From Kaikoura on the west coast, by train to Christchurch in the rain. The next morning we boarded the TranzAlpine which is one of the world's famous railway journeys. It climbs up through the Southern Alps, an incredible feat of engineering with dynamite, picks and shovels around the turn of the 19/20th centuries. The views were amazing but the photos aren't great. The observation car was closed because too many plonkers have been leaning out of the sides for photos and tunnels/tree branches have injured them. Who'd have thought it?
We arrived in Greymouth, an unprepossessing place built on gold, coal and timber. An overnight then we collected our car and set off for Franz Josef, another town founded by a gold rush in the 1860s but later becoming famous for its glacier, which has been the main tourist attraction for 100 years. The mountains tower over the town, a single strip in a valley with 6 different helicopter operators. We'd already booked our trip but sadly the weather was too poor. A rare cyclonic fog descended but we were able to walk some of the trails, see glow worms in the rainforest and get very wet on a walk to see the glacier. A documentary about dinosaurs has recently been filmed in the forest here, with tree ferns lending it the primaeval quality. The air is so pure and the forest so damp that mosses, liverworts and lichens coat every surface and the sound of waterfalls provides a background to birdsong. We got VERY wet - but not cold.