Glacier country 7th – 13th April Blog 159We wake to a glorious day. First on the agenda is Lake Matheson it is too not far from the backpackers. After parking up we stroll around the lake, at the far end we get a stunning view of the mountains and glaciers reflected in the dark water. It is almost a mirror, apparently the best time to view it is early morning or late evening before the wind ripples its surface. Despite the other tourists it is a serene spot.
From here we go to Fox glacier which is impressive even from the carpark, we are lucky we get the hands on experience. As we get nearer the glacier we can see the steps carved in the ice. We take a pole with a spike on the end and with the aid of the rope bannister we climb up the glacier. At the top it is a sureal experience the glacier creaks and groans, we have the option of going further but I choose to stay put with the others. Kev continues with Jimmi to the furthest point. When he returns he says there were a few places where the spike went right in as they were feeling their way. Glaciers can be extremely dangerous and demand respect, it is quite amazing to think you are stood on a giant river of ice. We retrace our steps down the side of the glacier what an amazing experience thank you Fox Glacier.
We pass through Franz Josef glacier township to a DOC camp at Lake Mapouriki where the surrounding snow capped mountains are reflected in the water. We head back to Franz Josef the next day, having had the Glacier experience at Fox we are content to view Franz Josef from a distance. We do however take a walk to Peter’s pool named after the young 9yr old explorer who found it in the 1880′s. (Yes, explorer he was on his own) when he was here the glacier face was in view, it has since retreated so only the top is visible. Returning back to town we stop at St James church which has links to a church in England. Churches are often interesting old buildings so we like to explore them.
Back at the same campsite as before we join a german camper who has invited us and two other Germans round his fire. We also get to sample some eel that one of them caught from the lake earlier, they might look evil but they taste good, a cross between meat and fish, this one was BBQ’d, fresh and delicious.
It has been a cold night and everything has that damp feel so Kev tries to light a fire to dry things out. Our German friends stuggled to keep one going last night the wood was damp. We don’t have much luck and I’m being smoked out with tears in my eyes and ash all over the bedding so he finally admits defeat and we pack up. We have a couchsurfer to stay with tonight so we can dry it all out then.
Ross is an old gold mining town we park up outside the i site housed in the old bank building, there is a small reconstructed village complete with jail. We take our shovel off the bike and a couple of plates and head to the river, we can offically fossick here (pan for gold). We know there is not much chance of actually finding any as this area has been commercially stripped of all gold but it’s great fun anyway and we do find a couple of microscopic bits.
Annie our couchsurfer greats us warmly and we end up staying two nights. They are fabulous hosts and live on a remote farm, it also turns out they hosted some of the backpackers we met at Murray’s. NZ has lots of backpackers and few hosts so it’s inevitable our paths will cross.
We head out to Hokitika on a day trip but passing through Ross we are drawn by a house with numerous American number plates on the fence, an English one also catches our eye. We pull over and by chance spot the owner who explains her husband has personally imported all the bikes from the states and sold them on. She invites us in and shows us their collection of bikes and memobilia there is still more at Christchurch.
Hokitika turns out to be a real social place and we end up with many invites further up the road. Our target today is Hokitika gorge the road is long and a dead end. We park up in the car park and set off on foot, we don’t have long to wait five minutes later we see the turquoise blue of the water and the swingbridge we will cross. Our winding path takes us beyond the swingbridge and out on to rocks, from here we get a good view up and down the rocky gorge which again has a magnificent aquamarine glacier river.
Thanks to one of our meetings in Hokitika we have somewhere to stay in Greymouth which is not far up the coast but we have booked a knife making course in nearby Barrytown which starts at 9.30am so it means we don’t have to have an early start to get the tent down and away. It also means we get to go back up towards Arthurs pass on a more scenic route and do a little circuit around Lake Brunner.
We turn up at Steve and Diane’s and are instantly made at home, their daughter Summer is a sweetheart and helps to make our stay even better.
We set off early for our knife making course we are in a group of nine all German’s bar us. Steven our intructor is both knowledgable and funny taking the mickey out of all of us on numerous occasions. We can whole heartedly recomend the course, from an inital piece of mild steel you walk away with an amazing knife each. Beginning with hammering it out on the forge to cutting the handle and pinning it in place and polishing up the blade. We all have a slightly different knife at the end. All are works of art.
Back at Steve’s we enjoy another night of good company but tomorrow we make tracks back to Wanaka, Kev wants to change the piston rings and we hope it is possible to use Tim’s garage space also the weather won’t last forever.
We bid them a hearty goodbye and do a slight detour to Summers school Kev was in the shower and she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. The office ladies are intrigued and wish us all the best for our trip and we get the chance to say goodbye to Summer.
We also try to catch up with another contact in Whataroa who we met in Hokitika he offered us a place to stay and is a very interesting guy having climbed Everest but he said he wouldn’t be around Wednesday and guess what day it is. We stop by his house and leave a note it is a shame it didn’t work out.
Having seen everything on the West coast on the way up we make good time back to Haast in one day but decide to make a detour to Jackson bay. The fish and chips have been recomended we arrive 5.30ish there is nothing much here bar a few houses and the fish shop only opens lunchtime….we are not the only ones there are two other campervans also looking forward to good fish and chips but it is annoying, the forecast is for rain tonight and we could have just made it over the pass without this detour now we have to freecamp, rustle up some dinner and see what tomorrow brings. Ho hum worse things happen at sea.