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Day 21 – Greymouth to Franz Josef

November 5, 2012

Our journey today would take us 170k further down the west coast of the South Island to Franz Josef where we plan to stay for a couple of days to explore the area. It was a fairly uneventful journey with the Tasman Sea on our right and the Southern Alps on our left. The sea was much calmer than yesterday and quite blue. There was little in the way of mountainous driving only one significant pass though the descent was rather twisting with a number of ‘s’ bends which saw us literally doing 360 degree turns.

Our coffee stop was at place called Harihari one of the many one street towns that we have driven through over the past 18 days. We had a rather delicious cake which was a mixture of bran and muesli topped with a butte icing – very moorish but we were good and only shared one piece.

Our purpose for stopping off at Franz Josef was to see the glacier – so after checking in at our appropriately named Mountain View Holiday Park we set off in search of the glacier. The Franz Josef glacier is one of 2 with a 35km of each other. The other is the Fox Glacier. For some years the glacier has been retreating, however in 1985 it began advancing again. We had about a 15 min drive before we set off on foot for a 45 minute walk to the base of the glacier. This walk was amazing as you really get to experience the scale of the breadth of what the glacier would have been like tens of thousands of years ago as the walk is on the glacial valley. All along this walk there were large and small waterfalls streaming down from the mountains that rose above these were at times really spectacular.

We were able to get within 500m of the end of the glacier – its depth is enormous! It’s hard to describe in words the awesomeness of this part of God’s creation. The faces are roped off to prevent people being caught in icefalls and river surges. After spending around 15 minutes at this veiwing point we made the return journey back to the car park. Whilst the temperature was around 13c it was quite warm walking so I decided it would be good to cool down a little under one of the waterfalls. The water streaming down was powerful and very very cold – I think some of the people around thought I was mad standing under this torrent of cascading water but it was a great experience (and I really don’t care what people think anyway!!).

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