Flexibility Is Necessary at Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers

This is a story of things not going exactly as planned. 

Viktor and I decided to skip Greymouth so we booked an Intercity Bus to pick us up at the Greymouth rail station after we arrived from our TranzAlpine Train. I saw a guy I spoke with in Rotorua and he said there wasn't much to do in Greymouth anyway.  It seems to happen all the time: I always find myself running into people I met towns (A.K.A weeks) ago!

We got to our hostel, Sir Cedrics Chateau Franz, just in time for free soup! We met a few different people that night: two people from France, one from the Netherlands, and a few from the USA. That night we went to a couple different bars: The Landing and Monsoon. 

After Monsoon, Viktor and I decided to check out the glow worms in town. There is a cave you can go to in town as well as a little path. We chose to check out the path because the cave is sometimes flooded.

While walking to the path, we saw this eery little church with one door open and a red light lurking inside. We had to check it out. It was one of the creepiest things I've ever seen. This was at 2am and it was absolutely pitch black outside. We slowly walked into the small church. It was empty except for 5 rows of pews and a small alter with a demonic red light on it. We did not stay long enough to explore any more than that. It was slightly terrifying. 

We walked about 10 minutes down this path, turned the flashlight off and stayed silently still. A few minutes went by and we started to see small glow worms. It wasn't that impressive because there was only about 15. However, it was nice to see them since I wasn't able to visit the glow worm caves in Waitomo in the north island.  

Glacier Walks 

The next day we got some bad news: the clouds were too low at Franz Josef so all of the Heli Treks were cancelled.

We made some friends, booked a heli tour in Fox Glacier, and drove their car 30 minutes south to Fox. When we got there, they told us the two trips that morning made it on the ice so we had a good chance we would, too.  

We got on our waterproof pants and jacket, socks, boots, and gloves. They gave us our safety run-down and we were about to board the helicopters when one of the managers came out saying the trip was called off because of weather on the glacier.

To be honest, I wasn't too upset because 1, I already hiked an amazing glacier in Patagonia (P. Moreno Glacier) and 2, we got a full refund.  

Instead, we drove down so we could at least see the glacier. To be honest, seeing Fox Glacier from afar wasn't very impressive.  It was far away, but not as far away as the view of Franz Josef, and it didn't look very big. What was impressive, though, was the massive valley that the glacier made as it receeded. Only a few years ago, the Fox Glacier was able to be entered by foot. Now the only way to get on either glacier is by helicopter. 

Bob and I standing infront of the glacier. Bob is a 2 dimentional park guide that told us to not go any further because there are rock slides. 

Bob and I standing infront of the glacier. Bob is a 2 dimentional park guide that told us to not go any further because there are rock slides. 

The huge valley the glacier made from its recession.

The huge valley the glacier made from its recession.

Long story short, give yourself a few flexible days in Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers because they cancel 60% of their heli trips because of weather. It is certainly a must-do in the south island, though.

 

Cheers, 

Shelly

TranzAlpine Train

The whole reason I went to Christchurch was to take the TranzAlpine Train across the middle of the south island. I didn't hear about this incredible train until I met Viktor (typical). 

Viktor and I got up early and had the YMCA Hostel call us a taxi to get to the rail station. When we made our reservations, we requested to be seated on the right side of the train. My mom, an avid TripAdvisor searcher, found a comment saying that if you sit on the right side of the train when going from Christchurch to Greymouth and the left side of the train when going the other way, you don't even have to leave your seat to get the best views. 

Let's just say, even though I took Mama Max's advice (thanks, Mom), I was on the windowless observation deck 60% of the time. 

(See why below)

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We passed a couple little "villages" that only had a few cottages like this one. This was the whole village excluding the small train station.

We passed a couple little "villages" that only had a few cottages like this one. This was the whole village excluding the small train station.

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The whole price of the TranzAlpine Train was about NZ$140. It is a bit pricey just for transportation. However, I've come to find that transportation, whether it's by bus or train, is also an excursion. The views you get by traveling on the ground in this country are incredible, especially on the south island.

Don't just fly. Take 2 short months out of your life and really experience New Zealand. Rent a car or campervan! Buy an Intercity Flexi Pass! Take the TranzAlpine Train! Anything that'll keep you on the ground while exploring.

 

Cheers,  

Shelly

Christchurch

Four years ago, Christchurch had an earthquake that destroyed most of the city. Today, you can still see the destruction. I stayed in the YMCA Hostel in Christchurch for only one night but just from walking to the grocery store and back, I could very much see how much the earthquake affected the city. 

There was so much construction and road detours going on. In addition, they had to quickly replace the damaged buildings. For example, after the quake, a cardboard church was created down the street from the damaged one. The new church was built to seat 700 people and is held up by a concrete foundation and cardboard tubes.  

I also passed a make-shift mall made out of cargo shipping boxes.  

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There isn't really much to see in Christchurch, to be honest. However, it was interesting to see how much an earthquake can affect a city 4 years later.

Viktor and I also made our first real meal in a hostel.  We had chicken, broccoli, and baked potatoes. Yum!

I went to bed early because my TranzAlpine train left early the next morning. It was beautiful so make sure you read my next post! 

 

Cheers, 

Shelly

Kiakoura

After I met Viktor, I was convinced I should do a little "speed traveling" and take a detour to the eastern side of the south island of NZ. I planned to do just one night in Kiakoura and one night in Christchurch before I took the TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth. From there, I can take a bus from Greymouth to Franz Josef. 

To be honest, I didn't do much in either Kiakoura or Christchurch. If I had more time I could have gone on a charter fishing boat or went whale watching in Kiakoura.  

The night I got to Kiakoura, I met up with Viktor at Dusky Backpackers and we went out for some seafood. We split a seafood platter for two and a bottle of chardonnay. I learned that all NZ wines are bottled with a screwcap, not a cork. NZ has only about 2-4% of the world's wine, which isn't much. 1/10 bottles with a cork go bad which distributers can't afford since they have such a small share of distribution. Sealing a wine bottle with a screwtop doesn't lessen the quality of the wine and it is much less likely to have a bad bottle.  

Viktor really wanted crayfish while in Kaikoura. They look like lobsters here! Everywhere we went, crayfish were NZ$60-120! So expensive! We asked our waiter and he said that most of the crayfish from here are being exported to China and other countries so there are very few for the local restaurants to serve. That raises the price of crayfish in Kiakoura. For dinner, we stuck with mussels, shrimp, and calamari.  

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The next morning I woke up early to walk around the penninsula. It was supposed to rain by 10am and it was supposed to take me 3-4 hours to complete! Most of that time, though, was just walking to the start of the trek. So, like everyone has kept suggesting, I stuck my thumb out to get a ride. An older woman and her yorkie stopped on the side of the road and gave me a ride all the way to the start of the trek!

The walk was beautiful. There were rolling green hills with snowcapped mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  

Seal Colony

Seal Colony

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The walk was beautiful and it was a very easy walk. Anyone could experience it. When I came down off the hill, the wind started picking up. I was nervous that it ws going to rain on me so I stuck out my thumb again. A man in a truck picked me up this time and dropped me off right at my hostel. The hostel receptionist, who recommended hitchhiking to avoid the rain, was amazed I got back so fast. He said he has never seen someone do the walk so quickly.

After the walk, I had some noodles and read a bit while the skies opened up. I had to wait a couple hours for my bus so I video called home.  

Next stop: Christchurch.  

 

Cheers, 

Shelly