And so, after a great 2 weeks in Greymouth spent wwoofing at Dukes hostel meeting lots of different people, taking up guitar again and jamming with Israeli’s, playing free pool and drinking free beer with the new people we met each day and having a good time with the other 4 wwoofers who were great to meet and hopefully I’ll run into them again at some point in our travels.
The magic bus left early in the morn of the 27th January (07:30 a.m.) it was strange to be in the hostel that early, to be the only one walking around. I had to walk to another hostel in Greymouth as Magic for some reason does not pick up from The Duke, but as Greymouth isn’t exactly big it wasn’t a problem. When I got to the other hostel I saw that I would be travelling by a big bus for once. This shows how busy the South Island is at the moment with us travellers as we usually just have minibuses. The driver of the bus had a tendency to repeat odd words of what he was saying during sentences. So he would say things such as ‘on our way to Franz, Franz, Franz Josef’ whether it was intentional or not I will never know.
We headed down the West Coast, stopping off in the town of Hokitika which is famous for Greenstone and in the mid 1800’s it was where thousands of wannabe miners and gold pannners flocked to in an attempt to find their fortune.
After Hokitika we headed towards Pukekura which is a town with three buildings one of which is a pub named ‘Puke Pub’, the other a house and the third The Bushman’s Centre, which is a museum dedicated to and filled with hunting. Before we went in we were introduced to Bush Pete the owner of the town’s three buildings. In The Bushman Centre there were lots of stuffed animals, mostly deer also there was a very tame possum which was certainly a different experience from Rotorua where they were trying to attack you.
It also contained a DVD that we watched called something along the lines of ‘Bambi Was A Terrorist’ which was a short film about the introduction of animals into New Zealand and how they affected the landscapes and the worst of these animals was not man but the deer. Their population grew too large so it started a new wave of hunting in New Zealand to control the population which carried on until the population got so few they wanted to stop the hunting of the deer and start farming them so they wouldn’t run out as venison has gotten very popular so they wanted to keep a good supply of it as it had become so popular. The film contained lots of tounge-in-cheek music and gratuitous shooting scenes and bits about how they now capture deer that involves jumping out of a helicopter onto the back of the deer and wrestling it down and tying it up to carry away under the helicopter (imagine the scene in BFG where they’re carrying the giants away with helicopters. But replace the giants with deer and the helicopters with much smaller ones).
After this it wasn’t long until we were in the town of Franz Josef which is as big as the national park I stayed in, it has two streets with a few cafes, a couple bars, the hostels and some houses.
Franz Josef is the northern start to Te Wahipounamu, which is the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. That is an almost continuous stretch of wilderness where there are a few settlements and the narrow strip of the main New Zealand Highway. It also contains the South Island Alps which dominate the skyline of the centre of the South Island and run for 280 miles along the island and throughout the Alps are hundreds of glaciers with Franz Josef and Fox Glacier being the most popular for tourist attractions.
Before we set off to our hostels the driver said that if we fancied it he would take us to Franz Josef glacier for the walk once we had checked in. Which only four others showed up for which considering most of them were only staying for one night I thought more would show up – their loss.
They say they walk takes about 1 hour 30 minutes but most of us did It under an hour, it was a good walk starting off with a little bit of native bush then going onto a mostly flat plain of rocky slightly uneven land with general guidelines as to where you should walk and with a barrier at the end to stop you going any further and getting into trouble.
After the walk we headed back to the hostel where I met Janna again who is going to be working at this hostel now for about 2 weeks and also Tobias was in Franz Josef as well but staying in a different hostel. In the evening we all met up and explored the night life of Franz Josef, we first went to a bar that is where most of t backpackers go as you get a free shot when you turn up and drinks are only $5 during happy hour. I tried the free shot which was served from a bottle in the shape of a gun, the shot was disgusting. So I washed it down with some beer which was much better tasting and we also tried out one of the other bars which was more like a sports bar and you ordered your drinks at the table and they were bought to you, I didn’t really liked it there.
Whilst in Franz Josef I mostly just sat around reading in the sun, skypeing and generally just relaxing and not doing a great deal. I wanted to do one of the walks here, but for some reason they closed it off on my second day here and didn’t reopen it so I didn’t get a chance to do it unfortunately.
On 30th Jan I went kayaking with Glacier Kayaks who give you a 3 hour tour of Lake Mapourika – a kettle lake formed in the last ice age. There were 7 of us all together a couple from the UK on their honeymoon, two lasses from Sweden, a guy from Denmark and the guide was Welsh. In total we kayaked 7 and a bit km, we started off with the guide teaching those that hadn’t done kayaking before the basics and showing us all how to use kayaks that had a rudder that was controlled with pedals that were at your feet which took some getting used to. After that we kayaked across the lake which interesting as it was quite windy so there were a few waves to deal with which was fun, the kayak across was around 3 km. Then we paddled along the bay at the other side protected from the wind along to a stream which we paddled. The stream is part of the protected Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, and other than the kayaks the only people allowed there are conversationalists.
Along the stream we saw eels through the clear water and lots of dragonflies and you could hear absolutely nothing which was great and to make sure we appreciated it before heading back down the stream the guide said we would head back in 3 minute intervals. So we could see the reflections without the water disturbance of each other’s kayaks and hear nothing but the sound of our paddles in the water as we glide along.
Once we had regrouped we headed back the way we came and were welcomed by amazing views towards the Alps which had a misty look to them as there was some low level cloud around them, it was also calm as the wind had gone. The whole thing was great fun and the guide gave us lots of great info (if only I could remember it). I loved the whole thing, but I could be biased as I do love kayaking.
They say this pier was once used as one of the default background pictures on windows.
Tomorrow I am off to Wanaka with the magic bus, where I will be spending 2 nights before moving onto Queenstown.
Until next time.