Wild West Coast…er…more like Wild Wet Coast

After a brief stopover in Christchurch to pick up a car, we headed northwest towards the west coast of the South Island.  Grey, ominous clouds began to gather the closer we got to the coast.  The temperature dropped and we wondered where the 80 degree weather of the North Island had gone.  I’m sure it didn’t help that our destination for the day was Cape Foulwind (more like Cape Foulweather).  Huge waves crashed against the rocks at edge of the cape.  Indifferent to the weather, a colony of seals and pups napped in the sheltered cape.

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Waves crashing against the rocks at the edge of the seal colony at Cape Foulwind.

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A sea pup nursing at Cape Foulwind.

We continued south to Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park, home of the Pancake Rocks.  The Pancake rocks are  eroded limestone that exhibit ‘pancake’-layering.  There are also several blowholes that erupt during high tide.

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The Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki.

We continued to head south to camp in Hokitika as the rain began to fall.  The rain pounded the tent all night, but was somewhat soothing to fall asleep to.  Until the morning….We suddenly awoke and realized we were floating in about 2 inches of water.  We had unknowingly set up the tent in a small depression and we were flooded (see video).

The rain continued to pour all day.  Being from Portland, we are quite use to rain but neither of us had seen rain like this in a long time. The main reason we wanted to go to Hokitika was to try and collect Pounamu, or “New Zealand jade” on the beach.  So we donned our rain gear and set out for the beach.  After hours of searching and many rocks collected, we went into one of the shops that sells Pounamu to see if we had found any elusive jade.  We ended up only finding one piece and Kate bought a Pounamu necklace from the shopkeeper for her help.

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The awesome weather at the beach at Hokitika.

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Pounamu or jade found on the beach at Hokitika (left) and a carved piece of Pounamu (right).

The ‘lovely’ weather continued for 2 days, but we sough refuge in the rainforest next to our camp. Dan took a short video of the greenery that surrounded us on our hike.

After 2 days of pouring rain, the skies cleared and we headed south to see glaciers in the Southern Alps.  Our first stop was to Franz Josef Glacier.  We hiked along the Waiho River to a viewpoint of the terminus of the glacier.

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Franz Josef Glacier

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Waiho River and Franz Josef Glacier (upper right).

We headed 30 minutes south towards our second glacier, Fox Glacier.  We decided to camp along the coast which provided epic views of Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps from afar.  On the way to our campsite, we spotted a pair of Keas, the world’s only alpine parrot.  Keas are known for their curiosity and have been known to investigate and destroy any items left unattended, including hiking boots, backpacks, and even windshield wipers of cars.

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Fox Glacier

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A cheeky Kea

While the weather had improved, the sea still raged and Dan filmed the waves near our campsite near Gillespies Beach.  No beach walking for us this day.

We hiked to a viewpoint of the Fox Glacier the next day and then headed back to camp to hike to a seal colony nearby.  The track crossed a quiet tidal estuary.  When we hiked in the tide was coming in and the water was a teal blue.  We hiked for several hours through mud to reach the “seal colony” but when we arrived there were no seals.  We hiked the muddy trail back to the estuary where the tide was now receding and the brown tannins (dissolved from the rainforest plants) in the river water now engulfed the bay.  While the seal colony was a bust, the changes in the estuary during the tides was really cool.

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Fox Glacier

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The estuary as the tide was coming in.

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Estuary as the tide was receding. Here the brown tannis in the river are pushing back against the blue-green waters of the sea.

We left the wild, wet weather of the coast and headed inland towards Lake Wanaka (rhymes with Monica).  On the way we passed stunning water falls and hiked to the glacier fed waters of the Blue Pools.  Dan decided to take a dip in the Blue Pools but he only lasted a few seconds before the cold water forced him out.

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Blue Pools

We camped along the shores of Lake Wanaka that night.  A beautiful lake surrounded by the Southern Alps.  We finally found the sun again 🙂

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Lake Wanaka

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Lake Wanaka at sunrise

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