What’s the first thing that springs to mind when I say West Coast? Ok, probably California. But, unlike that warm, sunny, American expanse, the West Coast in New Zealand is generally referring to the section on the South Island along Highway 6 – from Kahurangi National Park all the way down to Mount Aspiring National Park. Renowned for its glaciers, mountains, national forests, and, of course, coastal views, I’m sure it was very nice, except for the fact it rained. Every. Freaking. Day. Which, ok, I admit it is exposed to the sea, so, you know, weather. But seriously! Buckets of rain all the time. And misty drizzles when it wasn’t pouring. I’d greatly wanted to go heli-hiking on Franz Josef Glacier, but it kept getting cancelled due to the weather. Eventually I just moved on because there was no forecasted break in the monotonous rain.
Hokitika was a cute little town, but I spent a good portion of it in the library on the free wifi plotting out my course since outside it was rain rain rain. I’d been hoping to learn glass blowing here, as it’s renowned for that art form, but had to settle instead for watching the master blowers at work…(For once I’m not even trying to be dirty)…Hokitika is also known for its Greenstone (re: Jade) production. There were quite a number of high end shops for such a small place, but as I’m not overly drawn to Jade, I left without picking anything up.
A brief drive outside of Hokitika is a river that is supposed to be brilliantly blue from the minerals – there are quite a number of Blue Pools/Lakes/Streams in NZ, and I always love to see them as they are quite magnificent. However, due to all the rain, it was just brown.
Things weren’t a complete loss, though, as rain and light can make for some spectacular scenery.
I was keen to see the glaciers, but upon arriving, was rather disappointed by how receded they had become due to global warming, human intervention, erosion, etc. etc. Franz Josef was a cool walk on the glacial floor, but Fox Glacier was a complete waste of time.
You can see how much the glacier has receded over the years – it used to cover the valley floor, and indeed would’ve reached far past where I took this picture!
While I was less than impressed by the glaciers, I did manage to catch 30 minutes of good weather while walking around Lake Mathieson and snapped this reflection of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Unlike the many Blue Pools around NZ, Lake Mathieson is a dark brown, almost black, colour resulting from organic matter of the forest floor that makes it reflective like a mirror.
Deciding to peace out of the dreary weather laden Glacial Region, Shadowfax and I hit the road in the rain. You know, thank musicians for creating great songs perfect for road tripping! Good tunes make drives more fun and relaxed, and also less scary when the weather is poor. And if you’re traveling solo, you don’t feel so alone when belting along with your favorite songs 🙂
When I was in Hanmer Springs, I’d heard about a fish-n-chips shop in Haast that I absolutely had to try. Haast is basically a small junction at the bottom of Highway 6, and the last place to get petrol if you’re heading North towards the glaciers until you get into the Fox Glacier township. It really doesn’t have much going for it, and the fish-n-chips shops I saw didn’t seem to be anything special. So I asked around and someone said it was probably The Craypot I was looking for. With the shoddy reception, I was able to pull it up on my phone and get directions – turns out it was a 45 minute drive right along the coastline. While the weather was quite bad and nearly off-putting, I had my stomach set on some damn good fish-n-chips! Kids, it was a harrowing drive in that rain, and I honestly almost turned back. However, I stayed the course and made it an hour before closing (hah! Didn’t even realize they were only open for a few hours each afternoon – thankfully they WERE open, otherwise I REALLY woulda been upset). The Craypot is a reconditioned trailer right next to the wharf. No one lives here except the crayfishermen and the ladies who run The Craypot. It’s a bitch to get to. But, Kittens, it was the best damn fish-n-chips I’ve had yet.