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Published: April 8th 2016
R: We stopped at Hokitika on the way through which is filled with jade shops, being a prominent feature on the local beaches. Since we hit the west coast the weather has dramatically changed. The drive down to Hokitika was wet. We had a brief look around the I-site and town before heading out to the sunset point, in the pouring lane for a picnic lunch. To the Brits this was perfectly acceptable, but possibly a bit much for those of us who are used to Western Australia temperatures... We did a spot of beach combing and found some of our own jade, which is now stashed in the car for some later purpose, and headed off to Hokitika gorge which was about 35km from town.
As we headed out, the heavens opened completely, and when we arrived at the carpark, it was bucketing down. Dave, Shannon and myself donned the waterproofs and headed down into the valley, while Cate hung out in the dry. The gorge was supposed to be spectacularly blue in the sun shine, but in the heavy overcast skies it was overall a bit green, due to the glacier material carried in the water.
It used to come all the way to the bottom of this photo in only 2010
There was another wooden swing bridge for us to cross and admire it. There was a family down there in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops who seemed to be embracing the rain. I assume they died of hypothermia eventually.
From Hokitika, we headed for the Franz Joseph glacier. We had heard on the news that there had recently been extreme flooding in the Franz Joseph town, and as we pulled into town, we could see where one of the hotels had been washed away completely by the river. The glacier itself couldn't be easily reached, as the path had also washed away in the recent flood. The signboards showed us how big the glacier was only a few years ago and you really get the impression that they are receding.
Our accommodation was in Fox Glacier town, which was a bit basic, but did have a saloon bar with eye wateringly expensive beer and massive plates of ribs. After dinner we grabbed the torches and headed for the Glowworm track just outside of town. They clump particularly under trees that have fallen and are eerily glowing there. It basically involved us stumbling around a
short walking track in the dark, with a bunch of German tourists, intermittently bumping into each other and giggling. Also, the night sky here is amazing. The stars are so bright and we got great views of the southern cross and a number of planets we had a guess at. Google sky maps failed me.
Next day was an early start and Dave and I headed to Lake Matheson where you can get a great view of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook over their reflections in the surface of the lake. The lake was still steaming a little when we arrived at 8am. It was a nice little walk with various viewpoints and definitely deserved the expensive coffee at the end.
After that we headed to Fox Glacier which was bigger than Franz Joseph, and after a steep walk up we could stand 450m from the face which was dirty with the various rockfalls that had landed on it. In my opinion, the glacier wasn't as nice as the ones I saw in Alaska, but the glacial valley was the real stunner, with all the features of the glacial action on show, surrounded by
The drive down to Haast was quite pretty and had a couple of view points over the ocean. The highlight was the whitebait patty stall we stopped at. Whitebait is a local staple and the whitebait patties are a local speciality. It involves several hundred whitebait, suspended in essentially an omelette. Served kiwi style, it comes with chilli salt, and mint sauce. Eventually we got rebuffed by the sandflies and had to abandon. As we pulled away, we had to rid the car of hundreds of the little buggers but we still ended up with loads of bites.
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