The following day we set out south towards Franz Joeph and Fox glaciers. Our first stop was in the delightful town of Hokitika: an old gold mining town on the coast but now a tourist stop with numerous shops that even John found interesting! He especially found the outdoors shop of interest with its display of guns, bows and arrows and women’s wear labelled ‘Girls with Guns’! The main item for sale was greenstone or jade, a local stone that Lindsay remembers collecting off the beach: think NZ tiki, and there were many of them! Also, the beach was covered in driftwood from which the above sign was made. Many people had put together driftwood ‘sculptures’ from what was lying on the beach.
From there we ventured up to Hokitika Gorge to see the blue/grey waters tumbling thru the gorge: the colour is from the snow melt plus the gradual wearing away of the limestone banks of the river. Not so blue today, more towards the grey because of the recent heavy rains! But a pleasant and enjoyable walk to get there, nevertheless.
One stop that John suggested was a wetlands walk to see some of the local birds. A great idea, but perhaps a Lonely Planet exaggeration as the walk through the wetlands was only about 100 metres long and then it was up and up a hill. Not to worry, an interesting side excursion with a quaint small town at the end of a dead end road!
Onwards then to the BIG attraction, Fox Glacier, with the single objective of a helicopter flight up over the glacier including a landing on the ice and a walk. Unfortunately, the weather defeated us, we knew before we left Greymouth that the choppers were grounded for the day. So, instead, we had a more leisurely drive to Fox Glacier and, when the rain let up, did a couple of short walks to waterfalls, again along some beautiful forest walks.
We were hopeful that the weather would lift overnight and we could fly the next morning, but again, the choppers were grounded. We drove out to a glacier viewing point and did a short walk on the track out towards Lake Matherson.
A few months ago the road into the glacier region from extensive storm damage and was closed for some time. Even now, it is still being repaired with numerous sections one way and with the rock falls still very visible as we drove along.
Although all the walking tracks and roads up to the face of Fox Glacier are currently closed due to land slips we did find a viewing spot where the glacier could be clearly seen and photographed, even if we did have to get Loe to the ground to get a good shot.