Punakaiki is beautiful. After a quick breakfast, we toured the pancake rocks and blowholes. The deep bass tones as the waves smashed in between the rocks emanated throughout the landscape, giving the sunny morning an ominous tinge. The information center offered free wifi, so we basked in the sun for a few minutes to catch up on emails and check in with parental units.
After a quick pit stop in Greymouth for groceries, we picked up two hitchhikers on our way out of town. Camille and Pandaire were well-travelled sisters from France. Having them along for the two-hour drive to Frank Josef glacier was a delight, especially for Tiffanie who got to play show-and-tell from the passenger seat.
The Franz Josef Glacier hike, and its namesake, were jaw-dropping, highly recommend. The hike started in the jungle and ended a vast, rocky flood plane. Like so many other glaciers around the world, Franz Josef is dying, thanks to an increase in average temperatures. It felt like those of us on the trail were making this journey to pay our final respects to a beloved old relative in the hospital. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the glacier would still exist in ten years. Next to such a massive structure, we humans look insignificant and it’s hard to believe that something so small can impact something so majestic and timeless. Now writing this, I feel like an asshole, what with the excessive volume of gas and jet fuel that will be expended during World Trip 2017. Currently making plans to do something to mitigate when I get home–may need to plant an entire forest.
Franz Josef the town is yet another bustling tourist trap with limited camping options. We decided to head further down Highway 6 to see if we could find a place to stay for the night. Lo and behold, a bar-slash-club-slash-hotel-slash-hostel entitled Pods In Fox Glacier allowed us to camp on the tiny patch of grass in their parking lot. Talk about stumbling distance! We made friends with two Australian helicopter pilots and a few girls from China on work visas. Alas, we are getting old and stumbled across the gravel lot to our tent long before they started playing bad techno on the dance floor.
Little did we know how much we needed solid rest that night..