Day Nine & Ten – Travel to the Glaciers

Waking up I realised that Laura was in a bad way, the cuts on her palms were in such awkward places that it made even the simplest of tasks difficult and painful to do – washing her hair had become a mammoth task and after 30 mins I thought I’d need to send in a search party but she trudged back to the motorhome looking very dejected.

We had already decided today was going to be a travel day, so that was lucky really, as I don’t think there’d be much else we could have done but as usual Lau was putting on a brave face and trying her best to get on with things – I’m a lucky man.

The main road to Kaikoura is closed due to damage from the recent earthquake so a 1.5 hour journey currently takes about 7 hours, so we changed our plans to head down the West coast towards Franz Josef glacier with a stopover in Westport.

As usual the route was scenic and we stopped several times to take pictures, but the most scenic was a beautiful lake which had a jetty stretching out into the crystal clear waters. We sat for a while, watching the birds and the eels under the jetty before hitting the road again.

Westport is a tiny place on the coast, but we found a nice cafe/bar for a pint of Speiths and some calamari. Yummy.

The next day, we woke early and hit the road stopping at the Tauranga Seal colony on Cape Foulwind. It was amazing to see the seals and their pups lapping up the early sun and darting between the huge waves crashing onto the rocks, making the swim seem effortless. There was at least 30 seals at this spot (that we could see) and after a while, we just had to leave them to their day and get back on the road, as we had a date with Pancake Rocks!

We had been told that this was best observed at high tide, and we got there just in time to witness the full force of the waves crashing into the rock formations causing the blowholes to erupt and the ground to shake beneath your feet.

I was awestruck by the immense power and noise, totally incredible. The Pancake Rock name is given simply due to how the limestone rock has been eroded and weathered, to look like a stack of pancakes – it’s very literal.

It’s a this point I have a confession to make – when we parked the van up, a small flightless bird came running to greet us, and I got very excited and called to Laura that I’d spotted a Kiwi! Alas, after several photos and me being way too excited, Laura spotted a notice board that explained that these were in fact Weka – often mistaken for Kiwis. Bugger!

Feeling slightly let down, but glad that I hadn’t embarrassed myself by posting a photo of my ‘kiwi’ on social media only to be ridiculed by the Twitchers out there, we headed south to Franz Josef and what would be my first glimpse of the glacier…..

The cloud was low when we arrived, and as it drifted by, it would reveal mere glimpses off the peaks and the faintest glimmer of the glacier, I felt like I was being teased by the elements, and they were doing their best to build the tension and anticipation before the big reveal.

As darkness fell, and I still hadn’t had a proper view, we booked onto a Heli-Hike tour of the glacier for the following day and I went to sleep, desperately hoping that the weather would be ok.

Fingers, toes and anything else that could be crossed were crossed.

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