Category Archives: New Zealand

Day 14: What goes around comes around

Day 14: What goes around comes around
Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand

Motel restaurant coffee is rarely good, and today’s was no exception. We decided to stop along the way for a further caffeine fix. After a couple of false starts, we stopped in Rolleston, which is, I guess, a newish outer suburb of Christchurch, or satellite town or whatever it is. The coffee was better anyway.

We decided to go to Lyttelton, because we had time and it was on our original list of places to have a look at. It was supposed to have some nice little shops and be a pretty, scenic place. We had a look around but didn’t see anything that made the trip worth it. Slabs thought that the tunnel to get there was the highlight of that trip. Maybe we missed the good bits.

Back on the road to Christchurch, where our trip started just two short weeks ago, for our last afternoon in New Zealand.

We parked in one of the public car parks that must have once been a building, but is now just rocks, and went for a walk. We wanted to have a look at the Re:START mall, which we saw briefly last time, which is the mall made from shipping containers. It’s very bright and there are lots of cool shops and little food outlets. After spending a bit of money, we were ready for lunch. Slabs and Kramstable chose an outlet whose EFTPOS only took local cards (like, what kind of a thing is that? How does a freaking EFTPOS terminal know where your card is from? Why does it matter? Why would you have a payment option that international tourists can’t use?), so that wiped the last of my New Zealand currency out.

I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant nearby, which was really good (and they did take my card).

After lunch we went to the motel – the same one we’d stayed at the first night we arrived – to check in and chill the last of our New Zealand beers. We’d thought about doing the jet boat, but decided on something a bit more relaxing instead, and booked a ride on the River Avon punts. It was a lovely way to wind up our trip, with a 30 minute ride up and down the river, with a very finely dressed young punter to tell us about the river and all about punting. I could get used to that.

The boat ride was over all too soon, and it was time to do a test run to the motel where we’d be dropping off the rental car in the morning – if we’d known that’s where we’d have to return it when we were booking accommodation, we’d have booked there for tonight and dropped off the car tonight, but not to worry. It was easy to find, and their staff would shuttle us to the terminal once we’d dropped the car off.

Back to the room to start packing. We had dinner at a restaurant in a motel a couple of blocks away rather than go back into town, and then all we had to do was set an alarm, a backup alarm and another backup alarm (just in case) for 3.30 am. We also have a wake-up call booked.


Day 13: Another travelling song

Day 13: Another travelling song
Ashburton, New Zealand

Ashburton, New Zealand

I can now add “cafe that offers its customers sunglasses to block out the early morning sun” to the list of places I’ve been in New Zealand. This was the Kitchen Table, just up from our motel in Dunedin, and we had a fabulous breakfast and a couple of coffees there before setting off up the highway for the final leg of our trip.

I really wanted to stay in Dunedin. There’s so much more I want to see, places to explore and things to do. And the more we travelled up the highway the more I know I have to come back to this part of the country.

Our first stop was the Steampunk HQ in Oamaru, about an hour out of Dunedin. Very cool. The ultimate trash to treasure exhibit. I loved it.

I’d love to have been able to have spent more time in Oamaru as well, but we couldn’t, and our next stop was Timaru, for lunch.

We’d originally planned on staying in Timaru today on our way back to Christchurch, but we hadn’t been able to find any accommodation. It seems like a lovely town, and we wondered if it was to Christchurch what Batemans Bay is to Canberra because it’s a similar distance away.

We’d spoken about Teppanyaki with Kramstable a few days ago, and he thought it sounded really cool. Eagle-eyed restaurant spotter me saw a Japanese Teppanyaki bar while we were driving round the town, so we decided that would be a great idea for lunch. It was really good. Well spotted me!

About an hour up the road is Ashburton, where we’d managed to find a motel room for the night. On the way those apparition-like mountains reappeared totally out of the
blue. There must be few places on the South Island you can’t see them.

Going to Ashburton meant a longer drive than we’d wanted today, but on the plus side we’ll have more time in Christchurch tomorrow, the last day of our holiday. It’s hard to believe we’re this close to going home. We’ve seen so much and done so much, and missed so much!

We had dinner in the motel and are currently making sure we don’t have any excess beers to take home with us!

Day 12: Dunedin days

Day 12: Dunedin days
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin. I love it. I’m currently sitting here drinking my very last Wanaka Beerworks Cardrona working out how I can stay here and not go home.

OK I know that’s not going to happen.

We had a great day. This is the only place apart from Christchurch that we haven’t been part of an endless stream of tourists. In fact we probably stand out because we are tourists!

Our first activity this morning was the Otago Museum. It was really cool. There was so much we didn’t see that we would have loved to have seen and could easily have spent the whole day there. Our main focus was the kids activity area, with a lot of interactive science things that Kramstable (and we) loved.

The main attraction was the butterfly enclosure, which was the only part of the museum we had to pay to get into. It’s a 30 degree tropical house (so not that much warmer than the outside temperature today) with heaps of butterflies and some small birds.

One of the highlights was the release of some of the newly emerged butterflies. When they emerge from their cocoons, they sit for a while until their wings dry so that they can fly. We saw quite a few newly emerged butterflies in the incubation house. The staff in the butterfly house check them over and then if they’re ok, put them into a basket and release them at various times during the day.

After the heat got too much for us, we went back to the main part of the museum and had a look at some of the exhibits about the Maori and the other people of the Pacific. Some of the other highlights were the Sir Edmund Hillary exhibit and the World War I nurses exhibition. Two hours was definitely not enough.

The museum is close to the Otago University, which had been subject to the threat of a mass shooting today, so there was an increased police presence in the area, but most people seemed to be going about business as usual. I think the bigger concern would have been high temperatures and forecast strong winds, and the associated fire risks.

After our museum visit we headed out to the Otago Peninsula to Larnach Castle. It’s very cool. It’s New Zealand’s only castle – technically not a castle but a manor house – apparently it was the thing in those days to make your home took like a castle, which is what William Larnach did in 1871 when he built this place.

It’s now owned by the Barker family, who have restored it and opened it to the public – all the entrance fees go towards maintenance and further restoration. It’s a fascinating place, and Kramstable was really excited to be here because he’d never been to a castle before.

It’s a great building and the views from the tower are wonderful. The gardens are also amazing, very well maintained and there’s even an Alice in Wonderland section. We had lunch in the Ballroom Cafe; the Ballroom was built by Mr Lanarch for his one of his daughters for her 21st birthday.

After lunch we drove back to Dunedin (a drive with spectacular views) to have a look at Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street. With temperatures at 26 degrees we decided we weren’t going to climb up to the top. Just looking at it was exhausting, so we headed back to the motel.

It then cooled down abruptly. A bit of time to wander around the city and take photos of the beautiful buildings (in the rain, which hopefully assisted the fire fighters). Oh and call into the Green Man Brewery.

We had dinner at a Scottish restaurant called Scotia, which was a definite improvement on last night’s dinner. I wish we could stay longer in Dunedin, but it’s not going to happen this time. I know now that I have to come back!

Day 11: On the road again

Day 11: On the road again
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, New Zealand

We left a very cold Te Anau in the morning to arrive in a very warn Dunedin mid-afternoon.

We took the 94 hghway back to Mossburn, where the turn off to Queenstown is, and continued through Lumsden (where we had coffee), Gore and Balclutha, where we stopped for lunch. We stopped at a cafe, where the meal prices were pretty much the same as pub lunches, the meals weren’t as good and there were more pre-school children in the room.

Leaving Gore we finally lost sight of the snow-topped mountains that we’d been seeing for the past week. Where it seemed unreal to be seeing them for the first time last Monday, it was kind of strange to leave them behind today.

We arrived in Dunedin at about 3.00 and checked in to the motel. Where we are is just outside The Octagon, has a lounge room and two bedrooms, much to Kramstable’s delight.

We went for a walk and it felt weird. Everywhere else we’ve been has been over-run by tourists. Dunedin is a much bigger place with a lot fewer tourists, and I felt really obviously out of place. It’s also only the second place on our while trip we’ve seen someone smoking.

We found a nice old bar that had beer on hand pumps, and the owner’s young daughter came over to Kramstable and offered him some toys to play with. We tried a couple of beers we hadn’t had before and then headed back to the motel before going out for dinner. All I’ll say about that is since when do you have to pay extra to get real Parmesan cheese on a pasta dish.

We’re looking forward to exploring the city some more tomorrow.

Day 10: No time no place to talk about the weather

Day 10: No time no place to talk about the weather
Te Anau, New Zealand

Te Anau, New Zealand

Everything was go for our trip to Milford Sound this morning. We’d been checking the weather for this day ever since we’d arrived and it was going to be the only day with decent weather for at least three days either side. We’d confirmed with the tour guide and were getting picked up at 8.05.

We woke up at 6.00 to get ready in time and were getting excited. This was going to be one of the highlights of our trip and everything was working out.

Only at 7.00 our phone rang. It was the motel owner telling us that the Milford Sound road was closed – not because of the weather, but because of trees on the road after yesterday’s winds. He said he could try and get us onto a Doubtful Sound tour, which would be a bigger group (45 compared to 8 on the Milford tour), would cost more, and would involve a short bus ride, an hour boat ride, an hour bus ride and then a 3-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound. We didn’t know what else to do at such short notice, so told him to go ahead.

We had an extra hour to wait, as this tour didn’t leave until 9.00. The bus took us to Lake Manapouri, and we had about an hour trip across it to where the power station is. Apparently it can produce enough power for the whole of the South Island, so it must be huge. According to the brochure there had been plans to raise the level for the power station, but the fledgling New Zealand environment movement saved the area form damming in the 1970s.

It’s a massive lake, and very very deep – over 400 metres.

Once we got to the other end, we hopped onto another bus for a 22 km trip along the Wilmot Pass Road, which had been built in the 1960s for the power station. This took an hour, rising to 671 metres above sea level. There were some spectacular views. On the way down the gradient is 1:1.5, which is seriously steep. Our bus driver reassured us that the bus’s brakes were checked every six months and that they were due for a check “tomorrow”.

Finally, we arrived at Deep Cove, the start of the Doubtful Sound cruise. We were lucky with the weather, and had great views all the way. We travelled almost out to the coast where the Tasman Sea meets the coastline of New Zealand. If we’d kept going we would have hit the Australian coast somewhere south of Sydney.

I’d like to say I had a wonderful time, but today has taught me I’m not good on small-ish boats on choppy waters, and I spent a lot of the time on the boat wishing I was anywhere but there. So… yes I’m glad I got the opportunity to see this wild area – it was really beautiful – but I really didn’t enjoy it.

I also learned the reason we’ve seen hardly any road kill in New Zealand – this is something that I noticed on our second day heading out of Christchurch, in complete contrast to Tasmania. This is because they don’t have any roadkill targets. The only mammal native to New Zealand is the bat – hardly a target on the roads – so the animals that are going to get squashed on the roads are the introduced species like possums, and there are so many of them here, eating all the vegetation that their native birds need, that running over them is encouraged. (Slabs bought a t-shirt the other day with the slogan “Possums: New Zealand’s little speed humps” and now I understand it.)

I’m glad we did it, but this isn’t an experience I’m in any rush to repeat. I’m keeping both feet on solid ground for the rest of the trip.

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is beautiful, but mega-touristy. It reminded me of Strahan but times 100. We got petrol. It cost $112 to fill a 70 litre tank. I’ve never paid more than $100 for a tank of petrol before. Eeep!

We had a list of cool things that might be fun to do today. We’d already checked out the gondola and luge last night, and decided that was one thing we had to do. We weren’t sure how the weather would hold up, so we thought we’d do that first. It was a fairly short walk from our motel to the gondola station, where we bought tickets for the gondola and 10 luge rides – which was actually cheaper than getting nine rides. We figured we’d sort out who would do what rides once we got up there.

The gondola ride was pretty cool. Great views of Queenstown. We had coffee at the top before heading over to the luge. We had to pick out our helmets first and then jump on the chairlift to the top of the hill where the luge started.

When you go on the luge, you have to start off on the blue track, which is the scenic track that is suitable for anyone over 110 cm. Kramstable and I could do this one! Before your first ride you get some instructions on how to manoeuvre the luges, so that you have a vague idea of what you’re doing before heading off down the track. It was heaps of fun!

We did two runs together (sort of) on the blue run, then Kramstable and I did a last run on the blue (he was too short for the red run), while Slabs braved the red run. We generously decided to let him have our last ride on the red run, while we had a walk around and found a photo vantage point along the run. We then spent a seriously stupid amount of money on photos of us on the luge because we couldn’t take any ourselves, and it’s not like we’ll be back any time soon to do it again. (This excuse can justify anything!)

Back down the hill (mountain?) on the gondola and onto the Fear Factory – New Zealand’s scariest haunted house – which Kramstable had been looking forward to all trip and way before we even left. He and Slabs had been onto their website and found out everything about it. It was pretty much all Kramstable had been talking about since he’d found out about it. He was so excited! I was pretty much terrified that I’d be the one to call “chicken” and be pulled out and wasn’t even sure I wanted to go in.

However, I wasn’t going to let a 9 year old defeat me, so I took a deep breath and went in. It was pretty cool. I think being at the back was an advantage because the horrors that sprang out got Slabs, who was in the lead, first. I say no more. Go do it yourself. Kramstable was terrified. We survived.

We had lunch at the Atlas Beer Cafe because beer. It has a hand pump. It has nice beers and does good food.

After lunch we went to the XD Dark Ride, which is two different experiences – a 3D roller coaster where we went through a canyon and I hate rolller coasters so why the hell did I agree to do this, and a 3D Zombie killing game (Kramstable picked the game from a choice of three), and yours truly is such an awesome zombie shooter that I won. It might be the first time I have, or will, ever win a shooting game, so you need to mark this day somewhere.

Finally (exhausted and dreading the credit card bill) we went to the Odyssey Sensory Maze, which we’d found out about last night. That was heaps of fun and really cool. If you like balloons and mirrors you’ll love it!

During the afternoon I managed to get some updates on the AFL grand final. Two years overseas on Grand Final day, two wins to the Hawks. Where am I going to go next September to keep the winning steak going?

We had a really nice Malaysian dinner at Madam Woo (fabulous laksa), found the perfect tacky souvenir and headed back to the motel room to read the Famous Five with Kramstable.

Day 7: Queenstown

Day 7: Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

Wanaka, like Greymouth, was a stopover on the way somewhere else, but somewhere I could quite happily have spent more time. Today we had to get to Queenstown, which was only about an hour away, for another two-night stay.

Our motel had the worst design feature ever: a window in the wall between the bed and the bathroom, so if anyone goes into the bathroom in the middle of the night and turned the light on, it wakes sleeping people up. What were they thinking?

We had breakfast in the motel cafe, and then checked out. We went for a walk by Lake Wanaka, and Kramstable found the playground.

Slabs’s workmates told him we had to go to Arrowtown on our way to Queenstown, so that was our first stop. The views on the road down the mountain were spectacular, and we could see Queenstown in the distance. It was like coming into our Queenstown except the town was further away, the hills were higher, there was snow and there were trees! Stunning drive.

It’s a cute little gold rush village with lots of little boutique shops and cafes. We’d heard there was a brewery there, but couldn’t find it. We asked someone in the shop where we thought it should be, and she said there had been a brewery but it had closed and the owner had moved to Invercargill. So to the people who maintain the website, it needs an update!

The lady in the shop said if we like craft beer we should go to the Fork and Tap Ale House up the street, where you can do tasting. For $14 you can choose four of the 17 craft beers they have on tap in a tasting paddle. Four from 17! How tough a choice!

For the record my beers were:
Hefe by Tuatara (Bavarian Wheat Beer – 3 stars)
Dr Funk (a very citrussy sour beer by Doctors Orders and Funk Estate – 4 stars)
Old Ale by Tuatara and Pomeroys (a joint brew – 3.5 stars, very bitter)
A Great Justice Coconut Porter by Kereu (yum! 4 stars)

After lunch we drove the final 12 kilometres (I think) to Queenstown, found our motel amongst the throng of tourists that were all over the streets, and settled in for an afternoon of washing. The motel has great views over Lake Wakatipu, which is probably the best thing going for it. Basic as it is it’s clean and seems relatively quiet.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for the forecast rain to hold off (again) so that we can do some fun outdoor things, as well as some indoor things that Kramstable is looking forward to, including a haunted house, which he’s been talking about all trip.

Day 6: Rain, rain go away

Day 6: Rain, rain go away
Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka, New Zealand

Today was a long long day.

The rain that had started late yesterday afternoon was showing no signs of letting up, and we were glad we’d been able to do the helicopter ride yesterday instead of waiting until this morning. We checked out of our motel in Fox Glacier in the morning before breakfast, to set off for Wanaka.

The lady at the motel warned us that some of the waterfalls could overflow and that there could be a lot of water on the road as a result in some places.

Great! More dangerous things!

The trip to Wanaka was about 260 km, and we expected it to take about 3.5 hours. It was another beautifully scenic drive through the mountains, with a glimpse of coastline in some places. Our first stop was Knights Point, which looked out to the sea. Unfortunately the viewing platform had been closed because it had become unstable, so we had to be satisfied with the view from the car park, which was still stunning, even on a wet overcast day.

We continued along Highway 6 to the town of Haast, where we finally turned away from the West Coast for the last time, and continued to Haast Pass. We stopped for coffee in Haast, and discovered we had another two hours drive ahead of us before we got to Wanaka.

We decided not to stop at any of the waterfall walks along the way because it was already a long drive and we had things we wanted to do in Wanaka in the afternoon. We drove along Lake Wanaka for a while and then the road took us over to Lake Hawea before we arrived in Wanaka, four hours after we’d left.

We had a quick lunch, checked into our motel and then headed out to do the things we wanted to do.

First up was Wanaka Beerworks, about nine km out of town. If you’ve ever heard of a stranger combination of businesses than Transport and Toy Museum, Toy Shop, Coffee Shop and Brewery, please let me know. We’d been looking forward to this all trip.

We set Kramstable loose in the toy shop (what could possibly go wrong) and made our way to the bar for a tasting. One of the brewers was available to talk to us for a short time about what they do, and about their beers. Slabs and I both liked the Cardrona Gold, which really did taste like biscuits, and I loved the coffee stout. Very very bitter. Whoever came up with the idea of putting coffee into beer is almost as much of a genius as the person who put salt water and seaweed into beer.

We bought a mixed six pack to take home (not that it will last that long) and also a beer called Here Be Dragons, which has pinot noir grapes in it. A wine maker’s beer? A beer maker’s wine? Who knows. I can’t wait to taste it.

Our final stop for the day was Puzzling World, which Kramstable’s swimming teacher had told us about. It’s full of illusions and trickery, holograms, sculptures and optical illusions. You get tilted, tricked and shrunk, and then you go outside and get lost in the two-storey maze. It was lots of fun. Even the toilets were fun, and I don’t think there’s many other places you can say that about.

We had to admit defeat in the maze and escaped through the emergency exit, much to competitive me’s shame and everyone else’s relief. It’s a tough one! I imagine if we’d stayed in there too much longer they would have had to have come and got us, because it wasn’t far off closing time when we got out.

Relieved at having survived the maze, we headed back into town to our motel room, where we sat on our (almost) lake view balcony with a refreshing beverage to unwind from what had been a very full day.

Day 5: Flying high

Day 5: Flying high
Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

We’d picked up a brochure for the glacier helicopter flights from the motel reception when we checked in last night. The motel has a deal with one of the companies, so their prices were a little cheaper than quoted in the brochure. We looked at the flight we thought we’d like to do and worked out it would cost $760 for the three of us to do a 30 minute flight.

We ummed, we ahhed. We asked if anyone else had done it and whether it was worth it. We realised it probably something we’d never get the opportunity to do again. We agreed it would be great. But it wasn’t something we’d factored in to the holiday budget and it was a lot of money.

It looked fantastic, but we decided we couldn’t justify it, no matter how amazing it would have been.

So first thing in the morning after breakfast (about 10.30), we set off on the short drive to the Fox Glacier car park. There’s a sign a couple of kilometres back from the car park that shows where the glacier was in the 1750s. A long way from where it is now.

The walk to Fox is shorter than the walk to Franz Joseph, and we’d learned form yesterday that it wasn’t going to be cold at all, so we didn’t over-layer. Fox has the same moonscape-type landscape as Franz Joseph, and it’s a weird feeling knowing you’re walking over a landscape carved out by ice that has long since melted. It’s like a massive valley, and part-way along you can see where the path used to go. It’s since been closed off and re-routed due to a rockfall.

Although the distance to the glacier viewing point is shorter, what they don’t tell you about is the long, fairly steep climb you need to do over the last 400 metres or so to get there. It’s made all the more difficult by a lot of “No Stopping” signs in that section. (I mean do you know how hard it is to take a photo while you’re still moving over rocky terrain?)

The path goes up to 200 metres from the face of the glacier, so a bit closer than you can get to Franz Joseph, so you really don’t get to see a lot. I didn’t get the feeling it was made of ice because it was really dirty. Still the whole place is pretty surreal.

While we were there we started talking to a woman who said she’d been on the chopper ride earlier and it was totally worth the money, she told us what they’d done and seen on the 20 minute flight, (doesn’t cost $700) and we both began to doubt our earlier decision not to go. Then I remembered my Mum had given me an extremely generous early birthday present for our trip, so we decided that the flight could be my birthday present. Dilemma solved! Thank you Mum 🙂

Called in to the helicopter booking office when we got to town and they had had some cancellations, and had a flight we could potentially go on, subject to our weight being compatible with the other people who were already on the flight. Oh, and subject to the weather being OK. It had been a beautiful morning, but was clouding over and starting to look like the flights wouldn’t go ahead.

We were booked in and were told to come back closer to the flight time.

We went up the road to the glacier viewing pint (which gives you a better view of the glacier than the 30 minute walk), had lunch (the less said about that the better), bought some wine (as you do) and went back. It was still touch and go as to whether it was all going to happen, and it was going to be the pilot’s final call. After a safety briefing, we got on the shuttle bus to the helipad and were told it was all go! Hurrah!

We were with another family of three, and I got the prized front seat with the lady from the other family on the way up. It was just amazing! We flew up the glacier and landed near the top on the snow. We didn’t get the beautiful blue skies that you see in the brochures, but wow! What an wonderful experience. We got out for a few minutes and threw snowballs, took some photos and just basked in the spirit of the place, before it was time to get back into the chopper and fly around some more before heading back to Fox.

All I can say is that this was completely worth it, and I can’t believe it took us so long to make a decision. It’s cool walking up to the glaciers, but that’s nothing compared to the chopper flight. It’s expensive yes, but it’s not like you do it every day. So do it!

The weather was on the turn when we got back and they’d already told us we were the last flight of the day, so we felt very lucky to have got on that flight.

Our final activity of the day was a walk at Lake Mathieson, which we’ve seen gorgeous photos of. We could have done the 90 minute circuit around the lake, but we were tired, the weather wasn’t great for walking, and it was getting late, so we walked to the first look out, took some photos and went back. Not soon after we got back to the motel it started to rain, so it was clearly a good decision.

On the way back I realised what it’s been about the mountains that have blown me away. They just rise from nothing. There’s flat and then there’s mountain. There’s no in-between stage. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before.

What a fantastic day!

Day 4: More ways to get yourself killed in NZ

Day 4: More ways to get yourself killed in NZ
Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

For most of our trip we’ve tried to make sure that following the longer driving days we have two nights at the next destination. This wasn’t the case this time, because we wanted to get to the glacier region early on, so today was another three+ hour drive, from Greymouth to Fox Glacier. It’s about 200 km, but the roads are windy and there are plenty of scenic spots along the way where it is Absolutely Necessary to stop and take photos.

We had breakfast in a coffee shop in Greymouth. Slabs asked for a large coffee. They offered him The Bucket, which he gladly accepted, with a triple shot of coffee. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a larger coffee than this.

Today’s destination: Fox Glacier. Slabs had a couple of workmates recommend this as the place to stay, rather than Franz Joseph, so we decided to go with that advice. The plan was to arrive at Franz Joesph at about lunch time, do some of the walks there in the afternoon and then go on to Fox to stay the night. We’ll then have all of tomorrow to explore Fox Glacier and the surrounding area and not have to pack up and move onto the next place.

The trip out of Greymouth was another surreal drive, with snow topped mountains on one side of us and the ocean on the other. It seems impossible, but we can see it, so it has to be real!

We arrived at Franz Joseph at about lunch time, and had a quick lunch at one of the cafes. For a tiny town, it’s very busy and extremely noisy, with helicopters in the air all the time taking people up to the glacier. The only access to the glaciers is by helicopter; you aren’t allowed to walk up there, so they are constantly on the go. I think the noise would drive me mad if I had to stay there, so I’m grateful for the advice to stay at Fox instead.

After lunch we drove up to the start of the walk to Franz Joseph and set off on the walk to as close to the glacier as you’re allowed to go on foot. It’s basically a moonscape surrounded by mountains. Lots of white rocks and not much else for the 45 minute walk to the base of the glacier.

Oh, and signs telling you to beware of rock falls and ice falls. So add those to avalanches as things that can kill you in New Zealand.

We’d been expecting it to be cold and had dressed accordingly, but it wasn’t cold at all and my backpack was rapidly filled with discarded layers. Poor Kramstable had thermal leggings on under his jeans and ended up very hot and uncomfortable.

Even though you can’t get close up to the glacier, it’s a pretty amazing sight, but also sad and scary to see how much of it has gone in the past 7 or 8 years.

We passed Kramstable’s fans from Pancake Rocks going up to the glacier on our way back, which was pretty funny. We decided not to do another walk but to head straight to Fox and check in. This was a good decision, because it started to rain very soon after we left.

From Franz Joseph to Fox was a relatively short drive, and we checked into our motel right away. As soon as we arrived we knew we’d made the right choice of places to stay. Fox is so much smaller and quieter than Franz Joseph, and our motel has the best views of the mountains. We have a small apartment, with two bedrooms and a long, high window in the lounge room that we can see the mountain peaks from. It’s amazing!

We sussed out the village and identified potential eating venues, and by the time we’d done that it was time for dinner anyway. We had a nice meal at one of the bars, though our meals took a long time and we suspected a mix-up in orders somewhere. Other than that it was a pleasant evening, a short walk back to our motel and it feels good not to have to be packing up tomorrow and heading off again.