The West coast
Hi all Tim here, well it’s time to tell you all about the west coast and the fun and games that we had, the highs and the lows.
So we felt the Nelson area and started to head across the island to the West coast with our first main stop being the Nelson lakes, which were 2 very large lakes set in regenerating beach forest and were high in the hills. The first lake we stayed at did look amazing but my god the sand flies, I had never seen so many in my life, as soon as you stepped out of the van that was it, you were covered in them and they bit hard, there were so many that we were really stuck in the van for most of our time there, only getting out to take a few pics and look at the big Eels that our found in the lakes. The locals love them and they are protected in New Zealand, but we both think that they are ugly and best set in jelly. The second of the 2 lakes was much the same but the flies were not as bad so we managed a small work in a forest and later that day I climbed but a very large hill for an hour to get a great view of the lakes on a really sunny day., if you look at the pics you will see the view I got, but was a hard climb in hot weather.
Form the lakes we carried on driving across to the coast and started our drive down south, the west coast we both found a little dull, with rubbish weather and lots more sand flies, but it did hold a few highlights for us, the first of which being the pancake rocks found at Punakaiki. The rock that were in the sea had been weathered away over millions of years to for these patters that made the rocks look like lots of pancakes all on top of each other, and in the formation process of the rocks a few large blow holes had been crated and it was great fun to see the sea smashing into the rock, sending massing air and water jets high into the sky. We only got to see the blow holes working the second time that we went, we did turn up the evening before but the tides were all wrong so we free camped close by. The free camp stop we found was a good one, it was write on a very large windswept beach with massive surf and crazy bits of drift wood all over it, we were treated to a great sunset and it’s a great feeling to wake up on a beach. From Punakaiki we continued down with nothing much to report, just allot of dull coast and bad weather, the few towns we came across had no life and were real back waters, the most famous of which was Hokitika, which is said to be the main place to buy Jade or green stone in New Zealand. As you can guess it is a really tourist hot spot and they had really cashed in on it. The green stone that we looked at was really not that good and all mass produced stuff, but it seemed that the general tourists love it, the best green stone we have seen so far had been around Nelson, where there are lots of little individual artist making their own stuff, which looks so much better. The other highlight was and sand art competition that they had going on. The beach was full of crazy bits of sand art done by all ages, and of all levels, my favourite was a snow man that had been made using white pebbles of the beach, clever.
The next big stop for us was the Frans Josf and Fox Glaciers. Anna and I had never seen a Glacier before and it really was amazing stuff, there were awe inspiring stuff. Both of the Glaciers were very similar, with the Fox just that little more amazing. We parked up in the nearby car park and walked us to the Glacier, well as far as it was safe, i.e. where the safety rope it, there was a real crisp bite to the air and the sun that beamed down on the ice turned it a blue white colour. The Glaciers were full of onlookers and we both found it amazing the amount of people that stepped past the safety rope to walk up to the terminal face to get a pic, this is a crazy thing to do, as only a few weeks before two Indian men doing this were killed by 50 tonnes of ice falling on them at the face, not a great way to go if you ask me. Overall we were luck with the weather the two days that we looked at the Glaciers because there was a little sun, not allot but a little, all the other time we spent on the West coast it was grey and sticky or grey and wet.
The road continues a little down the coast before heading inland where the road follows the rivers and valley floors for about 260 km down to Queenstown, the road was a great drive and quite easy, we took about 2 days to get down to Queenstown stopping on the way to take in amazing mountains views that had a patchwork of dappled sun covering them, some mountains were so high that they still had snow on the tops, it really felt like we were in Lord of the Rings country. We stopped at a powered site on the way, nothing to amazing, crap showers but great view of Lake Hawea. The following day we set off and within a few house we were in the famous town of Queenstown.