Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

We jumped a few miles N and back W towards the coast, just in time to catch a bit more rain and cloud rolling in from the W. Our luck has just not been with us weather wise.

We tried to get up on to Fox Glacier but were disappointed two fold. Firstly there had been too much rain overnight so the access road was closed and secondly, because the glacier had retreated so much, the only way to get on to the glacier was by helicopter, at only $400 a head……

.Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

We headed for a low level walk around Lake………. It is the place where that perfect, flat water, snow clad reflected Mt Cook photo could be taken. There was bugger all chance of that with the wind and low cloud we had!

Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S IslandFox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

However, it was a pleasant (and dry – yeah!) walk around the lake, stomping past endless Chinese tourists and by the time we finished the walk at lunchtime, the access road to the glacier had been reopened.

Just a couple of miles driving took us to the car park where we started the 2km walk up to where the last view point is for the glacier. It is an easy if exposed walk but be prepared as it is cold, steep and the weather can change suddenly. We watched a few families turn back on the track, caught out by a sudden shower with no raincoats and in one case, wearing just flip flops and a wife beater.

The glacier is dirty where it terminates but impressive in size once you understand the scale. What is more frightening is just how quickly the ice has regressed. In 2008, when our friend Kirsty Baxter was here, she was able to step on to the glacier from where this photo was taken.

Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

That means the ice has retreated at about 100m a year since then.  The Ranger we spoke to said they saw no evidence that the retreat would slow down. It won’t be long before it shrinks back up to the upper ice field only.

We headed back to the campsite and were sitting down for tea when suddenly, finally, out of the gloom, we could just see the sharp white peak of Mt Cook. We ran for the car and raced a few miles to get to a position that we could see the full mountain. For half an hour, it stood proud, unencumbered by the low grey clouds and took our breathe away. In the evening light, it was spectacular.Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

We had intended to spend more time exploring the West coast but as the rain determinedly continued to fall, we decided to head N to where we hoped it wasn’t as wet. We stopped over night at Greymouth, staying in a two room lodge with Alastair and Gill, watching the rain pour down. The upside was the campsite had a very good hot tub that we cooked in for a while and we took the chance to turn the lodge heating up full to dry out some of the camping gear.

The next day we pulled in to Pocatika, the home of NZ greenstone carving. We visited one of the greenstone carving houses and watched the carvers at work, making beautiful artefacts being sold at huge prices.  You could say that greenstone is the NZ semi-precious stone. Many Maori wear a necklace using one of the traditional patterns of a tiki, a fishhook or a spiral (single or double) being the most common types. Each shape has its own meaning. I’ve taken to wearing a fishhook which is supposed to bring good fortune to those who travel by sea. I’ll take any help there!

The Maori have a story of how greenstone came into being. Once upon a time, a god became enamoured by a beautiful woman who perhaps unwisely turned down his advances. Annoyed, the god killed her by throwing her down in to a lake. When she touched the water she turned into the mother lode of greenstone, so supplying the Maori forever more with a much admired, very hard rock to make ornaments and their traditional weapons from.

As we headed N so the clouds gradually broke up. We even glimpsed blue sky. We lived in hope.

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