Tag Archives: Greymouth

Ain’t no mountain high enough (to keep us from Christchurch)

Thursday 6th November
Franz Josef to Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand

During our time in the South Island, we repeatedly heard that, due to the mountain range down the spine of the country, it is often the case that when it is raining on the west coast it is sunny in the east (and vice versa).  Therefore, we chased the sun to a certain extent during our time there, which meant heading back towards the east coast towards the end of the week.

Driving Franz Josef to Greymouth
On Thursday we drove back to Greymouth in the morning, stopping along the way for yet more photos of perfect glacial lakes, including Lake Mapourika.

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Bus and train, Greymouth to Christchurch
We grabbed a nice lunch in town, before our TranzAlpine journey back to Christchurch. 

Unfortunately a landslip meant we did the first part of the trip, to Arthur’s Pass, on a bus replacement service (an experience that was very familiar from home!). But this did give us the opportunity to see some different views, because at one point the train goes through an 8.5km long tunnel rather than over the mountains.

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We were also lucky that the weather was a little better than last time in some places, including at the journey’s highest point, giving us even more breathtaking views.

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On arrival back in Christchurch, we went for a meal in a pub in Riccarton, where we sampled a burger containing the “traditional” Kiwi accompaniments, beetroot and a fried egg!  I believe that MacDonalds NZ has just re-issued the “Kiwi Burger” for its 25th anniversary, although I can pretty much guarantee that the version served in the Fox and Ferret at Riccarton is better, despite the cheesy London Underground signs adorning the pub’s walls!

Road sign of the day
The driving between Greymouth and Franz Josef wasn’t too tricky on the whole (and we were certainly helped by the fact that Kiwis drive on the left, like we do in the UK). However, there were a number of single carriageway bridges, including one that was shared with a railway (trains have priority, in case that needed to be made clear!).

We were also amused by this road sign. Roundabouts? No problem. Level crossings? That should be fine, thanks. Roundabouts with a rail line going right through the middle of them? Excuse me while I concentrate for a bit…

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An ice experience: Franz Josef Glacier

Tuesday 4th November – Wednesday 5th November
Greymouth to Franz Josef, South Island, New Zealand

For many years I’ve wanted to see a glacier in ‘real life’, and being so close to Franz Josef and its glacier was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Unfortunately there were no trains available, so we hired a car to head a couple of hours down the west coast.

The journey took us through the lovely town of Hokitika, plus a few stop offs to admire some truly phenomenal views. This photo was taken at Lake Ianthe.

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We stayed for a couple of nights in Franz Josef so we had plenty of time on Wednesday to enjoy the area. We did a couple of walks – the first took us to within about 250 metres of the Franz Josef Glacier, through the glacial valley.

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There are 140 glaciers in total in Westland/Tai Poutini National Park, though Franz Josef and nearby Fox are by far the largest. Above them are mountain peaks over 3,000 metres high, including New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (3,754m). The views were incredible – look out for the people towards the bottom right of the photo below, to get a sense of the scale!

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The second walk gave us the opportunity to explore the incredible temperate rainforest surrounding the glacier. Heavy rain/snowfall are a feature of the area – at the coast they get 3.2 metres of precipitation a year, rising to 12 metres on the slopes (hence both the glacier and the rainforest!).

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The walk took us past Peter’s Pool, a kettle lake formed by a huge block of ice left behind during the glacier’s withdrawal. When the ice melted it was contained in a depression, called a kettle hole, among the mounds of rock debris deposited by the receding glacier.

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It also took us to Douglas Bridge, which gave me an excellent opportunity to pretend I was in an Indiana Jones movie!

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After our walks we decided to rest our aching legs in the Glacier Hot Pools, close to where we were staying. The pools use glacial water and are in the open air, surrounded by rainforest. I’m also pleased to confirm that they were nicely heated so they were a lot warmer than the glacial water flowing close to the Franz Josef Glacier. A fantastic (and very relaxing) experience!

Fact of the Day
In 1943, a small plane crashed about 4km up the Franz Josef Glacier. Six years later, parts of the wreckage began to appear at the glacier front, giving an indication of the speed at which the ice moves (sometimes up to four metres a day, which is unusually fast for alpine glaciers).

Highlights of the TranzAlpine train route

Monday 3rd November
Christchurch to Greymouth, South Island, New Zealand

When we were researching our visit to New Zealand, we were keen to see how much of the country we could enjoy by train. And the TranzAlpine route definitely got us excited – taking you from the east coast of South Island to the west coast, it’s widely considered to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. 

We were not disappointed. This spectacular journey leaves Christchurch across the Canterbury Plains, before heading up into the Southern Alps, then back down to Greymouth.

The train has the added advantage of an open carriage (cold and windy but fantastic for photos, as long as you’re quick!).

These are some of the incredible views we got to enjoy.

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Product of the day
Spotted on a box of cereal bars. Not quite sure how it feels to be ‘as happy as a box of budgies’, but we’re assuming that it’s a good thing! And if you’re wondering what jandals are, apparently that’s what Kiwis call flip flops.

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