The ferry over to Picton was very scenic but also made Jeff feel very sea sick so not the best combination. Lots of cool views but we didn't see any penguins or seals which is meant to be pretty common. San really enjoyed the hot home-made scones in the café. It took ages to get off as a lot of the docking gear at Picton had been damaged during the earthquakes.
We headed through the Abel Tasmin National Park towards Golden Bay. It was a lot of driving but we ended up in Kiateriteri in a lodge right on the beach which was beautiful. We had a bottle of wine on the sand watching the sunset and then headed in for some food and drink at the bar in town.
The next day we moved towards Westport. San was very excited as we drove past a cow giving birth. We had started to drive down the west coast so had amazing sea views all the way to Westport. We had a very chilled night here and ended up staying in what locals said was a haunted house for the night but we didn't see any ghosts. At one point we heard a siren going on and worried it was an earthquake or tsunami approaching we ran out of our room heading outside but soon stopped when we saw everyone else sitting watching tv and realised the siren came from a film not the beach!
Next stop was Hokitika. We drove down state highway six following the coast some more. We stopped at Cape Foul wind which is NZ's closest point to Australia and went on a walk around the peninsula to have a look at one of the largest seal colonies in NZ. Unfortunately they were building a new viewing platform so between machines and people working we could see a couple of seals but not loads. We also checked out the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. This is a series of rocks made from limestone and as water had eroded them over the years they have made holes, as big waves come in from the sea the water is forced uo through the blowhole going up to ten metres in the air which was pretty spectacular. From here we headed to Greymouth where we stopped at the Monteith's Brewery. We didn't have enough time to go on the tour but got ourselves a tasting plank instead and got to sample six of their beers/ciders/ales which were all very very nice. We managed to walk away with a couple of free bottles as well which made us even happier. We didn't stay with the rest of the bus tonight (one of the many issues with changing from magic bus to kiwi) so we were in a deserted YHA right on the beach. We took our free beer for a walk on the black sanded beach at sunset watching a huge thunderstorm role in and then came back and had a Bushman's bath. (Basically a bath under the stars) and in our case in the rain, but with some more of our Monteith beer we were very happy.
We left the next morning and stopped at Lake Mahinapua and saw the sun come up over the deserted water. We went on to Pukekura a small village with a population of two - the couple who run the bushman centre there. It was there to tell the story of deer hunting and farming and how people used to have to live on the west coast and was run be an eccentric Kiwi called Phil who had some very strong ideas about pretty much everything, shouting at people for ordering latte's saying he does two types of coffee - black and white and believing vegetarians where just an excuse for a piss poor hunter. We were able to try possum pie here - a very local delicacy! We moved on to Franz Josef from here. When we arrived we went off for a three hour kayak on a beautiful mirror lake which was very peaceful and relaxing.
The next day we did the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike!! This is the main reason for coming to Franz Josef, San did it seven years ago when you could walk up to the glacier but so much has melted now you have to get a helicopter to a mid-way point and walk from there. The glacier was amazing and the guides were saying that because it moves 5 metres a week it is constantly changing. We were very lucky because some new caves had opened up at the top that we got to explore and play in with all our gear. However the weather came in and they were worried that the helicopters wouldn't be able to fly so instead of being stranded at the top of the glacier we had to cut our trek a bit short and come back but we were still able to see all of the amazing scenery and say we have climbed a glacier. This is one of only three glaciers in the world that run down into a rainforest and then into the sea in only 20km, most glaciers are a long way from the sea so the views from up there were amazing and well worth it. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the local hot pools so all in all a pretty good day.