Our first stop after leaving Westport was Cape Foulwind, which sounds much scarier than it actually is. Unless you’re scared of long one way hilly walks, in which case it is exactly as scary as it sounds.
Kiwi Experience have a habit of making you do a walk first thing in the morning. They say it’s to get you moving and shake off any hangovers. After travelling with them for a while and noticing there’s always a cafe at the end of the walk, I’ve worked out that it’s really just an excuse for the driver to have a coffee and some peace and quiet.
Anyway we saw seals, which was pretty awesome. I also succumbed to the eternal temptation of coffee and we then carried on. Tonight was our fancy dress party at Lake Mahinapua, so at midday we stopped in the town of Greymouth to create our outfits.
Our theme was animals and after some debate about which direction to go in, we decided on elephant and spider.
4 plastic plates, one mixedgrey paint, numerous plastic cups, 8 googly eyes, a pool noodle and some socks, string and cardboard later, we had our outfits.
Unfortunately no one else has got quite as into it as we accidentally had. There were a lot of cats. Think about Halloween at uni and then think of that, but nobody cares or has spent any money.
Also, while we were making our costumes everyone else was drinking. So we ended up sober, which is a bloody awful way to be when one finds oneself in a pub in the middle of nowhere surrounded by drunkards.
Luckily, Mahinapua was also the scene of an all you can eat dinner and breakfast, so all was not lost. If you ever go to Lake Mahinapua Hotel with Kiwi Experience, take all the effort you would put into your costume, channel it into drinking and you’ll be right.
[Editor’s Note: I can accept no responsibility for anything that may happen as a result of this. I’m just a man with a computer. Drink responsibly – always]
Also, try not to lose your whole group and join a new one the day before. Makes it awfully difficult to integrate.
Our next stop on the tour was Franz Josef, a tiny tourist town with the single attraction of Franz Josef glacier. To be fair to them, if you’re only going to have one interesting thing near your town, Franz Josef Glacier is a pretty good one to have. It is one of only 3 glaciers in the world which descends into a rainforest zone and is supposed to be stunningly beautiful.
I say supposed to be, because we were intending to go and hike on the glacier. Unfortunately our one full free day in Franz Josef was the one where the cloud set in about 8 feet off the ground from 7am and stayed there all day.
So we spent a cloudy day doing very little other than wandering about around Franz Josef township, mostly marvelling at how little there is to do in a town built solely for glacier access when said glacier is inaccessible.
In our case, this was as follows:
- Head to bar with free wifi for coffee
- Take a walk around the one souvenir shop
- Return to the bar with free wifi for nachos
- Buy some stamps
- Hot tub
There have been worse days to do nothing. We left the next morning for Wanaka, with Simon again, on a day of gloriously ironic sunshine.
Simon, being what he is, gleefully pointed out all the helicopters taking people up to the glacier as we left. Thanks Simon.
Sadly for the Franz Josef glacier, due to the earth’s increasing temperatures (and for heaven’s sake let’s not have that argument here), it is retreating at a worryingly fast rate and may disappear within 20 years. That’s rather sad, both for the glacier and for anyone who finds themselves in Franz Josef township in 20 years.
Simon took us onward to Lake Matheson, which on sunny and clear days could provide mirror images of the mountains which surrounded it. New Zealand weather made up for its transgressions in Franz with a perfect day and gave us the perfect demonstration of why this is called a mirror lake:
Interestingly you are able to see yourself in the mirror lake if you look. Unless you’re a vampire. In which case, sorry. That’s awkward.
The drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka turned out to be one of the most stunning of the entire trip so far, with dramatic untouched scenery on every side. If you like pictures, it’s your lucky day, because there were about seven thousand picture stops en route.
With our phone memories full to bursting, we arrived in Wanaka. Despite sounding a bit like a very rude word, it was stunning, a tiny town set on the shores of a glistening glacial lake.
We had thankfully been delivered from the fiery depths of hell that is a Base hostel due to us staying 2 nights in Wanaka and had booked somewhere called Flying Kiwi. It was a really nice small hostel, despite the blatant false advertising, as Kiwis are flightless birds. Yes, I am a laugh.
That night we spent on the beach with Erik and Seb, drinking small amounts of beer due to tight budgets, skimming stones badly due to dislocated shoulders (on my part) and chatting the night away as the sun set and the stars came out. N’aww, isn’t that nice.
The next morning Erik and Seb left us and we had a day to kill in Wanaka. After kayak-gate in Abel Tasman, Katie was desperate to kayak somewhere and we found a place doing double kayaks for reasonable prices. We headed out on to the lake with hope and excitement. And life jackets too. Safety first and all that.
As it was a Monday and coming to the end of summer, the lake was blissfully quiet and we spent two hours paddling around, wearing our shoulders out while enjoying the views. Two hours later, with my back and bum numb and my shoulder positively screaming we headed back in, having thoroughly enjoyed it and got some smashing travelling instagram worthy photos at the same time.
One other happy coincidence at Wanaka was the saving of Katie’s jewellery, which had been stained in the hot tub in Franz Josef. We went into a fancy looking jewellery shop to get it cleaned, which set my money-conscious heart a-racing. I now present three facts:
- Katie’s jewellery was Pandora
- Pandora offer free cleaning of all Pandora jewellery at any stockist across the world
- I like Pandora a lot, now.
That evening we met up with Leanne again to check she was surviving, and had a walk down to Wanaka’s famous tree in the lake. Unfortunately, it was dark, so what we actually saw was a very dark silouhette of a tree. Still, postcards across the town have since confirmed that it is very pretty in the daytime.
We headed back to our hostel for a very late tea and bed. Tomorrow brought our journey to the mysterious, magical land of Queenstown, supposedly the best place on earth. We’ll be the judge of that…
Alex Odlin is running out of ideas for these blog endings. He also probably needs to invest in a camera given the number of blurry iPhone 5C pictures that have ‘graced’ the pages of this blog.
Phone number: What? No, that’s a bit too familiar
Address: Alright now this is getting weird
Mother’s maiden name: Ah, this explains those calls from the Santander Fraud Department
NEXT TIME: MARIO KART!