February 17th 2011 - Fox Glacier Township
February 15th 2011 - continued. In the last blog we were just crossing over the Grey River into Greymouth. We decided to drive into the town centre, park the van and go and see if we could find a Vodafone shop. Since setting off on our travels around New Zealand we have been relying on WiFi, which is accessible, at a price, at nearly all campsites, however there are various companies providing WiFi around the country and some are better than others. One or two have been absolutely crap! Initially we really thought this would be the cheaper option for using the internet but we finally decided it really wasn’t! So, we wanted to buy a dongle! We have been using a dongle on the boat ever since we moved on board so we know the score, it’s a little more expensive here but we reckon its definitely cheaper than the WiFi option. Well we didn’t find a Vodafone shop but we did find a branch of Warehouse, a great outlet found in just about every large town throughout New Zealand, they sell everything and I mean everything! We were directed to the music counter by one of the cashiers when I enquired about dongles and sure enough they had one. Luckily for us they actually had one of the Christmas special offers left which included 2GB free and also the option to get a $10 bonus just by filling in the registration form on line – sorted! We are now the proud owners of a pretty, pearly pink dongle!! Here its called a Vodem by the way!
After purchasing our dongle and also a pair of sandals for Clive we went back to the van and set off to find a campsite. It didn’t take us long, there was a lovely Top 10 campsite a short distance out of town. The facilities were awesome, TV lounge, games room with snooker tables, arcade machines and video game machines, lovely dining room, a very well equipped kitchen and a spa pool, fantastic! We were soon settled in and the first thing I did was make use of the laundry! However, I decided not to use the tumble dryer this time as it was lovely and sunny and there was a nice breeze too, great drying weather! I soon had the clothes line fastened up between the fence and one of the van’s side mirrors and in no time at all had a line full of washing blowing in the breeze – lovely! That evening, after dinner, we decided to wander down to the beach to watch the sunset – as we are now on the West Coast it doesn’t matter where, we are always going to see the sunset! When we arrived at the beach we were amazed at the state of it! The Tasman Sea is very powerful all along this coastline and the beach was strewn with driftwood as far as the eye could see in both directions. Now I’m not talking little bits of wood here, I’m talking tree trunks!! Not only was the beach full of driftwood, it was full of people too! Clive said it was like something out of Close Encounters! Loads of people were just standing on the beach looking out to sea, watching the sun going down!
Lots of driftwood and lots of people!
It was a bit of a damp squib though really, there weren’t any clouds so nothing to reflect the suns rays, it was just a big yellow ball sinking down into the sea – we didn’t even hear it hiss!
We returned to the campervan and got into our togs as once again we got a free session in the private spa, being Top 10 members. It was fantastic, a really bubbly spa pool and lovely and warm, very relaxing indeed.
February 16th – It was yet another beautiful dayand we decided before continuing our journey that we would nip back into Greymouth to see the sandbars. The Grey River flows straight out into the sea here and there are two very long sandbars forming a sort of tube for the river as it meets the sea. A few weeks ago New Zealand caught the tail end of one of the cyclones that had hit Australia so hard. The weather and the tides were incredible and some places got more than their fair share! I remembered seeing some film footage on Sky News whilst we were at Lindsey’s about a fishing boat which had tried to enter Greymouth whilst the Grey River was in spate and there was also a high tide! The boat should not even have been attempting to enter at all as the red warning lights were on showing that the harbour was closed. He tried it anyway and the film I saw was terrifying really! It is actually available on utube so if you would like to watch it put the following link in your browser, its worth a watch I assure you!
We understand that the Harbourmaster is considering prosecuting the foolhardy skipper of this boat for disregarding the red lights!
Anyway, we decided that it would be worth going to have a look at the place before continuing our journey. However, we stopped off first at a barbers on the main street as Clive was beginning to look a bit dishevelled having not had a hair cut for quite some time! I stayed in the van and read my book. He soon returned, looking very smart! He was delighted with his trim and even his beard had been tidied up too! We headed off once more and finally found the sandbar after a few false starts and it was amazing! We could see exactly why the boat had such a problem getting in, even on a reasonably normal day the river is running quite fast and when the huge Tasman Sea rollers meet the outflowing river there is quite a collision! The day the above incident occurred the river, being in spate, was running a heck of a lot faster than it was today! It is amazing that the guy actually managed to get the boat in one piece through the swell at all, he was very lucky indeed. The manager at the campsite had told Clive that he was born and raised in Greymouth and has lived here all his life, he said that on average one boat a year founders trying to get through that bar!
There was quite a swell and the breakers were roaring up onto the beach adjacent to the bar. It was more exciting to watch really as the bar looked pretty tame today!
We also spotted something else from our vantage point on the bar, far in the distance were the Southern Alps, where we hope to be in a day or two!
We really had to drag ourselves away from watching the waves roaring in, it was so compelling! Such awesome power and yet so beautiful, especially as the wind whipped the tops off the waves and the sun created rainbows in the spume! I took tons of photographs – thank heavens for digital photography!
We continued our drive down the West Coast, wowed once again by the stunning scenery on the way. Around lunchtime we arrived at our next destination, Hokitiki! We drove down the main street, which is full of shops advertising Greenstone, bone and Paua shell carvings, some of them had factories on the premises where you could go and watch the artists atwork. We decided to go and find a campsite first and then come back into town.
There was a very handy campsite only a ten minute walk from the town centre, it wasn’t as well kitted out as the Top 10s are but it was close to town and it had everything we needed. We got the van settled in, had a bit of lunch, then headed into town via the beach! We had a lovely walk along the beach, which again was strewn with driftwood, which some artistic people had used to make beach sculptures – believe it or not I didn’t take any photos! Eventually we arrived in town and first of all we went to a café which we had spotted that served Devonshire CreamTeas! Unfortunately they only had one left so I kindly let Clive have it and I had a piece of yummy carrot cake instead – nom nom! The lady that served us told us she was from Plymouth so could officially call them Devonshire Cream Teas!! We spent an hour or so just wandering around the town, popping into some of the many shops, just browsing, we also watched several carvers and polishers at work creating the beautiful Greenstone (Jade) necklaces which are unique to New Zealand. I have one which I bought on our first visit here in 2000, mine is a Koru, a stylised fern coil, which to the Maori represents rebirth or new life, I love it. Before leaving the town centre we sat outside one of the many bars in the town and had a Speight’s, this time I tried the lager, mmmmm! We finally returned to the campsite, again via the beach. After dinner Clive read and I blogged! I wish I could just catch up then I could do a short one each day instead of these lengthy blogs taking in several days, we’re just doing and seeing so much I really need to do one a day!
February 17th – hooray, that’s today, I'm up to date!!!
We left Hokitiki this morning and headed for the hills! I had an email from our friend Shirley Collings who told us to watch out for the most un-PC place in New Zealand, The Bushman’s Centre, which is opposite the Puke Pub (pron. poo-kay)! This place featured in one of Billy Connolly’s videos of his tour of New Zealand! As we had to pass it anyway we decided to stop off for a coffee! Well, what a place!
The Bushmans Centre
Their slogan is “You kill it, we grill it”! It applies of course to roadkill, mainly possums, the scourge of New Zealand! These rather cute furry animals were introduced into New Zealand from Australia for their fur, when the first pioneers settled here. There are now about 90,000,000 of them and they are decimating the native trees and stealing habitat from kiwis, etc. It is therefore considered a good thing if you manage to run over one on the road! Fortunately there were normal things on the menu as well but we only wanted coffee having had our breakfast already! There menu is a real hoot though, here it is, read it carefully!
We had our coffee and wandered around the place reading all the very un-PC posters, cards and cuttings stuck on the walls and windows, we couldn’t stop laughing, they were all so funny! All the wooden seats were upholstered with possum fur too! However, we had a way to go so we took our leave of this quirky place and continued our journey. I'm not surprised Billy Connolly liked it, its right up his street!
The mountains were getting closer and closer and I kept snapping photos through the car window in my excitement, some of them are actually not bad! We saw a sign pointing off to the left to a Scenic Reservation and a lake, we decided to go and have a look. It was a bit of a let down really,just a lake, nothing special, however I did spot something, which I reckoned deserved a photo!
Washed out picnic?
We carried on and the mountains were getting closer and closer. Just as we were passing a deer farm I asked Clive to pull in so I could get some decent photos of Mt Cook. It is quite spectacular even though it only has a small amount of snow on top! The thing to remember about these mountains in the Southern Alps is that their base is almost at sea level, so although they are not as high as the European Alps in feet, they look it because they go straight up from the flat surroundings!
Finally we arrived at Franz Josef and took the road up to the glacier, the car park was almost full but we managed to squeeze in between two other campervans. There were three different routes available to view the glacier, one was a six hour walk; one was an hour and a half and one was ten minutes, we took the latter! It was very steep and actually went round hairpin bends! Gasping like the Coyote in the Sword in the Stone I finally hauled myself onto the viewing platform! Once I could breathe again and my heart rate had slowed to a safe level I turned around to look at the glacier!
Franz Josef Glacier
The glacier was named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by the German explorer, Julius von Haast in 1865. The Māori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere ('The tears of Hinehukatere'), arising from a local legend: Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Wawe was a less experienced climber than Hinehukatere but loved to accompany her until an avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier. I love Maori legends. The amazing thing is that although other glaciers around the world are retreating, the terminal face of this glacier (the bit at the bottom!) is less than 300 metres above sea level and is just one of three to be this close to the coastline!
Needless to say I took loads of photos, including the compulsory ones of us both individually with the glacier behind us, there wasn’t a soul about to take one of the two of us together! (There will be some in the gallery soon). Then we headed back down the path, my knees creaking and complaining all the way down! By this time it was 3.30pm so we headed off to see the next glacier, the Fox Glacier – I think this must be the minty one with the polar bear on top! As it happened we didn’t go to see that in the end. We stopped off in the township to pick up a few bits from a local shop then went to find a campsite. We found one not far from the centre and got settled in. We are now in the TV lounge where there are comfy seats and tables with power sockets. Clive has been reading his book whilst I got to grips with this blog, which has finally brought us up to date – phew!
So, until tomorrow!