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.

Day 18: A very remote New Years Eve

What a lovely surprise this morning: we woke up to a blue sky with a few white clouds in it and the temperature was still a lovely 20 degrees. After a wonderful breakfast, this time with eggs on toast with some smoked salmon on the side, we decided to warm up a little more and lie on the breach for an hour before commencing or trip to Punakaiki.

Right after we lied down on the lovely golden sand of Kaiteriteri the clouds started getting in the way of the sun and the wind picked up. After the hour had passed the temperature had dropped to an uncomfortable level and we decided it was a good time to leave the ocean and head out.

Right before we left we shopped for groceries, as the accommodation we had booked in Punakaiki was to be self catered. As it is the 31st of December today, we figured everything would be closing early. Also, Punakaiki is a really small town, so it would be quite something if there would be anything at all!
We bought ingredients for a homemade burger with chicken, and set out on the 4 hour drive down south.

It turned out that leaving was a good idea: throughout the drive the rains differed from just rain to downright torrential, only to lift minutes prior to us arriving at our destination.
The place would be called Havenz but we are directed to go to the Canoe Building.

Apparently, the guy who owns the houses also built them, but he does not run the day to day business. This means he does the bookings, but does not hand out the keys. This is done by the guy who rents out canoes, and he made a mistake just before we arrived.
He gave our room to the wrong people, and left us with the wrong one.

Usually, this would be quite nice, but as the house we should get was not quite the same as the one we got, a switch had to be made. We should get a room, but instead we got a huge three story house with 5 rooms and enough space to live in.
Unfortunately, we had to leave it and instead got a single room on the ground floor level of a 2 story house down the road.
Not luxuriously upholstered like the other one, no Wi-Fi, no cellphone reception, and most importantly it is a shared place. In total 5 families in one very noisy house. Wonderful.

Let’s just say this was one of the more memorable New Years Eves in quite a while. 🙂
Eerily quiet and no fireworks, with the rain steadily falling: different.
We did however get to see the most beautiful sunset in NZ yet at the Truman Track, a walkway leading from our house connects to the track. That was quite an interesting walk after the sun had set through the dark forest!

Before we checked in at our house, we went to see the two main attractions of Punakaiki: Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes.
These are really picturesque!
The rocks are limestone layers, wedged in between mudstone slabs. The erosion of the mudstone is faster, which shows the layering even better. The blowholes are vents of underground caves where the ocean swells break in. These vents then spew out the air and spray to form nice white columns above the ground.

Also, we walked the Truman Track to two hidden and beautiful coves. If you ever go to Punakaiki: go there!

Tomorrow, we are driving to Fox Glacier. It should take us about 4 hours, let’s see what it is like over there!