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Days 234-235 Monday-Tuesday December 10-11 – Greymouth & Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
I woke up a 6:45am on Monday morning to listen to the Packers (American Football) game over the internet. The timing worked out perfectly as the game ended around 10am, just the time we had to vacate the room and get on with our day. I wish I could say that the weather had cleared up, but it was much of the same as Sunday, but we had stayed long enough and decided to move on, albeit with a bit of caution.
Our plan for Monday only called for around two hours of driving, so we weren’t trying to be very ambitious given the weather. The destination for the day was the town of Greymouth, only distinguishable because it is the largest town on the South Island’s west coast. Much of the drive from Westport to Greymouth is along cliff side roads that provide stunning views of the Tasman Sea. At one point along the road, we parked and made a short hike up to a viewpoint. It was truly spectacular!
About thirty minutes outside of Westport we braved the weather conditions to get outside and take in the view. Another thirty minutes beyond that, we came to one of the larger tourist destinations in the area, the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. I know, the name is great and leaves so much to the imagination, but this place was pretty cool.
The pancake rocks and blowholes sit about a ten minute walk from the road along a paved pathway. After about five minutes the path parallels the sea, where because of the weather and high tide, the waves were crashing into the rocks. Just off of the coast were massive formations of layered limestone that has been pressed together over millions of years. The layers are flat and this is why they became known as pancake rocks.
Now as far as blow holes go, we did see plenty of waves crashing against rocks, but the blow holes never seemed to perform for us, even though it was high tide. Even without the blow holes blowing, the stones were surprisingly neat and the walk was attractive and once again gave us spectacular views of the Tasman Sea and coastline.
After another hour of driving we finally reached Westport and found accommodation. Unfortunately, the rain worsened as the day progressed, so we spent most of it indoors. We did take a little time in the afternoon when the rain cleared to take a small walking tour around the town. Upon arriving back at the holiday park, Shawn Reece headed out to the playground where he played a game of Rugby with some of the other kids in the holiday park. He has been dying to play New Zealand’s national game and relished in the experience. Just before the rain came back, we snuck over to the beach adjacent to the holiday park to take a quick walk. We were desperate for some outdoor time, but the rain came back with a vengeance before long.
Tuesday morning we awoke to find out that the weather had turned even nastier. We had planned to visit a replica 1890’s gold town called Shantytown (When I hear the name I always sing the song Funkytown but replace Funkytown with Shantytown. WON’T YOU TAKE ME TO SHANTYTOWN!) which has gold panning and an authentic railroad, but the rain just didn’t allow for that.
The plan for the day was to visit the Franz Josef Glacier two hours south of Greymouth, but once again we would only drive and spend most of the day indoors. We did stop along the road in the small gold rush town of Ross where the visitor’s center put on a short video explaining the history of gold mining in the town.
Tuesday night we settled in the Franz Josef Glacier village near the base of the glacier, but have yet to see it as the clouds and rain will not let up. We are hoping that the rain will clear so we can hike up to the edge of the glacier to take it in before heading south to do a similar walk up to the Fox Glacier. Unfortunately, if the weather doesn’t clear up we may have to skip these things because we only have so much time here. Stay tuned to see how we fared.
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The Coomer Family
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