Sunday, 24 January 2016

NZ: Glacier Country

We left my gas guzzling monster parked on a street in Greymouth and headed down to Franz Josef in John's much more fuel efficient Mazda Demio.  We stopped via Hokitika Gorge, which was stunning - the water is a milky pale blue and just absolutely gorgeous, it looks like someone has poured food dye into it and that it can't be natural.  I have this theory that New Zealand is just a huge manufactured theme park - some of the stuff I have seen so far just doesn't seem real!!

As we drove further south, the mountains got bigger and clouds got lower and my excitement levels rose - I just LOVE looking at mountains.  At Franz Josef we checked into our hostel where we're basing ourselves for the next 3 nights (free hot tub, free soup, free pop corn...I think I'll like it here) then did a quick walk up to the Franz Josef glacier.  Argh it's so amazing - you follow a roaring grey water river along a track and boom - there's a huge glacier in front of you.  I've never seen anything like it, so super excited to be here!!

Franz Josef glacier

John licking some glacial ice he retrieved from the river

As close as you can get to the Franz Josef glacier when walking

An Alpine Parrot

On the walk up to the glacier we bumped into the girls who'd hijacked John's car the day before, and ended up going for a drink for a drink with them later on in the evening, followed by a night time walk up a dark forested pathway to see some glow worms.  As more than one of us pointed out, it sounds like the beginning of a horror movie.....However nothing bad came of us and we saw loads of glow worms - they aren't really as I imagined and they just look like little green constellations in the darkness.  We found some up close and you can see the strings they let loose to catch their food, a bit like a glow in the dark spider I guess.

A glow worm - the glowing thing is the worm and the little strings hanging from it capture its food (had to take the photo by shining red light on it for it to show up on a camera phone)

There was a slightly awkward moment when I saw some headlamps coming round the corner, so I stupidly suggested we should turn ours off and hide and then make these newcomers jump....everyone agreed and I instantly regretted suggesting it as we stood there sniggering in the dark.  Luckily the plan failed as they spotted us and they thought we had found something really interesting so they were staring at what we were staring at for what felt like ages and it all got a bit weird until John said 'hello?' because we weren't sure if they'd seen us or not.... and they were all 'oh hi, what are you looking at?'. It was weird.

The following day we woke up early, took advantage of the free breakfast and drove to Fox where we'd booked a helihike, which is pretty much what it says on the tin, you fly up in a helicopter to half way up the glacier, and walk around a bit on it, then a few hours later get picked up and flown down.  Because of the glaciers retreating, this is now the only way to walk on the glacier - in previous years you could walk from the base.  We chose Fox over Franz as it's less popular therefore less busy (the Fox township is much smaller than Franz) and it was $50 cheaper, plus you got more ice time.

We had a half an hour wait whilst they were assessing the weather, but then it was good to go so we borrowed waterproofs and leather boots before jumping in the chopper and flying up to the glacier.  If I could I would travel everywhere via helicopter, it's brilliant.

flying over some cows

the Fox glacier

waves of ice very slowly tumbling down the mountain valley

We landed 5 minutes later on a little platform cut into the ice, slid down some icy steps and put on some crampons before following our guide out on the glacier.  I am not the best on tour groups, as I have little patience with people and this trip was not an exception - we were a group of 11 and the others were doddery old people who were terrible at following instructions.  They walked on the ice like they were about to fall over on every step (even though crampons give you full movement - you could run in them if you wanted and not fall over or slip) and they took so many photos and selfies and held the group up.  Plus there was a man who was filming the entire thing and essentially living the experience through his samsung galaxy and he refused to put it down even when climbing through ice tunnels and then he lost his balance and fell on top of me and I secretly hoped he dropped the phone into a crevasse never to be seen again. God I am mean.

John braving shorts

Glacier selfie

an ice cave that we clambered through

we pulled ourselves along this cave and got very wet doing so but it was fun!

this photo is crazy and looks superimposed, like John is floating

The glacier is really quite amazing, again I didn't feel like it was real - it's huge chaotic waves of blue ice that we climbed up and down, we slid through an ice cave and slurped from melting glacial water. Also if you do need a pee on the glacier like I did, good news, you can just go!! So I peed behind a wave of ice and nearly froze off my fanny.

After warming up with some food from a cafe nearby, we drove to Lake Matheson and did a quick walk around it, it's meant to have 'the view of views' of Mount Tasman and Cook, however the clouds had descended again and we couldn't see much, but it was still nice nonetheless.

On a nice day, the mountains aren't covered in cloud, and are reflected in the lake. 

That evening we befriended an American and two German boys and had a really fun time talking shit and playing card games.  I played the best game of poker ever, I very nearly won (I went all in at 12.30am as I was tired but winning, and lost when I had a Jack and a 2 and the other guy has a Jack and a 4, argh!) My strategy was 'play like a crazy weirdo at the beginning then be more sensible and when i win some more money play a bit crazy again' and it worked, everyone thought I was bluffing each time I went a bit crazy when I actually had a really good hand. It also got a bit creepy when Jason the American dude and I had exactly the same hand twice in a row, and they were both crap hands but we were both bluffing and pretending we had something really good.  I would have proposed to him if it had happened a third time, luckily for him it didn't.

the crazy hand

Today has been a TOTAL WASHOUT.  Pouring it down with rain since last night and it's mountain rain so hasn't let up.  John and I decided to go a 3 and a half hour walk to a lagoon that was totally flooded, we foolishly tried to take the coastal loop track but luckily realised quite quickly the tide was coming in so ran back and did the inland track.  It was pleasant but I was happy to be back in the car and get out of my wet clothes, even my underwear was soaked through.  I am wondering if it's time to invest in a better waterproof jacket!

soaked to the bone

We have spent the afternoon lounging in the hostel common room and tomorrow drive back to Greymouth and part ways - it's been nice travelling with someone for a while and even nicer being able to split laundry and food costs!!

I will be starting the next part of my adventure tomorrow .....I AM GOING TO BE A DAIRY FARMER!!! Well sort of - I will be 'wwoofing' on a dairy farm with 334 cows for the next two weeks.  Not exactly sure of my jobs but I think I will be milking cows and doing farm duties 4-6 hours a day in return for free food and accommodation.  I am really excited!!!!   Though my excitement waned slightly when the german guy we befriended in the hostel is a farmer and told me stories of milking cows and getting covered in cow piss and shit at 4am.....

Friday, 22 January 2016

NZ: Nelson & Abel Tasman

Oh my gosh can we just take a minute to talk about SAND FLIES.  How no one I know who's been to New Zealand (Lisa, Mark, Amy, Sepha - I am looking at you!!!) has mentioned them I don't know. They're EVERYWHERE and their bites are horrible and so itchy. I think they're almost worse that mosquitos as they're silent so you can't feel or hear them on you.  I am currently covered in bites and itching like mad. Argh!!

Anyway back to the blog.....the drive from Picton to Nelson went without incident though I was hoping for slightly more entertainment from the people I was giving lifts to.  Maybe I should make that more clear next time when I give people lifts!!  I was expecting car snacks, facts and pop quizzes.

At my new hostel, the owner gave me a choice of rooms, I could bunk with 2 german boys, 3 german girls or a german girl, an american girl and an english girl. I went for the latter.  He gave me a tour and told me that every day at 5.30pm they all go to the wharf and jump off it into the sea, so I joined them for that too, then played many rounds of pool (I have got really good!!! (update - I played the following day and I was terrible)).  The owner is so nice, he even looked at my car and thinks it is fine and there's nothing to worry about so that's good (update, i have realised it uses nearly a whole tank of petrol for a 4 hour drive when my friend's car used 1/4, when I lock it the back door makes a weird noise, and it didn't start this morning)

The following day I finally received my IRD number which means I can get paid properly when I find a job, and took a walk to the alleged geographical centre of New Zealand - this is the spot they decided was 'zero zero' when doing the first trigonometrical surveys.  At the top I bumped into the girl I had given a lift to the following day, and Holly, who was staying at my hostel in Picton.  I ended up spending a very pleasant afternoon with her and her hostel friend Becca, we got caught in a downpour and ended up in a vegetarian restaurant in Nelson before slopping back to our respective hostels to get warm and dry.

the view from the centre of new zealand's quite pretty on one side but not so much on the other. 

The next day I pootered about and ate a stuffed sausage.  I bought it out of curiosity but then I thought 'what the f*** am I doing eating this' - it's a poor quality meat sausage sliced open, stuffed with cold mashed potato and topped with cheese and tomato sauce.  i don't know why i do these things sometimes.

Marcus (the hostel owner) looked at my car again and gave me some stuff to stop one of the many oil leaks I have and cleaned my throttle filter (it doesn't seem to have made much difference but it's nice he tried, he is the loveliest person!) then made my way down to Motueka where I had agreed to hike some of the Abel Tasman walk with John, a guy I met in the Picton hostel.  We spent a nice afternoon chilling at Kaiteriteri beach with beer and grub, and then had a bit of a mare with accommodation, his airbnb host wouldn't pick up the phone to let him in, I missed my check in time at my hostel because we spent too long at the beach, so we ended up in a very lovely motel room with a gorgeous view overlooking a kiwi farm.

We woke up to glorious weather, got the water taxi to Barks Bay on the Abel Tasman Trail, and began the 26.6km walk back to Maharau.  It is a lovely coastal walk, on the one side you're surrounded by almost jungle like forest, and the other side beautiful coast, however like some of the other walks I have done here, it just didn't wow me.  I think I want something more wild and less manufactured, something where you have to make your own trail because it's remote and isn't often walked.

We saw some black sea birds who were very cute, a lot of the birds here don't have any natural predators and as such are quite tame and you can get really close to them.

The sand on the beach is amazing, it is very glittery. I took a photo but I don't think it shows up very well.

Split apple rock

a mummy Torea and her baby bird

on one part of the walk you have to go through a river and then the river bed

Having had a nightmare getting accommodation the previous day, that evening was super easy and we had the backpacker lodge at the campsite all to ourselves!! My cooking skills have got pretty creative - in the absence of any cooking oil I have resorted to poaching onions and they come out quite nice really, plus the watery oniony leftover makes quite a nice sauce.

Today we drove a really long way and the roads are really windy (as in winding, not blowy) and really beautiful and I was equally happy and equally annoyed at the windyness and the fact you have to concentrate so much. No wonder everyone has automatics here!  We drove from Motueka to Greymouth, via a pitstop at the seal colony at Cape Foulwind which was great - I felt like I was at a free zoo.  John was following me and suddenly he wasn't behind me in the car any more, so I pulled over to wait for him and he turns up with a girl in his car - turns out the girls in the car behind him were bored and flashed him to stop, and then one rode with him to break up the boredom. Backpackers aye!!!

the Janie Seddon shipwreck off Motueka beach

Playing Monopoly Deal in the sun

Anyway the seals are very camouflaged and hard to spot, and at first I thought there weren't any seals, but then you look a bit closer and can see loads flopping about on the rocks.   See if you can spot any in the picture above!!!  It's almost a shame I sold my old camera as the zoom would have picked up some super pics. ah well.

We also stopped at Punakaiki, where there are some really awesome cliffs and rocks with stratas in them (they call them 'the pancake rocks'). I do love rocks and erosion and stuff.  There's also a cavern so we went in, John is well prepared and happened to have two head torches!!! He loves caving and all that sort of stuff whereas I was tentatively tiptoeing in it and imagining what would happen should an earthquake happen right that very minute and our chances of survival, and whether we'd die from crushing or just plain old suffocation....

The last part of the drive from Punakaiki is beautiful - lush mountainous rainforest to your left, and beautiful wild coast to your right.  I had a smile on my face the whole way down.  I also never expected to see rainforest in New Zealand, I thought it was all just really big tall mountains and would be like a bigger version of Snowdonia. I am very wrong!

Tonight we are crashing in another airbnb as it was cheaper than a hostel bed each, but the bed is tiny and we will be very squished. I am getting very lax about my sleeping quarters these days!  We are then heading down to Franz Josef for a few days before splitting ways for my next adventure...