Day 10 – Dolphins & Glaciers

Woke up this morning and went for the usual shower only when i came out Linda had gone. Was just wondering where when she came running back in shouting ‘Dolphins’. I grabbed my camera and ran out the door with her to see several Dolphins jumping around about 30 metres out to sea. I tried to zoom in as best I could with the camera and just about captured them. What an amazing thing to wake up to and another present that this country just keeps on giving. It really is an incredible place. Once the dolphins had moved on we packed up the car and headed to Greymouth for fuel and some breakfast. What a sad town this is. Shops all closed down and the streets just tired and run down. Definitely the worst place we have seen so far. We got what we needed and got back on the road. About an hour into the journey we came across Hokitiki which a few people had mentioned to us. What a contrast to Greymouth, full of life, clean and tidy and shops bustling with trade. We stopped and had a good walk around before heading to the beach. The waves were really high and crashing in all along the 1 mile stretch. Then randomly in the middle of the beach there was a blue and green armchair. On closer inspection it was made of stone and painted but what an odd thing to see. Then to our left we saw the name of the town spelt out in driftwood stood around 6ft high. I had seen posters with the name in driftwood but hadnt realised it was a permanent feature. Time was now slipping away and we had get back driving as we’d booked to do a glacier valley walk at 2-15pm.

Long straight roads and snow capped mountains were our views for the rest of the trip until we reached Franz Joseph. We got checked in and got our walking gear sorted and got on the guided tour bus for the short drive up to the start of the walk. Basically this was a 4.5 mile walk through bush and then along the river bed to the face of the Franz Joseph Glacier. Along the way the guide showed us various trees and plants that had edible leaves. Linda was very brave trying a spicy one which should have left a nasty taste but she thought was sweet. Top marks for getting stuck in though and doing her Bear Grills survival test. As we approached a pile of rocks approx 1km from the glacier there was sign which explained that this spot was where the glacier was just 8 years ago in 2010. This was alarming to think it had shrunk so much in such a short space of time. The guide explained that it had receded the same amount in the last 10 years as it had in the previous 100 years. Anyone who thinks global warming isnt real, whether caused by nature or by man, should come here and see this for themselves. Its a real eye opener to how the world is changing and changing quickly. On we went trekking across the rocks and scree and past waterfalls until we reached the foot of the glacier. Our guide said this was as far as we could go safely but we were still stood on rock and not ice. He then explained that we were stood on a fairly thin layer of rocks which were on top of the ice. If you touched the ground you could feel the cold even though it was a very warm day. There was a large hole to the side of us and he explained that once the ice below us warms up it turns to water and then the rocks all drop to form the crater like holes. Asking us to sit down and take a drink suddenly had us worried but he assured us we were safe today. After a sort rest watching the many helicopters flying people on to the top of the glacier and the taking of many photos, we started the decent back to base. We were a bit unsure if this would be worth the trip and the money we paid but i can honestly say it was worth every penny. If i wasnt so scared o flying id have taken the helicopter up to the top but this was still a brilliant experience.

Once the tour was over we checked in to our motel, went to the local bar for a beer and a meal and then took a short walk to the shores of Lake Matheson. This is listed as one of the best sunset spots in the world but with clouds in the sky this wasnt going to happen. So we walked to the jetty viewpoint for its other stunning vista, the view of Mt Cook. The water on this lake is so clear and perfectly still that you get a perfect reflection of the mountains in it. This view is on post cards and in magazines all over the world so it was a very special treat to come here and witness it for ourselves and take our own version of that photo. And so another day ends and i know i say it every day but it was just amazing. Queenstown is the destination tomorrow with many stops along the way.