Greymouth to Wananka

Few things in life are better than a long, hot shower, particularly when you’ve been riding at night in freezing fog for 2 hours. Yes, once again my planned early rise to visit Franz Josef and Fox glaciers didn’t quite materialize, mainly because my alarm failed to wake me up, which meant I subsequently arrived at my accommodation in Wanaka somewhat later than I had intended. Now I know why people try not to ride motorbikes at night in New Zealand – something to do with an interesting concoction of freezing fog, black ice, loose gravel and twisty mountain roads. I’m definitely getting up early tomorrow! (I think I may have said that before…)

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I always try to start the day with a bit of Tai Chi; failing that a bacon and egg butty

When I finally did get up, the weather was forecast to be cloudy with rain later, so I pressed on as quickly as I could southwest along the coast road to the Southern Alps. I arrived at the first glacier, Franz Josef, past lunch and completed a short hike to get a good view of the old boy.

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Franz Josef Glacier – A short 10 minute hike brings you to this amazing lookout

Both Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are quite rare in that they end amongst lush rainforest only 300m above sea level. Having studied Glaciology at University way back in the olden days (yes, I am a very interesting fellow at dinner parties!) I was fascinated by them, particularly as they were the first glaciers I had ever seen close up; and they were indeed both beautiful and fascinating sights.

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Fox Glacier – An hour hike take you right up to the terminus where crystal clear, glacial blue melt-water forms a river

Short of time I only decided to walk the hour hike up to Fox Glacier, 30 mins drive further south from Franz Josef, as the lady in the information office said it was the best one close up. Interestingly, Fox Glacier has been advancing since 1985 – perhaps the next Ice Age (or more strictly, Glacial Period) is approaching!

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Fox Glacier

As I approached the glaciers’ terminus the sun kindly made an appearance for a brief minute or two that allowed me to get a half decent photo. This was my first meeting with a cheery old Irish couple traveling the World who I kept bumping into at various other tourist sites; and I’m glad did, as they saved me from being eaten alive by mosquitoes with their magic spray on one such occasion (down by Milford Sound).

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Typical U-Shaped Valley cut out by advancing Glaciers over thousands of years. You can just see the glacier’s melt-water river on the valley floor

By the time I was back from that well worth hike it was late afternoon, hence my long ride into the night & freezing fog to my accommodation in Wanaka. Oh well – at least I made it before closing time!

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The Longest Ride…

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Sunset on the West Coast

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