Gorge Us Sights
02.12.2010 25 °C
Well Paul’s sprained ankle has slowed us down, but not stopped us. We stayed in Hokitika for more rest and recuperation time. Having the DOC cottage was a true blessing for we could truly just relax and take it easy. The first hike that Paul ventured on subsequent to spraining his ankle was a tramp to the Hokitika Gorge. It was not a long hike, (20 minutes one way) and besides being eating by the most vicious sand flies we’ve met yet the gorge was worth the trip. The water colour was spectacular and shows that it is glacier fed. If we’d had our togs (NZ term for swim suits) with us we would have jumped in for a swim. We saw a crazy Maori doing it. This was what his friend called him, not us. I think the water was cold, but it did look so very inviting!!
Ayden, Gwen and Claire on Bridge at Gorge; Gorge Swing Bridge; Ayden at Hokitika Gorge; Claire at Hokitika Gorge
The fact that the short hike did not send Paul into agony was encouraging as we were moving on the next day regardless. This move took us to Franz-Josef, a small community next to the Franz-Josef glacier. The ride was marked by cloud cover over the southern alps, so it was uneventful. Once we arrived, we found that the ground where we were to set up our tent was so small that our tent would not fit on it. The lady at the caravan park office said we could take two sites for the price of one. No big loss on their part for we were the only tent at the park. There were dozens of campervans, but no competition for the tent sites. After set-up, we head into the town of Franz-Josef. Minden is simply enormous when compared to this settlement. It had a grocery store a gas station and half a dozen boutiques/glacier tour booking buildings. The gas was 208.9 cents per litre. This is the highest we’ve seen so far and 34 cents more than the rest of New Zealand.
The next day we hiked to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier, well, within 50 m of the terminal. It was a fairly easy hike of about 1.5 hours return on a very well used path. At first when we looked at the glacier we thought it looked dirty. Maybe in our minds we had been dreaming of a snowy white glacier for we are so desperately missing the snow in Canada. (Ha ha). But, similar to the Athabaska Glacier we have seen in Western Canada, this glacier does have its share of debris around/on the terminal end. Still, if you look closely enough it is amazing to see the blue in the ice. Since this was the first tramp for Paul’s recovering ankle we headed back to the campground and to relax.
Water Falls at Franz Josef Glacier; Ayden Claire and Paul at Franz Josef Glacier; Gwen at Franz Josef Glacier; Franz Josef Glacier; Paul and Claire at FJG; Franz Josef Glacier Panorama
Oh yeah, Paul did fall once on the hike and banged his eye. It is now swollen open, what an awful sight.
We are finally experiencing the same kind of “bumping” into fellow campers here in NZ that we often did in Australia. While tramping at Franz Josef Glacier we ran into a couple we met at Old McDonald’s Farm in Marahau. They are from Austria and are travelling for a year. It is a nice feeling to meet someone that you ‘know’ and I think the other people seem to like it also as we chatted for 20 minutes on the trail. It was great to swap stories regarding what we have seen, where we are going next, and getting any tips or suggestions.
Next on our agenda for this area of the western coast was the Fox Glacier, 23km south of Franz-Josef. We hit some “highway” curves that had signs posted for 15km per hour enroute. The hike to the glacier was shorter than Franz-Josef and we thought it was a nicer looking glacier and glacier valley than what we saw at Franz Josef, but only marginally.
Fox Glacier Terminal Face; Gwen by Glacier Pools at Fox Glacier; Ayden, Paul and Claire at Fox Glacier; Fox Glacier Waterfalls
Once we got to the end of the trail which was approximately 100m shy of the terminal face, Gwen jumped the fence and walked up to the glacier, a place out of sight by the waiting Paul, Ayden and Claire. Paul’s ankle was not feeling good and the path looked rugged so he decided to stay put. This fence jumping was not a reckless move on the part of Gwen. When staying at the DOC cottage in Hokitika we met a Kiwi couple who said that it was the thing to do if you wanted to get a better look at the glacier. Indeed, there was a clearly worn path that is used by tour groups that want to give their paying customers a more up close encounter with the glacier. Gwen enjoyed her walk along the trail. Here are some photos only the guided people are supposed to be able to take.
Gwen's Side Trip 4; Gwen's Side Trip 3; Gwen's Side Trip 2; Gwen's Side Trip 1
On the way back to the car, as luck would have it, we ran into the same couple from Hokitika who suggested the fence jumping!! Once again it was great to stop and chat with someone we ‘know’. We told them of Gwen’s little trek by herself and they seemed pleased. After that we headed to the Fox Viewing track. There was a lookout along the road that we stopped at and were surprised at how much more of the glacier you could see from there than what you could see when you were right next to it. It looked like a raging river frozen in time, which in fact it is. A nice view of the glacier! There was a 10 minute hike that took us to another view spot, but the one next to the road was a better view.
Not done with the hiking for the day we made our way to Lake Matheson which is 4km west of Fox Glacier. This is supposed to have a fantastic view of Mt. Cook, NZ’s highest peak, on a clear day. The mountain can be seen with its perfect reflection in the lake. On an overcast day we thought we would try because the clouds move in an out of existence in minutes. It was not to be for us and the clouds remained so we headed to the boutique and café at the car-park. We finally found some New Zealand art that we liked and could afford so we bought it and had it shipped back to Canada. Nana and Papa, its coming to your house so you can pay for the delivery when it gets there . . . Only kidding we paid in advance. We finished by enjoying a little treat at the café while sitting in comfy couches and looking out the glass walls to the fields and low mountains nearby.