NZ Land Logs 11, Year 2: South Island–Franz Josef Village
Date: Thursday, March 1, 2007
Weather in Franz Josef Glacier Region: Sunny, Warm, and Beautiful
Location: Franz Josef Village, New Zealand
What an incredible day in an incredibly beautiful country. This little island country has the most diverse geography imaginable in such a small area. Today we left the ski country of the Nelson Lakes area, headed west through Buller’s Gorge, emerged on the coast, and spent the afternoon driving the west coast through forest, cliffs high above the Tasman Sea, lowland pastures, magnificent mountain areas, and finally arriving five kilometers from a glacier in an area with parrots and fern trees. We expected it to be colder and we didn’t expect palm trees on the South Island , but we are learning that not only the weather changes every few hours in this country—so does the landscape.
The pasture lands here are full of cows and sheep. Our morning started in pasture lands with mountains climbing high on either side of the highway. We then drove through the Buller’s Gorge area and saw very wide dry river beds with little steams running through them. It is very obvious that when the snow melts here in the springtime, these little streams turn into raging rivers rushing to the sea. We reached the coast, but at first the highway does not run right next to the water. Then all of a sudden we found ourselves driving along the edge of the Tasman Sea on a day when the sea was very calm. At first the seaside drive was not so dramatic, but then we turned a corner and all of sudden we were driving through an area that reminded us of Big Sur in California–crashing waves along a rocky coast and mountains reaching down to the water. We stopped at Punakaiki Rocks and Blowholes in the Paparoa National Park. These rocks are more commonly known as Pancake Rocks because they literally look like huge stacks of pancakes and scientists are still puzzling over why they are formed like this. The tide was not right to see the blowholes, but the rock formations were fantastic. We left this area and drove on to Greymouth where we stopped for an internet break. When we got into town, we stopped at the café listed in Lonely Planet as the only internet possibility, but they sent us to a new restaurant called Persia. Their specialty was middle eastern food, so we ate a great lunch while sending travel logs and other emails. The young couple who own the restaurant were very accommodating and let us stay way past their lunch closing time. Alan and Helaine got on to Skype and made some family connections. We then used their connection to talk to Heather and Jed and Baby Sam. It was great to hear their voices.
Our next stop was in Franz Josef Village at our overnight accommodation. Our reservation was at the Mountain View Top 10 Campground. We thought we had a cabin reserved with bathroom in the room. Unfortunately, what we had reserved was a basic cabin with bathrooms across the way. There was nothing else available for the night, so we settled for this and actually it wasn’t so bad. It is much warmer here then we expected, so taking a middle of the night walk to the bathroom was not so bad.
We had dinner in town and Mark and Helaine had local venison. I tasted Mark’s and it was delicious. There are many deer farms here and whatever they feed those deer results in a very tender meat. We changed our reservation for tomorrow night to a lodge with a bathroom en suite which should be much more comfortable. Tomorrow we visit the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers and I’m sure we will need a good night’s rest before heading south to Queenstown.
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