I last left you while i was heading up the West coast towards Glacierland so here's a bit of a delayed update from there and Christchurch!
We arrived in the Franz Josef township early afternoon after our drive up from Haast and i was surprised at not seeing snow absolutely everywhere but instead a massive rainforest! I think since i've only seen the glacier in Switzerland i was expecting a lot more snow and i had travelled about 2.5 hrs on a train to reach the glacier. What i later found is that because the one in NZ is still retreating back, unlike the Jung Frau Joch in Switzerland which is fully retreated, you can walk to the foot of it within 45mins. We had a bit of a chilled afternoon wandering in the wee town then me and my dad decided to go visit the glacier hot pool, which is made from glacier water but really just 3 big pools of different temperatures - 36, 38 and 40 degrees. It was very relaxing as you're outside and in the rainforest, plus it was pouring down so it all adds to the atmosphere!
After much deliberation, we decided we'd go on a half day glacier hike the next day. Although my dad was more keen on the full day, my mum and i were a bit worried it would be exhausting and cold spending 4 hours on the ice alone plus have to walk through caves or crevices! In any case it was a great decision we made as we could leave at midday, walk for an hour to the glacier and spend about 1-2 hours up there then head back down - plus it literally poured all day so luckily we had the best wet weather gear given to us! I have to say the glacier walk has been my best experience so far in NZ and would recommend it to anyone! It was quite a challenging walk, we lost one person and almost 2 on the way up cos they were too tired and had to turn back cos the first part of initially getting onto the ice is pretty steep. Strangely it feels like you're walking on a pile of rocks but it was actually ice covered in rubble and when we made it over that part we had to get the crampons on for the ice walking part which was the most exciting and probably the easiest part. It feels like you are going into another world when you turn around and just see ice everywhere, we walked through a few crevices to reach an open platform part where we stayed and walked around in a loop for most of the time. It was like being in the North Pole (or how i imagine that would be!) and there was even a smallish cave which we could crawl through and come out at one side..safe to say i never done that cos i had the fear of it collapsing but my dad was right in there! There were also lots of little streams and pools of water and so many waterfalls in the mountains surrounding us because of the rain, so at least it's good for one thing. A lot of the facts and figures the guide told us have gone out of my head now because it's now a week since i was there, but one that sticks out is the glacier moves between 1-2 metres A DAY. Yeah pretty crazy, so they have to monitor it constantly and block off dangerous areas as you can imagine there is ice fall, rock fall and avalances quite regularly. It's definitely not something you want to be doing off the beaten track without a guide!
After about 2 hours, we started to head back down again..it was still very wet so i was quite glad to get into some warmth eventually and they throw in a visit to the Glacier Hot Pools as part of your ticket so we made a beeline for that straight away! Later on we treated ourselves to a pub meal and a drink, cos cooking in the campsite kitchens was getting a bit tiring after a week..God knows how people manage for a month in a campervan!
All in all, i feel quite lucky to have experienced the Glacier by foot as apparently when it retreats further they will never be able to reach it in a days walk, and people will need to just take helicoper tours instead.
The next day we headed back East towards Christchurch via Arthur's Pass which is an area where alot of hikers go. You can see why, the mountains once again were spectacular and there no way of sleeping in the car when you're driving through this country because there's so much to see!
I was quite sad spending the last night with my parents before they headed off home via Bangkok, but luckily i was going to stay with David and Becky who i had met while travelling down the East coast of Oz. They are living and working there at the moment so it was great to spend some time there, mainly eating and drinking, so i had a lot of fun and chilled out! Unfortunately the city centre of Christchurch is still a no-go area but i managed to keep myself busy going to the Botanic Gardens, the Antarctic Centre and a lovely drive to Governor's Bay where we had lunch in an amazing chocolate cafe! It was sad to see what's happened to alot of people's homes, alot of piles of rubble, empty spaces where a building used to be and traffic cones left right and centre - but i won't dwell on it as i enjoyed the few days i spent there and i don't think it's a reason to stop people passing through. In saying that, i only felt one wee aftershock so i was lucky, but it wouldn't put me off.
So after 3 days it was time to head Northwards, first stop Kaikoura!