Leaving Christchurch we made for the #73 and stopped in Sheffield for their “world famous” hot pies. 5 star pie for sure. Today we must have seem several hundred bikes coming towards us over the pass and we found out why late. There was a biker/music festival on this weekend and they are headed home this Sunday.
We stopped at several view points along the alpine pass and hoped/feared to see the mischievous Kea. This is an alpine parrot that is only found here on the South island of NZ. They are very intelligent and very naughty. They have been known to pick the rubber out of car windshields, bend aerials, eat hand grips, and generally cause damage just for the fun of it. We did see several flying and one briefly landed on the railing at the “death corner” look out, but when we stopped a few km farther down the road one was walking across the parking lot as we parked and hopped up into a tree. It is 32 degrees today and I think it is to hot for them to get up to any destruction.
Arriving to the city we stopped for supplies and then decided on the Top 10 park that is on the beach. The beaches here on the south island are mostly rocky and at least on the west coast teeming with sand flies. These and tiny black biting flies that leave large itchy welts that only get worse if you scratch them and turn into red sores. Luckily there are not too many here. What is more worrisome here is how much everything costs. Generally the price is double what it s at home and this makes NZ the most expensive place we have been. A small bottle of coke in a store is 4$, gas is 225/l, and camping is 20-25$/person per night. We are very lucky to have been hosted so much.
This camp ground is on the sea, but there is a very high hedge that acts as a wind break and this means the large grass area for the tents is nice and sheltered. We set up camp and you can see out time lapse. The Top 10 is a little more than the private sites, but they have very nice showers, hot water, full kitchens, BBqs, and wifi.
While we were cooking our dinner we ran into cyclists Rich and Karlene from New Hampshire. They ride their tandem bike somewhere in the world for 3 month every winter. That is not the most crazy thing. What is super crazy is that we met them before in Lake Arenal Costa Rica when we were both at the same B&B in 2013! Small world indeed. They are also headed down the east coast, but what we will do in 2 days will take them 12!
We set off south from Greymouth on the 6 and detoured in to Hokitiki the centre of green stone for NZ and Sara bought herself a small piece for a souvenir.
Next we continued with very little traffic along the coast and then the road goes inland towards the mountains. We stopped in Hari Hari for a snack.
Here we first turned off to the Franz J glacier road. You can park here and then walk up about 500 m to the viewing platform to see the rapidly receding glacier.
It is only another 24 km to Fox Glacier township. This town does not seem to have a purpose except for tourism. There is a gas station, a general store, restaurants, accommodation, and helicopter tour companies. The camping spot here is next to one of these and so you hear the constant take off and landing of the glacier tour flights.
We just set up the tent and took off anyway It is a 6 km drive to the parking for the Fox glacier and then a 1 hour round trip walk to where the face of the glacier can now be seen.
It has a large ice cave at the base. Arriving back to the bike we met Ronnie and Antoinet from Australia (born in Freeland), who have a fiends bike here to tour for 7 weeks. We finally left the glacier parking after 5 and raced back to cook a quick pasta dinner so we could be back to again before 7. We rode 6 km over to the Matheson Lake parking and then walked the 1 km over to the Jetty view point.
This is the location for the now iconic photo of the reflection of mounts Cook and Tasman in the near mirror like surface of the lake. When we arrived we were the first there with a tripod and got the best spot. The entire mountain range was enveloped in cloud and there was a brisk breeze ruffling the surface of the lake. We got lucky however and 20 minutes later the clouds cleared and we had a spectacular view of the snow capped peaks. Even better after another 20 minutes the lake was almost calm except for the bubbles from some amphibians causing a few ripples. The forecast had said the skies would clear at 2 am and that they would be clear all night and especially at 4 am when he milky way would be just over the peaks for the astral shot. That was however not to happen as when we got up at 3 it was totally cloudy and so we went back to bed.
It was still cloudy in the morning, but got sunnier as the day went on and it was hot by afternoon.
We continues down the coast and did stop at a few view point and then at the beach. We ran in to Ronnie and Antoinette here as well, but it was 31 in the blazing sun and the sand flies were so bad we had to move on.
We fueled up at Haast junction and then rode the 48 km to the end of the road at Jackson Bay. There is nothing here but a few houses and a fish and chip place for lunch.
We booked it back to the main road and then headed for Haast pass.
There are some nice views here along the river and of the distant peaks.
Just after 430 we began looking for camp spots and the first DOC on lake Wanaka was a bit shabby and right on the road. We continued 10 km further down and then turned off on the very dusty Hawae lake road.
Luckily it is only 7 km to the camp spot. It is right on the lake and pretty windy, but that means fewer sand flies to bite you. We set up on the cliff above the lake and then went in for a very refreshing swim/bath.