Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 25: Motueka to Franz Josef Glacier

Day 25: Motueka to Franz Josef Glacier

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 19 years
male: 19 years
female: 20 years (2006)

Pics: Urinal specials (2), suspension bridge (2), lunch, from the Coast Highway (1), the Pancake rocks (4), a building in Hokitika (1), the Ribbonwood cottage (2), view of a small glacier from the cottage

A long day in the car, it takes us 9.5 hours to get from Motueka to just north of Franz Josef Glacier. The good news: we take frequent stops, there is almost no traffic (even on a Saturday), and the vast majority of the drive is through relatively unpopulated and pretty areas.

We pack up and leave around 8am. We have arranged for a housecleaner so we don’t have to wait around for the finishing of washing sheets and towels; many exchangers do their own cleaning before departing (as we did in Auckland).

Since we are traveling what appears to be backroads to get to the Coast Highway, there are few other cars, especially early. However, a backroad with little traffic on it is almost as fast as a main road with a bit of traffic.

Our first stop is at a place we had heard about from hikers in Abel Tasman NP: it is a long suspension bridge and right next to it is a zip line you can ride back. Just to enter is $4, and all we do is: THB walks out to the middle of the suspension bridge and gets his picture (2 pics above) taken by DB. The bridge is substantial and hardly moves while THB meanders out over the gorge. The zip line, called the Supaman (Superman trademark infringement?) costs $25 for a one-way ride that probably lasts less than 10 seconds. THB passes. Off we go, total time: less than 5 minutes.

More pretty driving along the river in the gorge, ending up at a town called Westport (on the Tasman Sea) where we gas up at the only active station in town and eat at a place that offers a stonegrill for lunch (see pic). A very hot rock with your choice of meats already sizzling away are brought to the table for you to finish cooking. We go with the four way combo: chicken, lamb, pork and beef, plus fries and salad and a semi-sweet bbq dipping sauce. Cuts of meat not exactly prime and above prime, though they are cooked the way we like them done; with a soft drink, $25.

Lots more driving, now along the coast (a cross between Pacific Coast Highway and anywhere in Hawaii), and a visit to the Pancake Rocks, see pics. Unusual formations as thin layers are running from just above the water to about 30-40 feet above the water. Easy viewing, only a short walk from the car park across the highway out to the vistas and back.

Lots more driving and a short stop in a town, Hokitika, that must be known for jewelry: there are tons of touristy stores selling jade (not the jade we think of as jade), gold and silver, and miscellaneous local crafts. It is a bit eerie, the local non-tourist businesses close at 2:30 on Saturdays, so there are just about 50-75 tourists wandering the streets, most of us eating ice cream mixed with fruit ($7 for two) in waffle cones.

Lots more driving and we reach the Ribbonwood B&B. We have booked the last room available in the area, and though it is expensive (around $220/night, including breakfast), it is also terrific: a stand-alone cottage with views of one of the glaciers (see pics). As with many of these tourist areas, this is no longer prime season, and it appears at least on large hotel nearby has fallen down (closed). That may be the reason all the other places near the glacier are booked.

Dinner at the Blue Ice Café: share a salad of poached pear, blue cheese, streaky bacon and iceberg lettuce, and each get small pizzas (that we can only eat half of, the leftovers are starting to look like lunch tomorrow), two glasses of wine and a Monteith brewski, $65.

Weather report: all day it has been overcast, in the 60s and humid; while we are eating dinner, there is a rainstorm, it is coming down hard. Not sure what that means for our glacier walk tomorrow!

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