June 30 - Franz Josef/Hokitika
New Zealand - There and Back Again
We woke up really early this morning hoping to watch the sunrise at Franz Josef Glacier. I think it was about 6:45 AM. It was another freezing night. I slept alright though, but outside it was extremely cold. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time making food so we ate a banana and we each had a piece of peanut butter toast with hot chocolate. We then quickly took down the tent. Andy didn’t wear his gloves so they wouldn’t get wet and I warned him his hands would freeze since that’s what happened to mine before when I tried that.
His hands were of course very cold. I had to fold the rain fly on the tent since his hands were too cold after rolling up the tent. We wanted to take showers since it had been a few days and I needed to shave. I got my things and went to the bathroom. I took the first stall, but realized there was water all over the ground so I moved a few of my things to the second stall. I had to use the bathroom so I did that real fast. I heard someone come in and thought it was Andy.
I walked out and it was some old guy. He wanted to use a shower so I told him I needed to move my things. Andy would have to wait to get his shower now. I was freezing cold so I wanted to take a shower and not have to wait around. I took a nice long shower and it felt really good.
Andy only had to wait a few minutes to get in because the old guy was fast. Andy was already done by the time I got out. We left the campground before 7:30 AM to do a few hikes in the same place we were at the day before in the Franz Josef Glacier parking lot.
It was only a short 10 minute drive or so through town and to the trail head. Andy had read about a hike called Peter’s Pool that had reflections of the mountain that the Franz Josef Glacier was on. It was actually part of another longer trail, but to get to the pool it was only a 20 minute round trip hike and was really easy. Afterwards we wanted to do the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk which was in the same location and if we had time we would redo the Sentinel Hike since we didn’t get any video of the trail itself.
When we pulled into the parking lot there was another car already there. Two guys were getting dressed in warmer gear and another guy came walking up to them, I think he was in the bathroom. We packed a few light snacks for the hike since our breakfast was small. I just had a granola bar.
We left on our hike before the other guys. The Peter’s Pool hiuke was very short and very easy. We got a few videos along the way and it still only took 10 minutes to get there. It had a few moderate climbs, but nothing too difficult. The trail was very icy and covered in snow in a number of spots though which made it slick at times.
The pool itself was frozen, which meant not very good for reflecting. It would havae been perfect though since the skies were blue with few clouds and the sun was shinning brightly on the mountain. We stayed at the pool taking pictures for about 15 minutes. The sun was just rising and it caused the mountains to be a little pinkish at the top. We saw what we came to see and then walked back down to the parking lot.
When we got back a few more cars had arrived. It was about 8:30 AM at this point. We walked over to the start of the Glacier Valley Walk and proceeded down the trail. The beginning was the same path we took the night before on the Sentinel Rock lookout up to the part where there was a fork in the road.
The trail was still very icy and even more slick than the night before. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. Although it was really cold outside the sun was shining on us through the trees so it felt kind of warm. The first part of the trail after the fork was part of a forest walk so naturally it was in the trees. There wasn’t really much to see in this part.
The trail was supposed to be wheel chair accessible. When I hear or see that I assume it will be paved or have a boardwalk, or something to make the wheel chair have access to the hike. This trail was not wheel chair accessible at all, unless the person in the wheel chair wanted the ride of their life. It was snowy, icy, rocky, and steep on parts. Whoever had to push that thing wouldn’t have enjoyed pushing a wheel chair up the semi-steep path and the person riding in the wheel chair would have had a bumpy ride.
After about 15-20 minutes of walking the trail leaves the forest and opens up to a river that was flowing from under the glacier and through a rocky area that had been carved out by the glacier over thousands of years. This area was under the glacier as recently at the 1970s, but due to changes in the environment it had melted quite significantly. It is projected at this pace to be completely gone by 2050.
The trail itself that leads up to Franz Josef Glacier is somewhat similar to Fox Glacier. The difference is that at Fox Glacier the trail is a little more scenic and turns a little more. The hike up to Franz Josef is pretty straight and flat and just passes near the river and through an area of huge boulders. Many of them were placed there by the glacier, but many more have fallen off the sides of the surrounding mountains from rock slides.
At this point in the trail we seemed to be two of five people walking. The three guys we had seen earlier in the morning were ahead of us by a few hundred yards. I assume it was them, but I’m not sure because I figured they would be further along than they were. They may have stopped, not left as early as I thought, or went somewhere else first.
The trail was marked with stakes that were about 3 ½ feet high that were spaced out about 40-50 yards between each one. My goal was to film myself walking towards the glacier by putting the gopro on top of every 4th or 5th stake. I wanted it to be from behind so it would make it look like I was jumping ahead really fast as I pieced it altogether.
The first thing we did when leaving the forest was cross a small footbridge. I got some good pictures at this particular spot. We walked a little further and I put my filming plan into action. We did this for about 3 or 4 times until we came to a second footbridge. There were two footbridges separated by an embankment of rocks that looked like they had been placed there.
They were mostly medium sized rocks that separated a small streambed and another small dried up stream bed. The first bridge had water going underneath it, created by a series of waterfalls coming off the mountain. The second streambed was dried up. .
At first I only saw the one, but as I walked further around the corner a few more appeared. The trail continues on straight and around, but we climbed onto tje embankment and took pictures of the waterfalls. We were passed by two younger Asian looking people probably in their early 20s. At this point Andy took about 10 minutes to get pictures. I had seen the falls and was ready to continue on. I left him behind and kept walking.
I continued to do my plan, but no longer was I placing the camera at every 4th stake. Instead I started putting it at every 3rd. I continued to do this all the way until the end of the trail. . I looked back a few times and saw that Andy was finally coming behind me. Another couple was coming as well. The boy went running towards one of the waterfalls. I don’t know if he went under it or just up to it, he was too far to see that closely.
On the right there was a neat looking mountain with trees and mosses growing out of it. It looked jagged in portions as if large junks of it had eroded away or fallen off from rock slides. I took pictures of this point.
As I got to the end of the trail I saw two of the three guys that I had seen earlier. They were sitting next to the trail with a telescope pointed towards the mountain to our right. They both had rifles on their backs. Again hunters in a National Park with lots of tourists around. That seems kind of dangerous to me. I was thinking maybe they were park rangers trying to shoot animals that were introduced to New Zealand that they didn’t want.
Our guide at Fox Glacier said there are mountain goats, called Chamois, in the area. Hunters often shoot these and barbecue them and the government wants to control the populations so they allow hunting. Off the trail and to the right there was a huge mound of rocks in the shape of a pyramid. I assume it was a rock slide area. It was fenced off, but the third guy I had seen earlier was coming down a trail at the top of the mound.
The Asian couple I had seen had walked up to the trail area, and climbed under the ropes that blocked this section. The hunter didn’t say anything as he passed them, so I guessed he wasn’t a ranger after all. I never saw the Asian people again so they didn’t go up the steep trail. They may have just turned back and left.
At the end of the trail there are a lot of huge boulders all around. I stayed in this area for at least 10 minutes waiting for Andy to catch up. There were more people getting to the end of the trail so I had to stop my gopro shooting aat this point. Andy finally arrived.
Everyone was gone so we did our last gopro shots. Andy had been doing something similar to what I had done with the gopros on the post as we walked towards the glacier, but I think he did a few other shots as well. I remember thinking that the people behind me on the trail must have thought I was strange since I would walk forward 20 yards or so and then turn and walk back.
I was in the process of setting down my gopro for a neat shot, but Andy had his gopro on his headstrap and was walking to the end of the trail where the barrier was so I had to wait. There was a cut out sign of a guy with his hand out stretched that said “Stop” and he walked up and gave it a high five. I was just about to do that same thing. After he finished I did it anyway.
I was basically done getting videos with my gopro and taking pictures of the glacier so I spent the next 15 minutes just taking pictures of myself. Andy went back up the trail about 20 yards and started taking pictures with his telephoto lens.
He finally finished taking pictures and saw what I was doing and asked me to take a picture of him. He doesn’t like doing self portraits as much as me even though he does do it every once in a while. I don’t know what he started doing, but I was done looking at the glacier so I started walking back.
There was a barrier that went from the river all the way to the mountain to keep people from getting too close to the glacier without an experienced guide. There wasn’t a trail that went up to the mountain, but I had nothing else to do really so I just walked up the rocks along the yellow rope fence until I had a higher view of the glacier. I probably walked about 150 yards or so.
I looked at the glacier for awhile and got a couple of pictures. I went back down to the bottom where Andy was after 10 minutes and asked if he was ready yet. He said he almost was. I told him I had gone up a little further and he asked if it was any good up there. I told him it was, but he shouldn’t go up there. I knew he would want to take lots more pictures since it was a better spot. He said he didn’t even realize there was a trail there and I told him there wasn’t, but I had seen other people go up that way earlier so I wanted to check it out.
He went up to the point where I had been and I started walking back to the start of the trail. I wanted to get down to the river and needed to find a good spot. I also had to go to the bathroom and since it was later in the day a lot more people were on the trail. I had to find a good hiding spot behind the biggest rocks and they were down near the river.
As I was walking I found a little pathway down to the river’s edge. There were some big boulders so I went in between them. There was a large one to my right with another big one on my left that was leaning against the other rock which blocked the view from the trail mostly. Then there was a smaller rock in front of me so together they formed a triangle shape.
I’m pretty sure I was well covered, but just as I thought I had found a good spot I looked up and about 50 yards away was a lady playing around near the water. I don’t think she could see me, but I had to wait. There might have been a few other people about 500 yards away that could have seen me if they looked in my direction.
I decided my hiding spot was no good so I just kept walking along the water. It seemed like there was nobody around so I hid behind some large rocks and just peed. Andy was still taking pictures so I did some rock scrambling and took some pictures and did some gopro videos of myself. I must have spent about 20 minutes down there waiting.
I looked back to where he was and I could see that he was finally packing up his things and moving towards the trail. I saw a big waterfall coming off the mountains that we had passed earlier on the hike so I figured I would go walk towards it. It didn’t look that far and I thought by the time I got to the falls he would be getting back to the general area that I was in.
I started walking and passed by two other people that had gone off the main trail to walk around in the rocks. I thought the falls was about 400 yards away, but as I walked towards it I didn’t think I was getting any closer. Andy was about 20 yards to my left, but couldn’t see me since I was behind some rocks. I was going to try to go around behind him. I climbed up on top of them and he looked over and saw me.
I joined him on the main trail and we started walking back. We had spent about 2 hours on the trail by now. The whole thing was supposed to take an hour and a half round trip. Andy wanted to get a few pictures and videos on the way back by the waterfalls that we had passed. I thought we had enough pictures and videos of that area, but he wanted some of us walking the other direction.
We stopped a few times to get some pictures and do some videos before we got to the waterfalls. We also did a few shots of ourselves walking through a snowy area with the glacier behind us. At the waterfall Andy wanted to get a few more pictures so I did too.
We walked a little further past the waterfall and made it back into the forest area. The walk back was a lot more icy then I remembered in the morning. It was also steeper than I remembered. There were a few places that we almost fell down. We made it back to the car around 12:30 PM and were ready for lunch.
Andy wanted to do a hike that was an hour and a half long called Canavan’s Knob. I didn’t really want to do it, but we drove a few miles down the road to the trail parking lot. We decided we would eat lunch and then determine if we wanted to go on the hike.
We made ham sandwiches and ate chips and a cookie. During lunch I said I didn’t care to do the hike. We had planned to drive about 30 minutes down the road to a town called Okarito on the coast and do two hikes there. They were an hour and a half and a 30 minute hike. We then had to drive another two hours to Hokitika, the place we wanted to camp for the night.
I knew that if we did the Canavan’s hike that it would probably take two hours and we wouldn’t have enough daylight to do the other hikes. I also didn’t feel like driving late at night. The roads are in perfect condition, but they often times go through the mountains and people in New Zealand drive way too fast around sharp curves. The roads are similar to what we have experienced in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru in terms of how much they turn, how steep they are, and how they are always in the mountains.
They seem to intentionally avoid the valleys and easy routes possible when building roads. I felt like they put lots of turns in them just to keep people from driving too fast. Maybe it was to make them look like cooler drives.
I felt that the Canavan’s trail wouldn’t give us that great of views. There were two big hills in front of the glacier and mountains from where we were in the parking lot and there weren’t any high areas around us so it didn’t seem to me that the hike would be worth the trouble or time.
Instead of doing Canavan’s Knob trail we just walked around in the parking lot since there were lots of randomly placed boulders next to it. There was a six foot wall of little rocks that we had to get over first. We walked down about 30 yards to a place that looked a little more stable and not so steep. We hopped around on the rocks for about 20 minutes taking random pictures and videos of ourselves.
There was one part where the rocks were about 3 feet apart and I had to jump across it to get to the other side. I had to jump up slightly because of where the rocks were placed and I couldn’t get a running start. It was pretty scary, but I had to do it. Not really, I could have walked about 2 feet over and just gone an easier way, but that’s not as fun. There was one rock that stuck up above the rest. I called it “Pinnacle Rock.” It was slanted a little bit, and flat on the surface so it made it a little tougher to get up without slipping off. We each climbed to the top of it.
After our little made up hike we got back in the car and drove down the street. We stopped after about 30 seconds next to a light pole to get a few more pictures of the mountains. We had to get gas before we left Franz Josef because we weren’t sure where the next gas station would be and we had less than ¼ a tank. The gas was about $0.30 more per litre than we were paying in other areas so we just got half a tank.
On our way out of town we stopped on the side of the road one more time for pictures. We didn’t stop again until we got to Okarito. The town is very small, maybe 100 people at most. I doubt even that many. We went there because the hikes were supposed to give great views of the mountains we were leaving, as well as many others. It also had good views of the wetlands area and the Tasman Sea.
Once we got to Okarito it was easy to find the trail. There was only one road in the town and it was right off of it on the left. We were the only ones parked in the parking lot as usual. We loaded up our things and set out on the Trig Walk. The first part of the trail is part of a longer multi-day hike that follows the coast, but then branches off to a lookout point, which is what we wanted to see.
The trail starts out flat and crosses a wetland area on a boardwalk that is about 60 yards long. It winds around like a snake for no apparent reason. We then entered into the forest and the trail continued to be flat for about 50 yards. After this it seemed like a steady climb for the next 45 minutes. There were portions where it was flat, but they didn’t seem to last very long.
The trail was well shaded in the trees, but it was warm and we were working hard enough that we were sweating. There were a couple of lookouts along the way of the wetlands we crossed and the ocean. We stopped one time and a guy and a girl passed us on the trail.
We made it to the fork in the road and turned left to complete the Trig Trail. A sign said it was 40 minutes to the top from here. We had already been walking for about 30 minutes, but that included a lot of stops. All of the times for trails are based on walking only, and not any extra time for taking pictures or resting. It’s strange because in the U.S. the times are based on how long it might take to do everything.
The middle of the trail was the longest stretch of flat ground, but just before the end the trail becomes pretty steep again to get to the lookout. At the top there is a wooden platform that gives 180 degree views which included the coast on the left with wetlands along the shore, and a continuous chain of mountains that stretched to the other coast to our right.
As we arrived at the top the guy and girl that passed us before were just leaving. We climbed up on the railing, which was only about 2 feet tall to get better views over the trees in front of us. Although most of the trees weren’t actually blocking our views. There was also a square shaped block in the middle that we could stand on for slightly higher views as well. From here we did a lot of panorama shots.
Andy wanted me to do a time lapse with my gopro since his battery was low since it could do a wide angle shot and the mountains were so long. I tried to climb in a tree to connect it, but it wasn’t working very well. He ended up putting it in another tree and we let it run for about 15 minutes. The clouds weren’t doing much and the lighting stayed mostly the same, but it may have turned out ok. I haven’t watched it yet to know.
As I climbed into the tree to get it out an old man and younger looking lady showed up. I had just finished peeing next to the trail so it was a good thing they weren’t a few minutes earlier. I was climbing in the tree trying to get my gopro down and almost dropped the camera when I unclipped it. It wouldn’t have fallen that far anyway.
We decided we were ready to head down since we had another hike we wanted to do. We stayed at the top for at least 35 minutes, but probably longer. We ran down the first half of the way back since it was pretty steep and running down is easy. Once we got to the flat middle section we started walking. It felt like the flat section on the way back was longer than it was on the way there, but it may have been because we did the running portion so quickly.
We got back to the first overlook portion and we stopped. We had a view of the boardwalk and Andy thought it would be a cool video of me walking across from a really high angle. He could zoom in enough with his camera to make it look cool. I ran ahead for the last few hundred yards to get down there.
As I came out of the forest I was waving my hands in the area like a crazy person that just got chosen to be on the Price Is Right. I don’t know if he was filming at that point or not, but I did it long enough that he could have easily pressed record if he wanted to.
I stopped acting like an idiot and began walking across like a normal person. I then stopped and jumped to do a heel click. I did a couple of those while walking and then he yelled for me to walk back the other way. He was probably 400 yards away on the side of the hill, but because I was in a valley surrounded by trees and cliffs there was a loud echo. It was kind of cool.
We got the shots we wanted and Andy came down to join me on the boardwalk. This area is supposed to have a special kind of Kiwi bird that is endangered, but we didn’t see any. We got to the car and saw there was a campsite across the street. We decided to go look at it to see if it was somewhere we wanted to stay for the night. It was a self registration campsite and was pretty cheap at only $10 per person a night.
We drove in and there was one campervan with a guy starting a fire. All the campsites we had been to had banned fires, but I guess this one didn’t. We drove to the end of the road, which was about 150 yards, and saw the kitchen area. We went inside and there wasn’t much there. No way to cook food other than a boiling water dispenser. We wanted some real food so we decided this wasn’t going to cut it for the night.
We drove on and went to the next hike on our list. Along the way we saw a body of water that looked like a lake, but it may have been part of the ocean, I’m not sure. There was an old dock building and a reflection of the mountains in the water so we stopped for some pictures. There were some wooden posts sticking out of the water so I got some pictures of those as well as the reflecting mountains.
We then walked to the side of the building and took pictures of it with the water in the background. We kept walking to get another angle, but it seemed like we were walking in an area usually covered by water since it became muddy. A campervan pulled up and a lady jumped out and took some pictures and then they drove off. We got the pictures we wanted and then went back to the car.
It was about 4:45 PM at this time and it was starting to get dark. We didn’t know where the trail was exactly, but Andy thought it was close by. Looking at the map I thought it was at least 10 minutes down the road. We drove until we found it. Of course nobody else was doing the trail. The whole area of Okarito seemed pretty deserted.
We got out of the car and went to the trail. We stopped at the beginning because we could see the mountains in the distance and thought it looked neat. The first part of the trail had a little snow on it, but after a small section it was clear. We were in a hurry so we ran up the trail. It was pretty steep, but it was a short trail. It was less than half a mile one way probably.
I didn’t run the whole way, I was too tired. At the top there was a platform with railings that were about 3 ½ feet tall. The views from the area were of the mountains on one side and the ocean to the other. The views weren’t really that great. The trees surrounding the platform pretty much blocked the mountains. In order to see better we had to climb up on the wooden railings. It was not very safe at all.
Andy climbed up first and got lots of pictures. I tried to climb up, but the railing was wobbling too much. It was about a 10 foot drop off from the railing to the ground. I got up for about 2 seconds and decided that wasn’t a good idea and jumped down. There was a wooden box type thing in the middle of the platform similar to the one at the previous hike so I stood on it. It wasn’t very high, but it was better than nothing.
Andy decided to get down so I climbed up to where he was. I was shaking a lot and didn’t feel comfortable so I got back down after a few pictures. The sun was going down so the mountains were turning colors so Andy wanted more pictures. He put on his telephoto lens to get some. He climbed back up on the railing. I just took pictures from where I was with my zoom lens.
I did some gopro videos of Andy standing on the ledge, and then I climbed up on the railing in the back. It was even more wobbly so I jumped back down from that. I was done seeing the mountains so I started taking pictures of the sunset over the ocean. The clouds looked really neat. Andy started doing the same. We had seen enough after about 25 minutes and went back down. By the time we got to the car it was starting to get dark. He stopped one more time to get pictures at the first place we stopped and I went back to wait at the car. I heard something rustling around in the bushes and got scared.
There are no predators in New Zealand though, so I thought it was just a bird of some kind. Andy got back to the car a few seconds later and I told him there was a bear in the woods nearby. Every time we get separated and he catches up I tell him there is a bear and to not go any further.
The drive to Hokitika was our final journey for the night. There were no cars going north on the road. Every car we passed was going south. We went through a few small towns along the way, but most of the towns only had a few hundred people. One town in particular, I don’t know the name, seemed like everyone was at the local bar. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot.
I always think people are out late since it gets dark so early, but really it’s like 7 PM. The road to Hokitika is supposed to be a scenic drive, but because it was dark we couldn’t see much except the other cars passing by. The road is mostly through the mountains and winds all over the place even though there was clearly a valley that the road could have easily been built through.
The worst thing about driving at night besides the roads is that a lot of the people drive with their bright lights on and don’t switch them off. That is the most annoying thing ever, especially when driving on roads that curve around every 50 yards.
We got to Hokitika around 7:30 PM or a little after. We wanted to stay at a campground for the night so we found the Holiday Park. It wasn’t as nice as some of the others, but it was fine. It was right next to a huge milk factory. Hokitika is the largest town we have seen for awhile, it has about 7,000 people and is on the west coast. Most of the other towns we had been staying at recently only had a few hundred people.
Hokitika is known for it’s Jade and glasswork factories as well as a gorge just outside of the town. We planned to check out the gorge and Jade factories tomorrow and maybe buy something if it’s not too expensive.
At the Holiday Park I told the lady we wanted to camp in a tent. She seemed to think we were crazy, but said we could camp in the grassy area, but to not park in the grass because the car may sink. I guess it had been raining recently. It was only $15 a person to camp there. I paid the money and she said “Good as Gold.” Best saying ever. I will start using it more often.
We found the area she was talking about and decided to put our tent in the road since the grass was soaking wet. It wasn’t as cold as it had been in other places, but it was still a little chilly. We put our tent up right in front of the car so that if someone else were to come by they couldn’t run us over in the night.
We went to the kitchen area to make dinner after we were done with our tent. We had Chow Mein Ramen Noodles and a salad. It’s the easiest meal to make and it tastes pretty good. It’s not very filling though. For dessert we had cookies and chocolate. We had the last of our hot chocolate as well.
We watched Spiderman 3 while making dinner, eating, and writing in my journal. Probably one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen. Around 9 PM a guy opened the door to the kitchen and asked if we had the heater on. I said we did and he said “good one.” I thought he was going to say we shouldn’t turn it on or something. The people in New Zealand have funny sayings that make no sense. It’s like they have these corny sayings, but to them they are real things to say.
The stupid heater didn’t even seem to work. I was pretty freezing in the room. At one point it started blowing out cold air. I finished writing for the night because I was too cold and couldn’t remember some of the things we had done. We went back to the tent around midnight. Our tent was covered in frost. I had my warm water bottle so I was hoping to stay somewhat warm for the night.