Beautiful drive again from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Had to keep stopping to take pictures of the lakes!!
The scenery is just so stunning and so varied - roads are slightly hair-raising in places- tight hair pin bends with sheer drops at the side!! But Jase doing sterling job of negotiating us around them! The roads are so much better than in Australia and the miles seem shorter!! We followed the Haast river for a while and had stunning photo opportunity at the gates of Haast - very narrow bridge over the gorge with the river raging underneath.
followed the coast up to Franz Josef and were back deep in the rain forest - very much like Queensland where the rainforest goes right to the beach. Quite a wild coastline with loads and loads of trees and forest debris washed up on the shoreline.
By the time we got to Franz Josef it was pouring with rain and the lady at the campsite advised us to go to the glacier straight away as there was severe weather for overnight and the next day. So we donned our waterproof for first time this holiday and set off on 5-6km walk to glacier face. Was easy walking through forest and then along river bed. SOme very cool waterfuls along the way. Was awesome to be up by the glacier - we were only allowed within 100m of the face as parts of it sheer off all the time and it is very unstable ( although we did see some hardy travellers traversing it higher up!). It is a beautiful blue colour in places and also pretty dirty in places but was ace to be so close. The river rages through a hollow underneath the face of the glacier and there are loads of ice blocks further down the river.
We returned to our little nook in the rainforest campsite soaked to the pants but was definately worth it. That night we certainly had some weather - I have never in my life seen so much rain. It was torrential monsoon rain all night with strong winds and lightening - the works - then went quiet for an hour or so and then returned in full fury - was pretty scary and I didnt sleep at all - it even woke Charlie so goes to show how noisy it was on roof of stinky bus!!!
So feeling very refreshed - not - we set off for westport. Fab scenery again through the mountains but between Hokitita and Greymouth was very dull - flat flat flat and boring straight road but once past greymouth the coastline got a little more interesting again. Very wild and rugged - huge crashing waves that obviously are slowly tearing the coastline down as huge lumps of rocks in the sea. (and quite a few landslides on or near the road too!). Lots of tiny little bachs sat right on the beach that must take the full force of the weather. The area was initially a gold mining area and then a coalmining area. Then all the hippies headed in so plenty or restored buses and other eco - houses along the road!.
We stopped at Puntanaki to view the Pancake rocks and blowhole. The sea not quite high enough for water through the blowhole but very impressive anyway. The pancake rocks were very cool layer on layers of rock that made them look like stack of pancakes -boys thought the sea could be the maple syrup!
Westport was orginally a hub of activity with the coal industry but now only the odd ship from the cement works. It sits out on the flats with the southern alps in the distance so am guessing is pretty bleak in the winter but the beach was not quite as wild as we had passed and lovely soft black sand. We had a quick trip out to the seal colony and were lucky enough to see quite a few seals of varying sizes but they were quite difficult to see against the rocks.
Thurs was early morning as we needed to be in Nelson for dentist. Thus began one of the best drives I think. We followed the River Buller for probably two thirds of the way to Nelson. It is a huge river, swollen by the heavy rain on Tues night I think but seriously powerful. So more hairraising driving right on the edge of the gorge. But so beautiful. ONce we hit the upper gorge was even more spectacular - we were so high couldnt see the bottom. Huge tree covered mountains then we were suddenly out onto sprawling lush farm land around Murchison. We had a quick stop at Hopesaddle view point which was a 360 of mountains and trees and not much else. Then down through verdant farmland and rolling hills towards the vineyards and orchards and vege patches of Tasman and Nelson.
Nelson is small little city full of flowers - seems quite a nice place with a slightly Italian influence. Best bit about it was the dentist!!! Was great bloke and sorted Sammy out - stitches and wires out. Xray done. Everything looks ok top tooth still slightly wobbly but will apparently tighten and hopefully will continue to grow and regenerate nerves. His baby teeth in bits in his upper gum but they should come out eventually - the only real problem is that he has broken a bottom adult tooth so will have to be capped - various chips on the others but the adult teeth yet to come look ok on xray - time will tell I guess. It could all have been a lot worse. NO more dentist until USA - just to get bottom brace off - hooray!!!
Interesting campsite in Mapua last night - bit of a dump but we headed to wharf for a fabulous meal so that made up for it.
Had a whole 20km to travel this morning to Motueka in the pouring rain but campsite worth it - very laid back and pretty empty. NIce to have short distance to trave after doing 900km in 3days. Boys thought it was great they could collect conkers in march!!! Headed to beach in Kaiteriteri this afternoon - golden sands (if a little coarse!) and beautiful blue sea and finally the sunshine again - hooray. So ended with very chilled afternoon on the beach. Over there again tomorrow to catch sea shuttle up to Anchorage (not alaska I dont think!) and hopefully a walk in Abel Tasman park proper. Then ewarly start on Sunday and on the ferry - North Island here we come - let the adventure begin :-). xPS sorry cant upload pics yet - will when we get to wellington!!