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Published: February 21st 2011
Our first stop on the West Coast was Punakaiki for its ‘Pancake’ rocks. One of those things you see in the tourist brochures and it looks kind of neat. Plus it was pretty much the farthest we could realistically drive in a day from Wharariki Beach. The distances in New Zealand aren’t that far compared to what we’re used to, but the roads are so twisty-turny it’s tough to travel much faster than about 60km/hr due to all the tight turns. The rocks at Punakaiki have been pounded and eroded by the rough Tasman Sea and kind of look like stacks of pancakes. We think that it’s a bit of a stretch, but ok, still interesting.
Next we headed to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers which are probably the biggest tourist attraction in the region. At Franz Josef we did the 12.3km day hike to Roberts Point which turned out to be a lot more difficult than we expected. Lots of climbing over slippery rocks and a few creek crossings.
From Franz Josef we drove to a free campsite at Gillespies Beach near Fox Glacier. Despite the sandflies, it’s a beautiful spot. The rocky beach is littered with drift
wood while big surf crashes in, and we had a great view of Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook at sunset.
At Fox Glacier, we took a rest day to recover from our hike, back up photos, and relax. We also went to nearby Lake Matheson to catch the sunrise. The lake is quite popular and is known for its mirror-like reflections when the weather is calm. We had to go back for sunset as well because the lure of coffee in the morning was too great and so we only saw one of the view points. Very smart of them to put a cafe at the trail head.
Last, but not least, we tramped a portion of the Copland Track to the Welcome Flat Hut and Thermal Springs. It’s a 17km hike to the hut with several creek crossings and a few swingy bridges. Creek crossings are not something we’re used to with the hiking we do at home since most rivers are normally bridged. We've been told that tramping in New Zealand is all about getting wet feet - our Tevas are coming in handy now. The question comes to mind, what sort of person hikes 17km
just to soak in some hot springs? Without the hike there'd be no sore muscles to soak... The thermal springs were totally worth the trip. We soaked in the natural hot pools on a clear night with a full moon. The next day the weather turned nasty and it hasn’t stopped raining since.
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