Thursday 3rd May
Well it's time to move on again. We have spent 2 days here at Fox Glacier and are still coming down off our "high" yesterday after our walk on the upper reaches of the glacier.
Just before we left we took a drive out (only 10mins) to Lake Matheson near Fox township to see the reflections. The travel guides and brochures say that it's the only lake which has the reflections of the two highest mountain peaks, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, in the one scene. We again were lucky as there was no wind and the lake was like a mirror. Hope the pics reflect (ha ha) the beautiful view. You have to walk from the carpark thru a rain forest for about 25 mins to get there but it's worth it. After we returned to the carpark there is a very nice cafe where we enjoyed coffee sitting out in the sun looking at the snow clad mountains.
Heading north we soon came to the similar little town of Franz Josef which is there to also service the tourists at the glacier. Seemed fairly busy and plenty of cafes and accommodation but we
had no reason to stop as we are trying to make Greymouth for the night. Back into winding mountain roads again near Whataroa, we are down to 15km/hr advisory bends and tight narrow sections and are glad that Crowded House is only a small Kea.
As we near the town of Ross the road cuts back out near the west coast again and soon we are approaching Hokitika. We have read a bit about this place and as it is only 2pm decide to stop for a while and have a late lunch. Driving in thru the main street we are taken by it's size and it looks a decent place to stay. We pull over and read the travel guide and it tells us that Kokitika in the 1860's was a 'rip roarin' gold mining capital of the west coast and had no fewer than 3 opera houses, numerous hotels and all the associated pleasures that go with such places. Today it is the "craft mecca" of the west and the town is full of gemstone shops and speciality houses selling the Kiwi pounamu (greenstone/jade) and the beautiful paua shell jewellery.
In March there is a Wilds
Foods Festival here and the town also has other attractions such as white water rafting, kayaking, fishing,whitebaiting, paddle cruises and the National Kiwi Centre which provides your only chance to see a real live Kiwi (flighless bird and national emblem) in a zoo.
That's it, decision is made and we book into the Shining Star Holiday Park for the night. Shining Star is located just out of town right on the beach (well, you can walk to it) and we were given a very warm welcome and appeared to one of only 2 or 3 other travellers staying there. Mary went for a walk down to the "beach" and said it was grey, gritty sand with lots of tree roots and timber and branches washed up. Much like most other west coast shores we have seen.
Near the park is an animal farm with many varieties of animals. Across the road there is a Glow Worm Dell which you can visit free at night.
Back in town we looked around the shops and Adrian even managed to fit in a haircut and shopped for belated gifts for our daughters birthdays. Being in the gemstone and jewellery mecca
it was lucky for them! Afterwards we went to the National Kiwi Centre to see if we could see a Kiwi. As this little bird (size of a small chicken) is nocturnal, they are kept in a specially created "night" enclosure in the centre and are very difficult to catch a glimpse of. You have to be very quiet and just stand in front of a glass enclosure in which a "bushland" environment has been reproduced in a moonlight level of light. After about 45 mins of being dead still we almost gave up seeing one when the lady attendant came into the enclosure and lured one out with some food.
Still, all that we saw was the vague outline of the long curved beak in it's little house and it reminded me of that scene in Fawlty Towers when Polly (playing Sybil) was sick in bed in the darkened room and only just poked her head out from under the covers. Readers under 55 please disregard.
Another "attraction" in this centre is the giant eels, a massive aquarium holds a big group of females between 85 and 120 years old and up to 2m long. Apparently they
begin life off the coast of Sth America and over many years migrate the thousands of kilometres to NZ's deep freshwater lakes. When they reach maturity and get the urge to breed they return to their birthplace (GPS trackers provide this information) and die after reproducing (like salmon). Because nobody has seen eels mating and they have no appropriate "orifices", scientists assume that males and females gather in the same area then "explode" thus releasing eggs and sperm to mix together in the sea water - talk about going out with a bang!!
Back at Shining Star for the night we had the camp almost to ourselves. It is a very nice place and our van bay was right next to all amenities and the camp kitchen well equipped and spotlessly clean. We cooked our evening meal in there and were visited by the resident cat who 'helped' with the meat offcuts later abandoning us when another diner came in.
Tomorrow we really must make tracks north as we have made arrangements to be in Picton by Sunday.
You can enlarge the pics by clicking on them
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