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Pancake rocks, Jungle and Glaciers – oh my!

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Pancake rocks

Pancake rocks

Last I left off, we were enjoying the rainy sludge that Punakaiki had to offer. The rain did not let up that night, so we decided to take a gamble and try seeing the pancake rocks the next morning. After spending quite some time in the van reading and such, Scott had another spazz – the lack of human contact was getting to him again and he had a bit of a flip out over a bowl of soup…he wanted to go to the town bar (of course – do we see a pattern here with this boy?!). So, off we went to spend some time in the bar.

Punakaiki is a small town with all of 3 streets. Needless to say, the town bar was interesting. Upon entering, we were greeted by a nice warm fire (which felt good against our sopping wet feet and pants which were a result of us trying to hang a tarp in the pouring rain….to no success). We started off the evening with a glass of wine and beer. Those went down so well that we decided we needed chocolate dessert and more drinks…and finally…nachos. We sat there for hours, talking and playing cards and getting warm. It was awesome! There was also a big map on the wall for tourists to mark their hometown. No one had put Edmonton up yet, and aside from 4 dots in Alaska, we are the most Northerly representatives! Woot!

Surge pool

Surge pool

As we’re sitting in the bar, a couple that we’ve seen quite a few times walk in. We first met them in our most northern stop Paihia at our campground – they are in a yellow escape van with wild west paintings on the side. It has been really weird seeing them around so much! They are from Holland and are basically doing the same route as us, so we’re confident we will continue to see them. Small world it is, really….

So after our fun night at the bar, we woke up the next morning to more rain. Knowing we had no choice but to brave the pancake rock walk in the sopping rain, we put on our best gear and set out. The pancake rocks were amazing – scientists still aren’t sure how they formed, because they are limestone that has been built up in intricate, even layers to the point that they are now many meters tall. The crazy part is that because they are made of limestone, they are now being disintegrated by the elements, including the rushing sea water and torrential rain. So bizarre. Unfortunately, we were there at low tide, so we didn’t get to see the blowholes in action, but saw the pools and holes where the water rushes up through the rocks high into the air. It would have been neat to see, but oh well.

Us soaking by the pancake rocks

Us soaking by the pancake rocks

Back on the road again we went, soaked to the bone in the van with the heat blasting. It took a few hours to dry off. We stopped at a Subway for lunch (against Scott’s will) because I have this thing where I need to go to fastfood chain restaurants in other countries to compare. Well, Scott ended up being happy about this, because Subways in NZ have LAMB subs. Yes, lamb! So, we split a lamb sub, complete with mint sauce (you can also get guacamole on subs here, but we didn’t think it would go) and it was delicious. We might have a new addiction.

It took us a few hours of driving through what is apparently the most gorgeous scenery in the world. Unfortuantely, because it is so socked in, all we can see is clouds hanging low in the sky and grayness. We are sure it would have been gorgeous to see the west coast drive, but we just couldn’t see anything. After a few hours, we arrived in what is apparently glacier country. Again, we could see nothing. We are sure that amidst the clouds there were beautiful white capped mountains, but we had to use strong visual imagination to try to get that one. As we were driving close to the Fox Glacier, we saw one vague snow capped mountain in the distance, and so at the sign, we took the detour to drive up to it. Now, this glacier was amazing. We are literally right next to the ocean at sea level, driving through sub-tropical jungle, when we drive almost right up to the damn thing. How a glacier exists in such a mild temperate climate next to the ocean in the jungle is a mystery to both Scott and I. Anyway, we walked a 2 minute walk up to view the glacier from a wee distance to a sign that said the trail was closed due to flooding and unstable ground. Scott, seeing a large group out in the distance and people hopping the fence, figured it was safe for us to go. I was not so eager (I am a clutz at the best of times and don’t need difficult natural disasters to assist me in hurting myself). Alas, we started the trek through the muddy riverbed up to the glacier. There were rocks and chunks of ice everywhere – it was clear it had been flooded not to long before our arrival…and I was a bit concerned about flash floods since it was still overcast and somewhat rainy. But, Scott kept going. We had to cross a pretty bad stream (and not having hiking boots or poles this was diffult). I was about to give up and turn back because I’m not goood at jumping from rock to rock (I once broke my tooth making a small jump from a trampoline to a deck)…but a family with two small kids (including a shreiking girl) managed to do it, so I thought “what the hell.” I managed across and we made it pretty close to the glacier. You can take guided tours up onto the glacier which would have been cool, but we just walked around it.

The Fox Glacier

The warnings by the Fox Glacier

After an hour or so of poking around, we headed back to the car. There was a bird hanging out in the parking lot that was really beautiful (I love the wildlife here), so we spent some time checking him out before driving away.

We made camp last night at a flooded lake about 40 km north of Haast. Another cheap campground for us – but this time the midges (like small fruitflies that bite like mothereffers) were in abundance from all the rain we’ve been having. They made life somewhat miserable for us as Scott tried to cook a stirfry while I passed him implements through the window, but we managed. We both had a difficult sleep due to the painful bites we had received through the supper ordeal.

Today we’re making the harrowing drive through Haast Pass (I’m thinking it’s like the Roger’s Pass on steriods) to Wanaka. It’s only a 150 km drive that apparently takes 3.5 hours. Yikes. We’re gearing up for what we hope will be 4 or 5 days of action-packed adventure including sledging (white water rafting on your belly), bungy jumping, sky diving and hiking. I’m sure we’re going to be zonked (and broke) after all this, but Scott needs his adrenaline fix. Too many hours spent in the van makes him a cranky boy. Pray for us that the rain lets up, but the forecast isn’t looking too awesome. Damn Montgomerie rain curse…I’m debating finding another partner over this, since I had never seen as much rain in the world as I have since being with Scott. Ugh.

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