day nineteen: october 18, 2015: fox glacier
From Wanaka to Fox Glacier, we made a few stops along our drive to check out Thunder Creek Falls and Bruce Bay. No one really knows why, but there are a bunch of white rocks on the road, where people have written on the rocks and have stacked them all together.
We dropped into Fox Glacier Guiding to get any last-minute information on our heli-hike tomorrow. They let us know that it would be all dependent on the weather and they would know five minutes before we were to check-in in the morning. No flights went out today, oh no! Cross your fingers that we're able to go up!
We made our way to the bottom of the glacier and did the Fox Glacier Valley Walk. Due to the rain, the track was closed but we saw people walking back, so we decided to try it out. It started to drizzle a bit...we kept walking...then it really started to pour, so we turned around and made our way back to the camper. It would be an understatement to say that we got wet - we were drenched!
day twenty: october 19, 2015: fox glacier heli-hike
Green light! Not long after we arrived to the Fox Glacier Guiding office, we got the green light that the heli-hike was a go. They did let us know that the guides were concerned that it would rain while we were up there and we still had the opportunity to back out. Of course, we were in! A little rain never hurt anyone! We got outfitted in rain pants, hiking socks and boots and we were split up into 4 groups for the helicopter rides up to the glacier. This was my first time in a helicopter and Jonathan's second. It was a pretty awesome ride, especially since I got to sit upfront with the pilot and take in all the views!
Once on the glacier, we put crampons on our boots, which are spikes to help grip onto the ice. With our guide, Ross, and a group of six others, we spent about two hours exploring the glacier. Out of the 3,000 glaciers in New Zealand, Fox and Franz Josef Glacier are the most accessible on both islands. The Fox Glacier is about 13km in length and we were able to explore just a small section of the lower half, where it's constantly changing and ice caves and ice arches are forming. Before we knew it, we were back to where we started and back on the helicopters to town. I could've stayed for longer -- it was soo cool!
Usually we wouldn't just drink water without filtering it or using a steripen, but there's just something about glacial water and ice that makes it seem like the cleanest water/ice ever, so on the advice of our guide, we all stopped and had a drink. Pretty tasty water if you ask me!
Our guide explained to us that the sheets of ice that form in a glacier are slowly compressed and over time are pushed together like a stack of paper. As they are compressed more and more, the sheets separate and create these compression arches and ice caves. Pretty cool how science works.
Walking around the glacier you notice pools and streams forming within the glacier. Pretty much every spot where water has formed there are dust, dirt and rocks. These dark spots absorb light/heat from the sun and begin melting their way thru the ice.
The weather seemed slightly better than yesterday, so we went back to do the Fox Glacier Valley Track. This time, we were able to view the bottom of the glacier and snap a few photos. It was interesting to learn about how the glacier has been retreating (or melting) a lot more over the past couple of years...so the glacier actually came up to a lot of the areas we were walking on.
day twenty-one: october 20, 2015: whataroa river + hokitika gorge + punakaiki rocks and blowhole
Today was mostly a travel day, as we made our way from Fox Glacier to the Punakaikai Blowholes. We made a quick stop at a few places and took a quick walk to check out the Whataroa River and Hokitika Gorge. Whataroa River was this amazing blue color, but Hokitika Gorge was wow, just wow! The water was this insane milky, opaque blue that you couldn't help but stare and take hundreds of photos of. It was similar to Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki but it was pretty cool to have a mini version with all of the surrounding scenery. And yes ... that's the real color of the water in a lot of places here, no photo editing needed.
**Small side note ... we had been waiting to dump our grey water (this is all the water we use in the camper, that's not the toilet) until we found a dump site where we could just drive over it instead of hooking up the hose. Well we found one, and here's I am letting our RV take a long needed leak. - Jonathan
Timing worked out perfectly and we got to Punakaiki Rocks and Blowholes, a.k.a. Pancake Rocks, at high-tide. It was pretty suspenseful, waiting for the blowhole to erupt and then all of a sudden, you hear this loud whoosh and water sprays up into the air and you hear everyone's camera clicking away, while they ooh and ahh. You'll see in the pictures below how exactly the Pancake Rocks got its name. The hard and soft layers were created by strong water pressure from the ocean, then over time, rain, wind and seawater sculpted these crazy shapes.
day twenty-two: october 21, 2015: greymouth
A trip to Pancake Rocks wouldn't be complete without eating some pancakes for breakfast! We made a quick stop at a local cafe and they were suprisingly yummy but just a little $$$. Guess that's what you get for being right across from the Pancake Rocks! Since the weather was a bit rainy and cold, we decided to head to Greymouth and have a down day. And yes, we made our way to the local library and took advantage of their free internet. Ha! And after hoarding free internet, we will probably spend the afternoon/evening at the local movie theater watching The Martian and Sicario.