I'm at Franz Josef Glacier, which is a town as well as the fastest moving glacier in the world (a metre a day). I am in another hostel, which costs only NZ$20 a night but you do have the added excitement of a lounge smelling of both mice and cats - is that possible?
Never mind, don't have to sit in it - especially as the nightlife around here is exceptional. If you want to walk up to the glacier in the dark it's 5km and it's been pouring down or snowing since lunchtime. Otherwise there's the pub across the road or the glowworm cave in the next town (23km away). Another night in, then...
The day started badly because having got myself up and out for the 7.15am bus, it didn't come until 8.10am because the bus driver had slept through her alarm. And Queenstown is the snow capital of NZ and the temperature was minus something or other. It is also the bungee jump capital of the world, and has the highest canyon swing. It has its own excitement guide for its thrill adventures - up to a maximum of five underpants if it's dead scary, only three for something boring like a sky-dive or heli-skiing. I probably scored in the minus underpants league for my time there but I was glad I had a pair on this morning - freezing... The advantage of the delay was that I did finally get to see the town in daylight, and see its amazing setting by a lake surrounded by snowy mountains called the Remarkables. Everybody except me seemed to be carrying snowboards, skis or shop deliveries. All I was carrying was a bad temper and incipient frostbite.
Anyway, she arrived and proceeded to show us her taste for electronic percussive music (pops, bangs, whines, sirens, rattles etc) which wasn't too awful but did make me think I was trapped inside the gearbox of the Tardis. Time travel she didn't, but she made up a fair bit of lost time by screeching round bends and overtaking everyone. Despite this, the drive up was through brilliant country once again, following canyons (including the one where the first bungee jump was made), tracking round snowy mountains and beautiful turquoise lakes and climbing up to the Haast Pass through snowy forests. The pass marked the change in the weather. It started to snow and became a bit hairy - large lumps of snow falling onto the road from the snow-piled ferns and branches overhanging the road. Two hours later, the pass was shut - apparently, along with every other pass in the South Island. And I have to cross the highest one tomorrow...
After the Haast Pass we carefully descended through the blizzard to the rugged, wild west coast. The snow alternated with driving rain for the rest of the day. We arrived in Franz Josef early afternoon, I booked in at the ""cheap as chips but smelling like cats and mice" palace of dreams, then booked a shuttle bus up to the glacier, put on all the clothes I have with me (just about), borrowed a brolly from reception/the shed at the front, and set off in the rain/snow. The driver promised to come back for me two hours later, and I set off in the snow/rain to see the glacier. I've seen them before (Switzerland) but never this close. I walked up the retrest path of the glacier which retreated back up the glacier for the 200 years before 1985, then started coming back down again at the incredible speed of 10 inches a day. It has left a valley of rubble behind it, which I walked through, reaching the edge of the ice which is massive when you are against it, and extends up into the clouds to the saddle before Mt Cook and the high alps.
There were people walking on the top of the glacier with guides but it wasn't safe for me in my trainers, so I retreated back to hte car park and came back to dry everything off.
Tomorrow I set off early on the bus to Greymouth, where hopefully I will be in time to connect with another bus over Arthur's Pass to Christchurch, or (if the pass is closed) hopefully catching a train which crosses via a tunnel (if that isn't blocked as well).
Keep your fingers crossed,