Christchurch, Arthurs Pass, Franz Josef, Fox Glaciers
World Trip Two
Tuesday, April 14, 2009: Kaikoura-Christchurch, New Zealand
The ride on the bus from Kaikoura to Christchurch was very pleasant and once
again gave us the opportunity to see the beautiful New Zealand countryside. We
arrived late in the center of town and as the town is not very big it was just a
short walk to our hotel. We discovered a Sushi restaurant on our way and ate raw
fish for dinner; ending a long but releasing day. We were finally released from
the monster truck.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009: Christchurch-Arthurs Pass, New Zealand
We picked up our rental car without a problem and made the drive from
Christchurch to Arthurs Pass.
Pass is high in the northern part of the Southern New Zealand Alps.
word I can think of that even comes close to describing the scenery is majestic. New Zealand itself and the Alps more obviously, are the
result of uplifted ancient seafloor. The mountains in this part of the range are
made of sandstone and mudstone both of which are rather soft rock. Because of
this the mountains are crumbling at about the same rate they are being pushed
upwards by tectonic action. This makes for a very unique landscape. Vast scree
fields are strewn about below and completely cover the sides of the mountains.
The additional forces of glacial sculpting formed massive scree filled river
valleys. Some of the mountains have such steep sides and loose surfaces that no
flora of any kind can take hold on them. This gives the appearance of an enormous
More New Zealand beauty.
Once at Arthurs Pass we went out on a hike. We chose the Avalanche Mountain
walk, as its trailhead is just behind the information center. This is a 6 to 8
hour loop that climbs almost straight up the side of the mountain then goes on
to the peak and then returns by Scotts trail. We did not have the time, or the
weather, to do the complete hike so we chose to walk for two hours on it. We
walked through native forests filled with Kia and Parakeets. We also
encountered four magnificent waterfalls along the way.
The first hour had us
climb, and at times rock climb, 2,000 feet above the valley floor. We got just
to the edge of the tree line when the weather and time made us turn around and
head back down. As we walked and climbed we heard the loud cracking sound made
by distant rock slides from the surrounding mountains; the process of
mountain crumbling at work. This was a brilliant walk and the end of a great day.
We spent the night in our hotel room well sheltered against the harsh weather
that came in later that night. The weather around Arthurs Pass is notorious for
changing very quickly; it proved true to form this night.
Arthurs Pass Video
Thursday, April 16, 2009: Arthurs Pass-Franz Josef-Fox Glacier, New Zealand
It was my 51st birthday today. Thank you everyone for your kind emails and ecards. And thank
you David and Mary for your card, which Julia diligently carried half way around
the world to present to me when I awoke this morning.
The word to best describe our drive from Arthurs Pass to Fox Glacier could only
be: wet. It
rained all day and did not stop until we finally reached our destination. Not
just drizzle but pouring rain and high gusty winds. This part of New Zealand is
known for its rain but even the locals told us it was unusual.
The rain caused everything to flow.
But we drove from 9:00am until 2:00pm over flooding roads and single lane
bridges, which would be cause for concern on a dry day. We did not see much of
the countryside as it was mainly obscured by clouds. But the bits we did see
confirmed the high rainfall in the area as the flora is very lush and green.
The Franz Josef glacier looming in the distance.
We stopped at Franz Josef to eat lunch and see the glacier there. We
took the half hour return walk, in pouring rain, to a spot that offered views of
the glacier. It was difficult to see in the weather but was still a stupendous
sight to behold.
Glacial ice filled a huge distant valley and then turned sharply into a fast
flowing river of brown water filled with ice chucks. After this we continued our
drive to Fox Glacier which was only half an hour further on. As we pulled up at
our motel the skies cleared and the rain finally stopped. We hope to hike on the
glacier tomorrow, but this will depend on the ever present and controlling
Rainy Drive Video
Friday, April 17, 2009: Fox Glacier, New Zealand
A raging torent.
We had steady rain all day today; going from light drizzle to heavy rain. But
the hike on the Fox Glacier went ahead despite the weather. We were given a
short brief about the dangers involved when walking to, on, and from the
such as house size boulders tumbling down the cliffs to the valley below where
we would be walking.
Flash flooding was also an issue especially given the
weather today. Falling into a crevasse was a possibility. The chance of having
to wade through fast flowing water up to our knees did not sound too appealing
either; but we agreed. Not sure why?
We got very close, and near the glacier too.
Soon we were on the bus all snug in our waterproof jackets and pants. It did not
take long and we were disembarking and walking in the torrential rain on the
path to the glacier. It was amazing to see water pouring out of the cliff walls
all around us. And the scree filled rivers flowing all around us in full
whitewater display. We were told to move very quickly across the track that
crossed the "Gun Barrel" as this was a high risk avalanche area. Sure
enough, no soon than we had cleared the "Gun Barrel", several avalanches
occurred one after the other raining down automobile sized boulders. Fortunately
for us we were well clear.
The rumbling sound was incredible even louder than in Arthurs Pass and my
But we eventually came to a flash flooding river which turned out to be
impassable. Our guides tried to cross it, and scared all of us with the thought
they might ask us to do the same. They gave up on their first attempt and tried
several other locations; none of which proved any better. In the end they gave
up all hope of crossing the heaving, angry water, and we were all very glad of
it. We got much closer to the glacier than most would have on a day like today
and I was happy about that, but a little disappointed we did not get to walk on
the mighty iceberg. Still we really did get down into the business of glacial
activity, up close and personal, with mountain carving and valley forming;
Fox Glacier Video
Miles Flown: 7,111
Miles Hiked: 57
Miles Driven: 932
Miles Sailed: 89