Rainforests, Glaciers, and Pancakes (Oh My)
Kia ora again from New Zealand! We've traveled some 420 kilometers since we last met. As the title of this blog implies, it has taken us through some very interesting environments and on some really exciting adventures!
Admittedly, I didn't know too much about the climate of this country before we left home. I was expecting it to be beautiful, but I had no idea how amazingly unique it would be. We've had to resist stopping at every lookout and walking down every scenic trail or we'd never make it to our destination.
Right after we left you at the end of the last blog, we traveled north along the west coast through a road set in a valley between two mountain ranges called Haast pass, named after the first European to come through the area. The drive itself should have taken about three and a half hours, but because of all the amazing scenery it took us about nine hours to cover the distance. Not that I'm complaining!
These views are a dime a dozen
This entire area (and I believe all of southwest New Zealand, for that matter) is rainforest. It seems a bit out of place being in a cold weather climate, as we often feel like we're somewhere like Costa Rica - but without all the heat! The area is also known for a lot of rain (hence rainforest), but we've been pretty lucky so far with the weather.
About half way up the west coast we stopped for a few days at Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Nestled in the mountains and retreating rather rapidly, they tend to hide in the clouds and on our first day in the area that's precisely what happened. With the road to Fox Glacier closed due to a landslide, our attempt at hiking to the face of Franz Josef Glacier was also thwarted, but by a short but heavy downpour. Feeling defeated, we headed back to the backpacker lodge to lick our wounds and dry our clothes.
Fortunately, on day two we awoke to clear skies and sunshine. Since we couldn't get close to Fox Glacier, we were told about some amazing viewpoints to view the glacier from. Seeing the ice sitting between the snow-capped mountains was simply incredible. We've already seen so many of God's wonders on this trip, but this view definitely comes in near the top (pun intended).
We spent the rest of the day hiking around Franz Josef Glacier. With this big ice cube as Ethan calls it actually accessible, we were able to hike to within a half mile and really see the glacier up close. Other hikes that day took us to some amazing viewpoints of the glacier, the valley it has carved out over time, and some stunning pools that the glacier left behind on its retreat.
Franz Josef Glacier up close
Tired from all the hikes and a bit chilled from being so close to the ice, we continued north along the coast and stopped for a few days in the coastal town of Hokitika. (By the way, if you haven't noticed, they like to use really interesting names here.) One of the highlights of our time in this area was a visit to the Pancake Rocks.
Made out of rock and decidedly inedible, the Pancake Rocks were formed underwater as layers of sediment settled and were pushed upwards by coastal currents. The results are pillars of rock with obvious sediment layers - and they very well resemble a large stack of pancakes.
If that fact alone wasn't cool enough, the combination of high tide, crashing waves, and trapped air create massive blow holes as the compressed air pushes the water up and out of natural vents in the rock. The effect is a resounding boom as water shoots high into the air before raining back down on the ground and unsuspecting tourists.
Unfortunately for you all, these natural wonders aren't easily captured in photo or video, but since I wasn't given an expensive camera as a parting gift I did the best I could. Taking a break from natural wonders, next we head to the city of Christchurch on the east coast of the country. One of the biggest cities in the country, it still met its match 8 years ago as an earthquake decimated the city. Stay tuned to find out what it looks like today!