So next we started our journey further south with our first stop in the Nelson Lakes national park. The road down from Motueka was very quiet and there was one long straight stretch of road where we only saw one other vehicle. We arrived in the tiny township of St Arnaud and booked a spot on a DOC campsite in West Bay overlooking Lake Rotoiti, it was lovely and there were just a few ducks preening themselves by the water. We were feeling pretty relaxed until we noticed a lot of buzzing and then we seemed to be surrounded by big bumblebees which is Kams complete worst nightmare! It was the most bees I have ever seen, kam ran into the camps kitchen and refused to come out for ages. I went to try and console him but he was terrified. The bees were surrounding the kitchen and all you could hear was the sound of them trying to get through the insect screen, it was like being attacked by zombies!!
We decided to move to the Kerr Bay campsite instead and there were far less bees there, just a lot more sandflies! We did manage to have a nice walk around part of the lake but it rained for most of the time we were there.
Next we headed towards the West Coast via Murchison and the Buller Gorge, a beautiful scenic drive. We stopped at the Buller Gorge swing bridge which was very narrow - Kam was again subject to some pesky bees which freaked him out and made us drive on quickly. We came out onto the actual West Coast at a town called Westport where we stayed at the top ten holiday park. We had glorious weather and caught a pretty spectacular sunset over the sea. Just outside of Westport was a seal colony so we had a little walk and watched for ages lots of seal pups playing in rockpools.
Driving further south we reached the Pancake rocks at Punakaiki where we did a great three hour walk on the Porari river track which went by a gorge with lovely deep green clear water. After the walk we went to view the pancake rocks which are some rock formations which funnily enough look like pancakes! There are also some blowholes there but we came at low tide so nothing really happened. So then we drove down to Greymouth - the biggest town on the west coast and spent the night there. We didn't really find anything great about this town!
The next day we drove down to the town of Hokitika, the weather was starting to turn very wet - which is typical on the west coast. We had read about the Hokitika gorge which is about 30kms outside the town and wondered if it would be worth going in the rain. We decided to brave it and it just stopped long enough for us to do a walk there. The gorge was pretty amazing - the water was a milky blue colour caused by glacial flour. We then drove through the rain down through tiny towns - one called Hari Hari which had a model of an old plane from the 1930's that crash landed nearby after making it across the Tasman sea from Australia. We stopped briefly at the Okarito Lagoon where the rain stopped enough for us to walk by a very peaceful and calm lagoon - the only thing that ruined it was the swarms of sandflies.
Now we had reached the Glaciers. We stayed at the top ten park in Franz Josef and had two days dodging the rain to view them. We had visited back in 2008 and it was amazing to see how far they had retreated since our last visit. We had to walk a lot further to see the terminal face. We did a loop walk around Lake Matheson which is always on NZ postcards as on a clear and calm day the lake acts as a mirror with the beautiful alps behind. We got a few good pics but it was pretty grey!