After a warm, dry night at the Last Resort in Karamea, we were on the road at 7:45 AM. The morning news reported that the storm we endured pretty much shut down the capital city of Wellington, with winds clocked at 120 kph!!!
But before too long patches of blue sky started to break through the clouds and we ended up having a mostly sunny day. We drove south to Greymouth with several stops. We hiked into a couple of gravelly beaches and once again enjoyed the crashing waves.
We then stopped at Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks and blowholes. This place was amazing! Limestone towers built up like stacks of pancakes with the Tasman Sea crashing into them! Erosion has carved these towers and fins of rock into arches and all sorts of odd shapes. The Department of Conservation has constructed a circular walkway on the cliffs above all these mammoth rock formations so there are spectacular views. The sunshine and blue sky made it even more impressive. I was captivated by all the different places to see crashing waves and to hear the thunderous boom when a wave crashes into an undercut rock cliff!
Okay, I’ll stop,with the crashing wave pictures and move onto glaciers! Yes, glaciers!
Because the sun was out we decided to continue going south as was our original plan instead of driving across the island today, which was Plan B last night.
Two and a half more hours on the road brought us to the town of Franz Josef, where the Franz Josef glacier is advancing right towards the town. Before going to see the glacier though we stopped to get a site at the Top Ten Holiday Park in FJ. And just as we pulled in, it started to rain and hail! The storm was very short and soon we were on our way to the glacier. From the car park at the end of the glacier road, it is a 30 minute walk to get within 500 meters of the face of this beautiful glacier! The clouds that were stuck in the mountains lifted enough so we could see the top of the glacier. As amazing as the glacier is, equally impressive are the dozen or more waterfalls, pouring off the steep mountain flanks on both sides of the glacially-carved valley! Between the waterfalls and the river flowing out from under the glacier, it was a noisy hike. We feel quite lucky to have seen the glacier, considering how bad the weather has been!
It will be a cold night here, going down to 6 C., and we will need to throw our down sleeping bags on top of the Jucy Quilt to stay warm. Tomorrow the plan is to drive across the island to the east coast.