Happy New Year!
Today we slept in a bit before packing up for our drive south to spend a few days in New Zealand’s glacier country. On the way, we stopped to see the Pancake Rocks of Punariki in Paparoa National Park. Views along the coast were already quite spectacular, but the Pancake Rocks were like nothing else we’ve seen in New Zealand. Here the coastal rocks are stacked in layers like pancakes and eroded away by the sea into fantastic columns and walls. In some places blow holes make thundering sounds when the surf and tide are just right.
Photos from Pancake Rocks:
We arrived at the Franz Josef Top10 Holiday Park late-afternoon, so we checked in and set up our tent. At these southern latitudes, we have daylight until well after 9:00 pm, so we decided that a hike up to the Franz Josef Glacier was in order. ‘Franz’ as the locals call it, is unusual (as are all of NZ’s glaciers) in that the glacier descends the Southern Alps to about 1000 ft above sea level into the temperate rainforest of the coast. This part of New Zealand receives over 5 meters of rain per year! The glacier is fed by a high altitude snow field and pours into the valley, filling the Waiho River with water made gray from the eroding rock under the glacier. It was about 2 km up to the glacier viewing area. For safety reasons, you can only be on the actual glacier with a guide service. The ice shifts daily and people have been killed in icefalls. When we first arrived, the glacier was shrouded in clouds, but as we descended, some sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the upper parts of the glacier. Beautiful!
Photos of Franz Josef Glacier and the valley: