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Published: November 23rd 2013
Friday November 22nd, 2013. Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand
We woke and D cooked poached eggs on toast for breakfast using the 50 cent eggs from the top of the fridge with the loyalty jar. We then finished the Arthur's Pass Historic Walk that we started yesterday. We walked back to Avalanche Creek passing the Outdoor Education Centre which used to be the old Otira Schoolhouse and latterly a Guest House before becoming the centre today used by school groups. The next stop was the Otira rail tunnel. The tunnel is 8.5 km long and is on a gradient down to Otira of 1 in 33, a fall of 278m. It was drilled from both sides, the first shot being fired from the Otira end in 1908. When the two headings met in 1918 the alignment and levels were accurate to within 3 centimetres - incredible!. On the way to the tunnel we passed the turntable which was used to turn the locomotives around so they could go back in the other direction. Next was the Railway Station itself and we were lucky enough to see a coal goods train pass through while we were
We returned to the Youth Hostel (M keeping a keen eye out for Keas - to no avail) and set off for Franz Josef Glacier - first asking Nick on reception where the best place to see a Kea would be. He told us Deaths Corner just before the Otira Viaduct was a good bet - so we headed off there. We parked at the viaduct overlook and M spotted one straight away - joy of joys! M could get the photo - in fact we took a few. Keas are the only Alpine Parrots in the world and are native to New Zealand. You won't see them anywhere else except here. We took a good shot of the viaduct too. The Otira Viaduct was opened in 1999 and is an impressive engineering feat that soars above the deep gorge and the old road which we could see clearly from the Deaths Corner Lookout. We stopped at the next view point immediately after the viaduct but saw no more parrots. However there was a sign asking you not to feed the Keas and someone had hung a stuffed "Angry Bird" next to it. Someone had a sense of
We continued on towards the west coast of the South Island and then turned south. We reached Hokitika and went to the tourist office because M had found something she wanted to see and we needed more details. We grabbed a trundler at the New World Supermarket and trundled around for some shopping. We then embarked on the circular drive that M had read about. We left Hokitika and headed inland. First we stopped at Lake Kaniere for a picnic lunch. It was here that we had our first experience of sand flies. They really do eat you alive. M squashed one just to get her own blood back! After lunch we continued the drive along the lakeside to Dorothy Falls. This was another rather nice waterfall which had the same name as M's grandmother. We continued on around the lake and into a place called Kokatahi where we turned left to head up to the Hokitika Gorge (a.k.a The Blue Gorge).
The Hokitika Gorge is absolutely stunning and lies 33 km from Hokitika. We parked in the car park and made use of the very clean facilities which had signs asking you not to throw your
camper van down the toilet (only joking - camper waste should not be thrown down the toilet!) and took the short walk (about 10 minutess) along the track to a viewing platform overlooking unbelievable turquoise water. We continued along the track which was very high up the canyon wall so we were effectively walking amongst the rainforest canopy, until we dropped down to a swing bridge where we had an even better view of the stunning blue river and the sheer granite ravine through which it has cut its way. We crossed the bridge which was very "swingy" and then followed the track for another 5 minutes until we reached a stony outcrop at the river's edge. M offered to take a photo of a couple together and they reciprocated for us. We didn't stay there long though as the bloody sand flies were back.
We drove back to Hokitika and filled up with fuel. We had a 4 cents a litre off voucher from the supermarket (thanks to the loyalty card). The drive south was lovely, with spectacular scenery all the way with great views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. We stopped for a break at Lake
Lanthe and took some photos. We continued driving south until we came to Hari Hari which is famous because Guy Menzies (the first man to fly from Australia to NZ) landed here. (Hari Hari is equally famous for catching unsuspecting motorists speeding along its wide main street!). We drove along, being careful to stick to the speed limit, until we reached an exhibit commemorating the Guy Menzies flight landing with a replica of the bi-plane he flew in. We took some photos and read all the blurb which told us it took 11 hours 45 minutes and that poor Guy had actually made a rather unceremonious landing upside down in a swamp. We made use of the, always clean and with loo paper) facilities and continued south to Franz Josef Glacier.
We checked in to our pre-booked accommodation at the Franz Josef YHA (only one more to go and we have got our membership back!). We still haven't slept in our camper van!! D thinks it will be too uncomfortable! However, while we were eating our lakeside picnic yesterday, we noticed that there is no cutlery, only 2 plastic side plates, 2 plastic mugs and no glasses (not even
plastic!). M will have to email Happy Campers and tell them that we are very Unhappy Campers indeed! The Franz Josef YHA is a 5* hostel and has a sauna among other things. It was extremely busy as it was a Friday night. When there was a space in the Kitchen D cooked the rib-eye steaks we had bought at Hokitika which we ate with a salad washed down with some wine and followed up with pineapple cake - delicious.
We retired to our room where D read some more blurb and M wrote some blogs. We went to bed around 11 pm - our bodies are slowly recovering from the jet lag.
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