As I mentioned in my last blog, the staff at the Motor Inn in Hari Hari were great, really friendly, they made us feel welcome. And as if to prove how wonderful they were, they wouldn’t take any money for the coffees we had in the morning…they just filled our water bottles for us and bid us farewell and safe travels 😉
Destination Franz Josef Glacier, about 60km and if the book is to believed a fairly even road with only one big hill. The sun was shining on us again as we left Hari Hari, this in itself is unusual as we’d been told to expect lots of rain on the west coast !!
Well it didn’t take long before the first photo of the day was taken, white topped mountains with wide open fields in the foreground, really beautiful ! From then on things just kept getting better, the mountains were getting closer and the colour of the rivers was getting even more turquoise and we were loving it. We crossed loads of bridges, some single lane, others wider but each one of then with a great view up a valley to the hills beyond.
The one big hill was conquered easily and from there we soon arrived in Whataroa, a small town but at least it had a cafe !! We do love our coffee stops although it’s usually paired with a cake, we could do a coffee lovers guide of New Zealand by the time we’ve finished !!
After Whataroa the rest of the way to Franz Josef was fairly straightforward, we arrived at the Top 10 holiday park nice and early, we’d booked a cabin so made ourselves comfortable. Once we were showered we headed into town, a little sightseeing first, then lunch. We cycled up to the carpark near the glacier, the ride up was a joy in itself as they’ve made a great track by the river then through the forest and even provided huts to store bikes when you arrive. We were going to walk up to the glacier but as we’d booked a full days walk in Fox we decided to walk up to Peters Pool instead, it’s only a few km. It winds it’s way through ferns and native bush until you finally reach a couple of benches looking out over a fairly still pool, not quite still enough to provide the mirror image but a beautiful place even so.
After the walk we cycled back into Franz and had a very nice lunch and a beer before heading back to camp to catch up on email, Facebook and sorting photos…it never ends 😉
We cooked in the camp kitchen and met a very nice couple, she was Canadian and he was originally from Wales, they were touring by car and were heading North. It was good to talk to them as it gave us some idea of what was coming !!
Oh well, I’d better show you some photos then…..!
Amazing weather, fantastic views and an incredible day !!
From Franz to Fox is only 25km but it is over three fairly large hills, we were in no hurry to get going in the morning so had a lazy breakfast before setting off. The first 7km was flat and very scenic, the next 5km was uphill, not to bad a gradient and with fresh legs we found it easy, then a lovely downhill over a bridge and almost a 180 degree turn before heading up the next hill. A bit if a slog this one as it was fairly straight and nothing much to see as your in the trees, it felt a bit steeper than the first but we could have been getting tired !! The downhill was welcome relief and again there was a bridge at the bottom with a right hand bend, then it just went up….really steep !! We both gritted our teeth, selected first and ground away at it, fortunately after the first hairpin bend it relaxed a little and although still steep we managed to get to the top without stopping. Before hurtling down we stopped to take photos of the incredible view, right over the river and Fox town…….fabulous !
The town of Fox is a little smaller than Franz, it’s got a lovely feel to it, almost like an Alpine village ! Our camp, another Top 10 was just 1 km out of town towards lake Matheson. As we were there for three nights we’d booked a cabin for safety’s sake as we don’t like leaving our kit in a tent all day when we’re not there !!
That evening while cooking dinner we bumped into Richard and Katy the two cyclists that we met on the beach at Hokitika, it was good to see them both again. We had a good chat with them and it turned out that they were planning on cycling to Lake Matheson in the morning, we also had this plan so we arranged to meet and go together. During dinner we also got chatting to a couple of Hungarians,really friendly guys, when we told them we hoped to be in Hungary later in the year they gave us there email and told us to visit them 😉
Also in the kitchen that night was an American couple Luke and Lindsay, again great people, really friendly, shame they were heading North as it would have been great to see them again.
So before I tell you more, here are the photos from the day….
A short day but a tough one !!
7.00am and when I went to look outside it was gray, the mist was down so low you couldn't even tell there were mountains behind you…no point going to the lake !! We therefore had a lie in, got up and finally had breakfast at about 9.00am, we saw Richard and Katy and they said they might still go later so we all crossed our fingers that the mist would lift !!
By 10.00am it was looking good, and we agreed to leave at 10.30, by then the two Hungarians had said they'd cycle down with us, so at 10.30 there were six of us all on our way to the lake;-)
It's only a 6km ride and once there you can take a scenic walk around the lake, it takes about an hour and a half and they've made some platforms over the lake to be able to take pictures of the mountains. If your lucky the water will be still enough to see the mountains reflected in the water…we weren't that lucky. It's still a fantastic walk and the view is still magnificent, oh and the cafe does some great cakes and sells some fantastic ales !!
We'd arranged with Richard and Katy that we'd join them for dinner, a joint effort in the kitchen later ! They were going for a ride up to the glacier carpark so while they went sightseeing we went shopping….vegetable chilli and brown rice, mmmm 😉
The evening went well, the food was good and it was washed down with a few beers and a bottle of red wine, Our new friends would be leaving in the morning so we made the most of there company until it was time to say goodnight and wish them well !!
Here's the photos……
Pretty amazing views, just imagine if there’d been a reflection on the lake !!
Naomi and myself were up early the next morning, we were excited because we’d booked a full days guided tour on the glacier…could hardly wait !!!!
We arrived in good time at the tour office / shop / cafe and waited for our guide with a lovely cup of coffee 😉 10.00am and we were issued our kit, boots, crampons, socks and if you needed them you could also borrow, ruck sacks, hats, gloves, jackets and just about anything else you’d needed. We were pretty much sorted and had even squared away a packed lunch and drinks ready for our trip. Everyone into the bus for the short ride to the glacier carpark, on the way there you can see sign posts that tell you where the glacier was at points in history. Although it’s now reduced in size it’s still 12.5km long and over 300m deep, now that’s a lot of ice !!
The first part of the trip is along a pathway that follows the river, just walking boots for this bit. The guide told us about the glacier trips back in the 30’s when you used to walk along the cliff edge and climb down rickety ladders to get on the ice, Naomi wasn’t impressed with that idea. There were two sections of the walk where there is a serious risk of rockfalls and we were told to put cameras away for these sections and not to stop. After about 30mins we came to a barrier, the guided tour really starts here as your not supposed to cross the barrier without a guide. From this point we walked for another 20 mins until we were at the foot of the ice, what an incredible sight. We were all helped with our crampons, then we were led by way of ice steps onto the glacier….wow !! As the ice moves, both forward and backward the guides have to constantly rework there routes onto the ice and over it, they need to very very careful of cracks and holes opening up. They send a team of guys up there every morning to monitor the rockfalls and to start making the ice steps for the tourists. Our guides, Tom, from Somerset and John, from Christchurch were fantastic, they didn’t rush us, gave us loads of time to take photos or stop for water or just add or remove layers of clothes. They took us up to see natural ice tunnels, deep crevasses, holes and waterfalls. It was a fabulous trip and I’m best of letting the photos talk for themselves…
In all we were away for 7 hours, well worth the money and now I can say I’ve had lunch on a glacier 😉
We left Fox the following morning and headed out to a D.O.C camp at Lake Paringa, not a place of great beauty, just a large lake surrounded by trees, a bit gloomy really !
The ride was only 70km on flat or rolling roads, no big hills but lots of bridges. Great views of the mountains on yet another beautiful day kept our spirits up despite there not being a cafe for 60km !! We passed through Bruce Bay, back on the coast although only briefly, before continuing our ride through rain forests. The cafe was at a salmon farm, we were just glad to have found one, we did however sample the salmon and it was excellent !!
During the ride we met a group of cyclists on a two week trip from Christchurch via train to Greymouth then cycle the west coast to Queenstown…I think they were jealous of us being away for so long !!
The camp was basic, just toilets, not even any water…lucky that there was a fast flowing river, and yes we boiled the water for 3 mins !!
We quickly put up our tents while doing the “get these sand flies away from me dance”, they were really bad !!
Once the tents were up we just dived straight in and stayed there, if you needed to go outside you covered every inch !!
We got lucky because a small camper parked on our pitch where our car would have been if we’d had one, they did ask first and seemed really nice.
We got talking to them later, Tock, ex army (20 years) and his wife Tara, carer of children with disabilities and also ex Territorial Army moved to the. North island 7 years ago after Tara was offered a job, they’ve not looked back since !!
They really looked after us, they made us tea and coffee, gave us cold beers and let us use there gas stove to cook our dinner, they were also really good company….certainly made the stay at Paringa much better, thanks guys 😉
Ok here are the all important photos…..
Last two photos, Tock and Tara (our saviours at Paringa) and me in anti sandfly dress !!!
We woke to rain and more bloody sand flies, you’ve never seen a tent out away so fast in all your life. While we were packing up Tock brewed up, what a gent, we quickly downed our coffees and made a hasty retreat. We thanked Tock and Tara for there hospitality and set of for Haast, about 50km but with a few short sharp hills on the way !!
The rain wasn’t so bad and as soon as we were on our bikes and moving we were no longer bothered by flies. The scenery was mostly rain forest with occasional glimpses of the coast. We made good progress until the hills started then we were down to granny gears, we did stop on the first hill for a toilet break and views of the coast. After that we didn’t stop until Haast, you arrive over a very long one lane bridge which fortunately has passing places. We had lunch and visited the visitor centre before enquiring at the Top 10 holiday park about cabins. The guy was a bit surly and certainly wasn’t trying to sell anything so we moved on and found a much better place in the Township.
The Aspiring Court Motel does rooms, backpacker rooms, cabins, tent pitches and motor home pitches. It also had a small shop, great free showers and a fabulous kitchen and lounge, we opted for a cabin. It was perfect, heat, light, proper beds….perfect !
We met a guy called Aran who’d met Richard and Katy the day before, he said they’d gone on to the base of Haast Pass. We cooked dinner and went to bed early as tomorrow would be a tough day for us.
Here are a few photos from the day…