Day 21: Taking the looooong way around

OK, first things first.
I am not where I should be right now, but we are fine.

We should be in Wanaka, in a motel over there and should also have been spending the afternoon walking alongside the shores of magnificent Lake Wanaka. Instead, we spent the afternoon, and much of the rest of the day, driving like madmen to get somewhere else than where we started from.
This day started like many others before it, with us sitting at a table having breakfast while enjoying the rains falling down on the roof.
This day however was different, we were going to hop over the mountains to the other side, and would do so on Highway 6. There has been a slip, where part of the mountain started sliding down and that took away the highway at a place called Diana Falls. This is on the Haast Pass, one of two passes useable to get of the other side of the Southern Alps in NZ.
The problem with this slip is, that is gets more unstable the harder it rains. And with the weather we’ve seen the last few days, it would not be good.

This morning, the road remained closed. It closes every night at 7, and reopen sat 8 in the morning. Today, it did not.
The website of the traffic agency said they’d update the status around 10. The rains started lifting at fox Glacier, and we took the chance of just going to Haast to see if the road had opened by then.
Unfortunately, it did not. We arrived at Haast around 10:30 only to find that they’d issue another status update around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.
That is way too late! If the pass opened right then and there, we would make it safely and timely to the other side and to Wanaka, but if it didn’t, we would be stuck in Haast. And you do not want to get stuck in Haast, as the town is tinier than tiny. And it certainly has not got enough rooms to put all the stranded tourists in.

So, we made the decision to not wait for the update, and leave Haast to go to the one other pass: Arthur’s Pass. The unfortunate thing is that route would take us 12 to 14 hours to complete, instead of the 2 through the currently closed pass.
So instead of driving the final 141 km, we embarked on a massive detour. We didn’t even start counting the kilometres of the detour, all we know is that the final tally for today is 741km, 600 extra.
And here we are.
In a town called Geraldine, about halfway to Glenorchy, which is where we should be tomorrow.

The B&B we found is actually really great, and the hosts are wonderful! It is called The Downs B&B, and is in Geraldine Downs. Tomorrow, we have to drive about 6 hours to Glenorchy, and by then our itinerary should be fine. We would have connected back up, and continue from there.
Let’s say today was quite interesting!

By the way, the Fish and Chips were amazing, and the contents of the fridge are complementary with the stay. 🙂

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Day 20: (Not) trotting like a fox

Yay, more rain!
It might sound a little boring, but there it is. Consecutive day of rain número 10 has started, and we do not like it.
Also, the people at Fox Glacier Guiding don’t like this amount of rain and have cancelled all tours which are going onto the glacier itself.
Instead, they are offering a walk to the Glacier Terminal Face, which is the end of the glacier itself. You’ll be able to walk to it and check out the awesomeness of the icy highway from a small distance, while standing in the rain.
We opted not to do this instead of our own tour, and received a form for refunding of the tour.

Ok. Our daytime activities are now limited to virtually nothing. Everything here is outdoors, and usually takes longer than a few hours.
We don’t like getting soaked, which leaves only a very few activities.
As the rain lifted a little bit, we decided to ignore the weather and walk around Lake Matheson. Being really nearby and with a total time outdoors of about 90 minutes, we figured it would be ok.
And, we also borrowed a big umbrella each from the Lodge, to ensure we’d stay dry.

The walk is really nice, and we were lucky enough to stay mostly dry! We did not however see the surrounding mountains, as the clouds were hanging too low. After this, we drove to the face of the glacier ourselves.
The guided tour takes you to about 100 metres from the glacier, while the general public is only allowed at about 600 metres distance. The difference is negligible, especially under these conditions as the majority of the glacier and mountains are covered by clouds.
This walk also is lovely, and should be repeated with better weather!

After our dinner, we looked up and spotted two things: no rain, and the clouds had lifted just enough to show the snowy caps of Mount Cook and the glacier in its entirety!
Like madmen, we drove to Lake Matheson, and I even ran to a vista point called Reflection Point. This lookout shows the high mountains and sometimes their reflections in Lake Matheson. The stuff postcards are made from!
The pictures are good, but I was a little late to the party as the clouds already started rolling in from the left. The views are still great though!

Tomorrow, we leave this place already and head for Wanaka. We are too afraid to check the weather reports, so we’ll let faith decide for us.

Day 19: First day of 2014

Again a rainy start of the day here in Punakaiki: we woke up to the thunderous sound of the rain falling in these rainforest like surroundings.

Happy new year by the way! These warm holidays are messing our feeling for time up. Christmas was weird, and now New Years is also a little off.

As we are going to sit in our car for the majority of the day, so all is not lost, but the count of consecutive days of rain has been upped once more, now to 9. After we ate our breakfast of hamburger buns with jam and bananas, we started packing for the journey only to find that the rain had temporarily stopped to let us put the bags in the car.
Also, we decided to pay Pancake Rocks another visit as the sun would be in a much nicer spot for photography. Yesterday, it was directly in our face and quite low already due to the late hour in the day we were there, now the sun was going to be in our back (and hidden behind some clouds) but the views would be nicer like that.

The drought persisted for about another half hour, which was just enough for us to walk the park and take the pictures we wanted to take with the right lighting conditions. Yay!
We quickly returned to the car as the clouds started packing again, and with the slight tinkle of the first raindrops on the windshield we set about to get to Fox Glacier.

During the complete 5 hour trip, it has rained non stop. As driving in those conditions is quite tiring, we swapped drivers every one in a while, just to keep moving and be safe on the road.
Fox Glacier is named after the glacier with the same name in the vicinity, and consists of a few hotels, lodges, motels and B&B’s, together with the companies that do excursions on the glacier itself and helicopter tours for the mountains nearby. Of those, Mount Cook is the largest and the one that feeds the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.

As the rains are still falling without stopping. We decided it was not time for us to do a short walk in the vicinity of the Lodge, but instead we went about 20kms back up the road (Highway 6) to Franz Josef where the rarest of all kiwis is on display.
Situated in a Wildlife centre, there is an open facility where the flightless nocturnal birds can be viewed during daytime as the rhythm in the display is reversed for our viewing pleasure.
They have a total of 3 Rowi Kiwis scurrying about in the pen, and about 20 eggs still incubating. Also, a lot of young kiwis were still there as the were not yet old enough to be returned to the wild. With about 375 Rowi kiwis still living in the wild, the species is on the brink of extinction and that is where this little sanctuary comes into play.
Viewing the birds was wildly expensive but it is for a good cause, so it is definitely money well spent.

Tomorrow, we are destined to go for a walk on the Fox Glacier, but the forecast says it’ll rain the entire day, with the winds growing stronger and the rain becoming heavier. All in all, about 200mm of rain is going to fall on Fox Glacier tomorrow, which is a lot by any standard.
But with the area experiencing about 5100 mm of rain each year, it just is what it is.