Thermal spas, rivers, lakes, mountains and glaciers

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December 10th 2008
Published: December 10th 2008
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Bungy bridge over the Waiau RiverBungy bridge over the Waiau RiverBungy bridge over the Waiau River

No, we didn't have a go!
Across the mountains from Hanmer Springs to Greymouth and the Southern Alps

Monday 8th December 2008

We left Kaikoura on Saturday morning and drove across the Kaikoura Range to Hanmer Springs a thermal resort on the Waiau River. When we arrived there were campervans and backpackers everywhere and we didn’t like it much, bit “touristy” and crowded. It seemed such a contrast to the Kaikoura coast, which is really unspoilt. Found a nice campsite, out of town, went shopping and then cooked the best lamb chops we’ve eaten in years! The EEC has a lot to answer for in stopping the import of New Zealand lamb to Britain! The night was cold and damp. We spent ages online in the camper, whilst the wind howled outside, trying to book up accommodation in Sydney for the New Year. After hours of stressful surfing, on-line chats to agencies and fruitless direct emails to several hotels and hostels, we managed to get something sorted; over-priced, not that central but better then the prospect of a park bench. It seems that ‘the world and his wife’ will see the fireworks in Sydney Harbour this year; is there a recession going on?
Hanmer Thermal poolsHanmer Thermal poolsHanmer Thermal pools

"This is a bit warmer!"
next morning (Sunday 9th) the sun came out, the sky turned blue and all the crowds mysteriously disappeared; thought Sunday might have been busier! We walked in to Hanmer and spent three wonderful leisurely hours in the thermal pools. Nice! Decided Hanmer was OK after all and stayed another night which was so different to the first; not too cold, stars in abundance and a bottle of Jacob’s Creek as a nightcap.
This morning I was woken up really early (not for the first time) by an advertising message from Moister (our Spanish phone company) on the mobile; MUST remember to turn the phone off at night because, of course, it is daytime in Spain! Anyway, not a disaster because the sunrise was spectacular and then I went back to sleep again; tried unsuccessfully to wake John up to see the sunrise. He said seeing the photo was fine, thanks! We drove from Hanmer up over the mountains, through the picturesque Lewis Pass and have now arrived in Greymouth in the rain; just knew it was a mistake to buy new sunhats yesterday! Greymouth is on the west coast, on the Tasman Sea. We are right by the beach, which
New Zealand sunriseNew Zealand sunriseNew Zealand sunrise

Hanmer Springs
would be great in good weather but right now it is very grey, rough and looks positively sinister, so its feet up with the paperbacks in the camper. Tomorrow we are heading south down the coast towards the glaciers.

Tuesday 9th December 2008

Last night was probably the wettest yet; the weather has really closed in. The amazing thing is that New Zealanders constantly talk about “The Drought“. In today‘s newspaper one farmer near Nelson said that he had a lot of “brown patches” on his fields and we needed more rain! At the same time, down at Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers roads are closed due to too much recent rain and the risk of rock slides. Caution warnings are given to drivers today crossing the Arthur Pass. It is clear that Kiwis do not know what a “drought” is. The fields are verdant, the rain is pouring down in torrents and we stopped at a picnic area by a lake that was flooded (check out the photo of John by the picnic table that was on what should be the bank and is now a feature of the lake). In Spain drought means brown landscape

"Is this table OK for our picnic?"
everywhere and no rivers just dried up river beds. The beautiful rivers here are running fast. Spanish sheep and goats would bleat with delight if they could eat the lush green grass in these waterlogged meadows! Everywhere we go, until we open our mouths to speak, people think we are Australian due to our tanned skin, so we have to explain that we live in Spain. Actually, we don’t have suntans anymore; it’s rust!
Driving down the coast on the Glacier Highway was actually great despite the rain. We couldn’t see the mountains all of the time (shrouded in mist) but the rainforest was gorgeous. It took quite a long time due to the weather and we had a few stops to look around but eventually we arrived at Franz Joseph where we camped for the night. It rained.
Wednesday 10th November 2008

Honestly, I’ve never seen so much water in my life! Drought??? We walked (and sloshed) up to the Franz Joseph glacier and up two hiking trails to glacier viewpoints to take photos. Unfortunately, the trail to the terminal face of the glacier was closed due to flooding so we didn’t get to actually stand on
Franz Joseph GlacierFranz Joseph GlacierFranz Joseph Glacier

First glimpse across a forest pool
the glacier itself. The rainforest here is dense and that is what is so extraordinary about these glaciers. There is only one other place in the world where one can see glaciers that run down in to rainforest and that is in Argentina. It really is exceptional. We were lucky because the sun broke through whilst we were up there so we got some views of the mountains. Shortly afterwards, the mist closed in and it was hard to see the glacier let alone the mountain peaks which rise above it. However, what we saw was brilliant. Great experince. This afternoon we drove on to Fox Glacier, just 24 kilometres away and drove up the access road to see it. There had been a huge landslide two weeks ago and so it wasn’t possible to reach the car park by the glacier face. Tomorrow we’ll walk it. We are camped in Fox Village nearby and it isn’t raining! Behind us is rainforest and there are notices warning people not to leave shoes or any other belongings outside campers or tents because the Keas (New Zealand parrots) chew things up. We are really hoping to see some Keas but we’ll put
Sub-tropical rainforestSub-tropical rainforestSub-tropical rainforest

At the start of the trail, Franz Joseph
the boots in the van tonight, well we do anyway because there is so much wet stuff about in this “Drought”!

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


Getting a bit nearer!Getting a bit nearer!
Getting a bit nearer!

Franz Joseph Gacier
As close as we could get.As close as we could get.
As close as we could get.

Trail beyond this closed and weather closing in.

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