a lot of things to fit in, and a short time to do it in. Also, it was raining, as it often is on the West Coast, and we thought running in the rain would be less miserable than walking. It also meant I got more time looking at the glaciers, rather than walking up to them.
It has been about 7 years since I was last at Fox Glacier, and it was quite a sad sight – Holy retreating glacier, batman!!! The end of the glacier has retreated quite a way, and decreased in volume as well, so it was much shorter. there were whole new walkways up a hill, and you can no longer walk up to the face, you have to walk up a ridge beside it, and look down on it, but you can’t get close. It was very dirty, as it decreases in size, all the gravel it has scraped off the walls falls down on top of the glacier. The end face is falling in every day or so, and there was a pile of broken ice at the face.
Dale said it had even retreated a bit since he was there earlier this year in January, and the tours that walk on the glacier have to walk further up the ridge along the side to find a safe place to get on the glacier.
After visiting Fox Glacier, we headed off to Franz Josef, where we did the short walk (at a run) to Peter’s Pool, a small, and very reflective kettle lake in the valley looking up towards the glacier. Back in the day, you could see the glacier from there, but it has retreated so far you can no longer see it. It was a pretty view nonetheless. the kettle lake forms when a large chunk of ice breaks off and lands on the ground, where it eventually melts as the glacier retreats, and leaves a small lake. Over time it will eventually fill with peat and form a bog. Now, it was still pretty, and very reflective, even though it was raining a little while we were there.
We headed back into town, to briefly stop at the Wildlife center, where I got to go and visit the kiwis in their little enclosure. I had the room to myself, with two very inquisitive kiwis who were poking and pecking around the floor and walls right below me. They were super cute, and fuzzy. One of them shook himself and foofed up to like twice his usual size, before shaking his feathers and settling back down.
Next we went to Hokitika, for some lovely pies, then drove on over Arthurs Pass, and then up to Broken River Carpark, where we took the crazy lift up the hill – and I mean crazy, it nearly goes up vertically, and it freaked me out a little. We are now staying in one of the communal huts on the mountain. Lots of people, but friendly and cozy, and we hope to get freshies overnight!
Wednesday I awoke to kea calling outside. I also awoke to 20-30cm of fresh snow, which blanketed everything, and was amazing and foofy!! Everyone was in high spirits, and we donned our gear to traipse down to the info hut to get our harnesses. We spent the day carving out the powder in soundless runs or poof, rolling around in soft foofyness, falling over a lot and enjoying it immensly. There were only a few sad moments, one was when I ran one of my fingers through the rope tow, and then ran two of them through again for good measure. I was pretty lucky though, and only got off with a little bruising, and a couple of sore bits that lasted a couple of weeks. At the hut, people told us lovely stories of gashes, ripped gloves, and finger degloving incidents with the rope tows, so I was glad I only got bruising.
Another sad was the rope tows, I can ride them now, but it is still a bit of a challenge sometimes. I rode switch on the long rope tow, as I had no chance of riding it backwards like Dale does, but it was getting pretty hard at the end of the day.
Rope tows on a snowboard is not such a fun thing. It is a rope that is being pulled up the hill by a pulley, you have a harness attached to you, and it has a little nutcracker type device on it. The idea is that you grab the rope, let it start pulling you, then drop the nutcracker on, and grab the nutcracker, and let go of the rope. The nutcracker allows you to be towed to the top, without hurting yourself, as there are a lot of pulleys that the rope goes through. First problem is you have to strap both feet to your board, then somehow jump into place. The next problem with snowboarding is that you ride with one foot or other in front. Rope tows have a side, and it just depends on which way was best for that tow. Snowboarders have to hold the nutcracker facing the rope, if they get on the rope tow from one side, or with their back to the rope, if you get on the other side of the tow. If the tow starts on the wrong side, you have a choice of riding with your back to the rope, or riding with the foot in front that you’re really not used to! Awkward.
After an amazing day of freshies, we had another lovely evening with a great group of people in the hut, and the next day we arose late, packed our things and headed down the hill. The lift down was magical, we could see out over the valley, and the trees on either side were still covered in drifts of snow. Once at the car, it was still covered in teh 20cm of snow, so we had to remove that, pack the car, and then put on chains to get down to the main road.
Stopped for the best pies in the south island. Delishuss.
Drove on to Kaikoura, where we stayed at the Dolphin lodge, and had another spa under the stars.