From Christchurch across the mountains through Arthur's Pass to Franz Joseph Glacier and Greymouth
03.03.2010 - 05.03.2010 22 °C
When we checked out the apartment we went into town to pick up the photos of my skydiving. We got the shuttle to the airport and caught a flight back to Christchurch. As soon as we landed we collected a rental car (pre-booked by Aideen) and drove west across the mountains and through Arthur’s Pass towards the coast and on down south to the town of Franz Joseph (not far from one of N Zealand’s most popular glaciers). We had an apartment booked for the night just outside the town – not quite the same as the previous one but good enough for an overnight stay after 5 hours of driving. The scenery through the mountain pass was incredible – alongside a wide riverbed in a massive alluvial plain and rich pasture land between the mountain ranges. Most of the mountain sides were heavily forested with conifers from their peaks to their bases. We also saw some huge water sprayers like those in the north island. We saw our first train in N Zealand (a passenger one); shortly afterwards we nearly ran into a freight train at a level crossing – we just made it across just before it whizzed by with the driver hooting at us. We stopped briefly at Arthur’s Pass village for a snack – tourist prices as it had the monopoly being the only village for miles.
When we checked into our apartment we had a late night meal in the centre of Franz Joseph and watched the 20/20 cricket before turning in.
Thomas & I were up bright and early ready for the pick up for the trek to Franz Joseph Glacier. However no one arrived; we waited a half an hour before we phoned to find out the reason for the delay – they had forgotten about us but said they would be with us in five minutes. They apologized, brought us into their base in town and kitted us out for the trek. They nearly stopped me from taking part because f my hip; I however persuaded them that any trekking would not be a problem for me. We got on a coach which was full and waiting for us. The coach took us on a short journey towards the glacier and we trekked 2.5.km to its base. We climbed the moraine hill - a steep incline - and put on our crampons before going onto the ice. We climbed up steep faces, over crevices and through gulleys until we reached about 650 metres where we rested for about 10 minutes. We did not have enough time to climb higher so we started to descend. It was easier going down but I was quite tired after the 8km round trek. Catherine was waiting for us at the base station, so we handed in our kit and had a well-earned coffee.
We drove to Greymouth, picking up a German hitch-hiker on the way – hitch-hiking is fairly popular in N. Zealand. He had been in NZ since last September and loves it here; he survives by working on fruit farms plus other small cash jobs. We dropped him off in Greymouth; he was going further north. After a meal in an Irish restaurant/bar, I went for a tour around Monteith’s Brewery, while Catherine and Thomas browsed around the town. There were about 15 others on the tour; though the tour itself was fairly mundane the beer tasting afterwards was very interesting. We tasted eight different brews with our guide giving us some background information on each one. The cider was an unusual clear one, unlike those in the UK, and was tasty. After the beer tasting we were free to pull whatever beer we liked. It was like a free-for-all. Catherine and Thomas arrived to collect me just as I was settling in.