We landed at Christchurch airport in the South Island of New Zealand at 1pm. All we had booked was a hostel in Lake Wanaka and the plan was to rent a car to take us there. We soon found out that all the car rental places had no cars available, and our plane had landed too late to catch the bus. I bought a NZ SIM card for my phone with some minutes and data on it. We headed to the information desk where they told us that there WAS in fact another bus that ran to Greymouth that afternoon. GREAT, WE’LL TAKE IT. We wanted to get the west coast somehow, because we were WWOOFing on the west coast 4 days after we got to NZ.
What the hell was that acronym. Papa Internet says there are a few meanings, but let’s just go with Willing Workers On Organic Farms, cuz that’s the one that our WWOOF site goes by. Basically, you search for a host you like, see if they have room, and work 4-5 hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. It doesn’t always have to be a farm, it could just be a cultural exchange with your host.
Anyways, we hopped on the bus to Greymouth and were relieved that we were heading somewhere after thinking that we would be stuck in Christchurch. Christchurch was recently destroyed by a earthquake, so we were recommended to skip it (not much to see I guess, besides rebuilding). On the bus, the driver announced that the gear box was broken so we would have to switch buses. Not ideal cuz we would wait an hour and a half for the next bus to get there and take us over the mountains, but we weren’t complaining, New Zealand is awesome.
Moved to the other bus and woundn’tya know it, there was a bush fire blocking the road by Authur’s pass in the mountains in the center of the country. Another 1.5 hr delay meant we got to the hostel in Greymouth at 11pm.
The next day we woke up and took care of some business, walked to the store to get some stuff we ran out of and tried again to rent a car. They were all taken except for an expensive SUV… oh well, there went that idea. Back in Fiji we had booked a hostel in Fox Glacier (about 2.5 hrs by car away), so we still wanted to head down there and see some glaciers for a few days. We asked if there was any other way to get to Fox Glacier, and there was one answer coming from everyone we asked: hitchhike.
We figured we had nothing to lose, so we got our packs on and started walking to the edge of town. We waited about 20-30 mins before we got a ride with a nice lady going home from work (Thanks Eliza). She dropped us off 30 mins down the road near a strawberry stand (jackpot). Of course we got some strawberries and used them to lure in our next ride who would take us the rest of the way to Fox Glacier! Pauly the Irishman gave us a lift and we stopped a few places along the way; he was touring NZ too with his rented car.
The next day Maria and I rented some bikes and did a quick ride and hike to the foot of Fox Glacier. It was pretty sweet but we knew we needed to get closer to really see it.
From there we booked to stay at the next town over for the next two nights, in Franz Josef Glacier. Pauly said that he wanted to head there too, so we hitched a ride with him again (score).
Once we got there we explored the town, which took all of 10 minutes on foot. We got the lowdown on the glacier helicopters that run from there and basically you could either do a helicopter flyover of the glaciers and come back, a quick landing on the glacier, or get dropped off and hike on it. We decided that we wanted to do the hike on the next day, then headed back to chill at the hostel with some people we had met.
Sad story short, it was a shitty day the next day, so all flights going up to the mountains were canceled, and we were stuck with a rainy day in Franz Josef Glacier, a town of 330 people according to Wikipedia. We made the most out of it and did a rainy hike in the rainforest to the Tatare tunnels above the town.
After the hike, it was SUCH A BUSY DAY that we had to relax in the glacier hot pools that are in the town. There were three pools, at 36°C, 38°C, and 40°C. A good soak was had for sure. We left the pools at turtle speed, not even talking.
That night we went to the Blue Ice Cafe for drinks and an $11 backpacker meal special, which is pretty cheap . We had a crew complete with a few hostel friends (Babsi and Jamie), local dairy farmer Robbie, Eric from Wisconsin, and Cedric and wife who is the owner of the hostel we were staying at. Happy hour combined with Robbie buying us all drinks made for our best night out so far on this trip.
The following morning was our time to leave the little town and head back up north for our WWOOFing spot in Punakaiki. We got up to catch the bus north which stopped every 45 minutes for about 30 mins each. I have no clue why. It was a slow bus to Punakaiki where our WWOOF host Helen picked us up at the bus stop and took us to the Te Nikau Retreat, our host for the next two weeks.
Steve is on leave near...