I woke up ridiculously early this morning; not sure why other than maybe I went to bed to early. I’ve been waking up really early a lot.
Someone had told me that the stars were brilliant the night before and since I seemed to be wide awake, I figured I might as well get up and see them. So at about 4:20am, I got my hiking boots and jacket on (because it’s cold in the mornings) and got out of the tent. That person was the right; the stars were beautiful. I was going to walk out of the Barn camp site but it was a little to dark for my own comfort level so I turned around and went back. I laid down on a the wood patio area in the main area of the campsite and just watched the stars for a while. I saw a saw a satellite streak across the sky at a pretty good clip; that was pretty cool. I was hoping to see a shooting star but that didn’t happen or at least I never saw one.
Once it got just a little bit lighter out, I noticed that the sunrise was going to be quite pretty so I took my headlamp with me and walked out to go to the start of the Coastal Track to watch the sunrise and take pictures.
The drive was really beautiful. We made a couple of stops along the way as well to take some photos. The best part of these couple of days of driving: I was in the very front passenger seat next to the driver (nicknamed Lightning) and that is the best seat on the bus. Since no-one else seemed to be anxious to sit there, I quickly put my backpack there in the mornings as to say I got dibs on this seat! So, each driver has multiple clipboards for people to fill out their accommodation sign-up sheets and activity sheets, etc. They always put the clipboards right next to them on a smooth surface that is not very grippy and so the pens and clipboards are always sliding around when we go around curves and hit the gas or brake. I made an observation/friendly suggestion to Lightning that the bus drivers should have some grippy material or a box secured to the bus floor next to them so that everything wasn’t always sliding around.
We had to make a stop for lunch and when we got back on the bus, the driver had bought a nice box and that rubbery-material that you put in your cupboards under carpets to keep them from sliding around. So I got him all set up and it worked like a charm! You’re welcome, Lightning. 😀
At one of our photo stops (at Hope Saddle Lookout), I met another long-distance cyclist guy. He was middle-aged and from Colorado. He had been cycling New Zealand since November 24th, the day I arrived! I was looking at his bike-setup and he has the Surly Long Haul Trucker bike – same bike as my friend Ethan who rode across the US! 🙂 I get a little more and more inspired to do a long haul each time I meet a long distance cyclist.
Coming into Westport, we did a short walk along a trail at Cape Fowlwind which is the western-most point of New Zealand – the closest land point to Australia. It was very overcast when we arrived but it was still a nice trail. Near the end of the trail, there is an area where you can watch seals living on the rocks there. There was a beach at the other end of this trail where the bus was going to pick us up. The bus wasn’t open when I got there initially so I walked out onto the beach and wrote my characteristic message to my Mom: “Hi Mom, I’m Fine.” 🙂
We stayed at the YHA Hostel (Trip Inn) in Westport. The reception area and some of the rooms are in a protected historical house. I didn’t find out why the house was historically significant and I didn’t stay in the house as there were dorm rooms in a newer building right adjacent to the historical house. The place was nicely kept and clean. From all the hostels I’ve stayed at, the YHA hostels are the most consistently well-kept places for sure. Nomads and Base hostels can vary greatly in level of upkeep and attractiveness.
The drive from Westport to Franz Josef Glacier was absolutely gorgeous! We stopped in Punakaiki at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes for a little lunch and walk on the scenic path at the coast. It was such a pretty stop!
After one of our stops, we headed out of town and Lightning said something like “Oh no here comes that bridge!” I was like what do you mean?? I soon saw. It’s a bridge that was used for a railroad as well as vehicle traffic. The railroad literally runs down the middle of bridge roadway. There weren’t any special traffic control measures for when a train was coming; you just have to be very aware of the tracks and make sure that a train is not coming. Apparently it’s still an active railroad. I’m not sure how it’s allowed, but maybe people here are a little more aware?? Who knows.
Shortly after, we went around a traffic circle which had a railroad track running directly through it! Say WHAT???? I’m not joking.
We made a stop in the town of Hokitika; but for the holidays, the town had put a couple extra “Ho Ho” in front making it “HohoHokitika.” It might be cheesy but I love it! I hit up the grocery store to get some fruit, cereal and milk for my breakfast, then I went to see the coast. They had “Hokitika” built of driftwood and standing up in the large rocks they had protecting the waterfront.
As we got closer and closer to Franz Josef Glacier, the landscape became more and more mountainous, the rivers turned a light glacial aqua-blue. On our way into town, we checked in at the Franz Josef Glacier Guides for a quick briefing on what to wear and not wear for the glacier hike the next day. Afterwards, we checked into our accommodation: The Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef Glacier. We checked in, bought a ticket for the “Pizza Fest” to be held later that evening, and got unpacked. I quickly dropped my bags in my room and headed out for a walk to see the beautiful that is Franz Josef Glacier. The sun was setting but absolutely shining. As I walked, I saw a building with “Alpine Adventure Centre” on it… I was already thinking that this would be a place “where my people are”; people who love adventure, where they live and/or work and that I wouldn’t mind being here for a while.
I walked in and introduced myself to the people at the front desk and said that I was wondering if they had any need of seasonal help (it’s summer time/busy season in the southern hemisphere). The lady said that actually they may need help in mid-January as someone may be leaving and that I could potentially be the replacement. So I gave them my contact details and said if they need me, to please contact me and I’ll get back to Franz Josef/Fox Glacier (wherever they need me)! So, there’s one iron in the fire or one seed sown.
I got back to the Rainforest Resort in time for the Pizza Fest. What is pizza fest?: You buy a ticket for $20 and you get one free drink and unlimited pizza until you can’t eat anymore or 1.5hours, whichever comes first. It was packed! There were three tour buses here for the evening; there was our Stray bus, a smaller G Adventures bus, and a KiwiE (Kiwi Experience) bus. It was a great chance to mingle and meet a bunch of people. But since people sort of congregate with people they already know, there wasn’t too much mixing of the tours. I unwittingly sat with some girls that I didn’t recognize but were on my bus. So it was nice chat with and get to know them.
I was full and wanted to get a shower before a rush on the showers that I thought might happen when dinner was done. Bedtime.