Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Friday 11 April 2003


Hokitika is a little town (pop. 4000) that was originally a goldmining and port town, but is now full of jade shops catering to tourists. It was apparently also where explorer Charles Douglas died in hospital after many years of exploring & surveying a lot of the west coast. Douglas is one of Dad's heroes; he's got a couple of books about Douglas & for most of the trip Dad was referencing when & where Douglas' expeditions went & what they found. Dad knew that Douglas had died in Hoki (as it's called) so we assumed he'd been buried there too, and later in the morning we drove up to the cemetery on the hill & found a caretaker (it sounds better than grave-digger) who pointed out Douglas' grave. Dad was pretty happy about that - a being-in-the-presence-of-greatness thing I guess.

After that it was on to Greymouth, a town of about 13,000, where we stopped for lunch and a tour of the Monteith's Brewery. Monteith's is apparently a West Coast icon; the brewery almost closed down a couple of years ago but DB came along & bought it & kept it open. DB also brews the Monteith's range up in Auckland, but diehard Monteith's drinkers won't touch the Auckland brew because DB uses Auckland water which apparently tastes like shit.

Next stop Punakaiki which is a place famous for some strange pancake rock formations. Great for geologists I guess, for me it was an excuse to stretch my legs. Don't be fooled by the tourist guides; the blow-hole that a lot of people go for only fires up at high tide. If you get there at low tide all you're going to see are the rocks and a bunch of flax.

The only thing I have to record about the area around Westport is that we drove out to a tiny little town that I can't even remember the name of so that Dad could see a tiny little house that Charles Douglas was photographed outside of once.

That would be the last time we'd see the West Coast. From there we turned inland and headed for St Arnaud. After a couple of hours of driving Dad decided that he'd had enough, so we stopped at one of the two pubs in Murchison for some dinner and to watch the rugby & camped just out of town in a grove of giant pine trees.

Thursday 10 Apr 03


Kicked off the day by driving to Lake Matheson before dawn to walk around a foggy track to see one of the most photographed landscapes in the country. At dawn the lake can be perfectly still and you can get a perfect reflection of the mountains in the lake. Luckily the Kea who'd been scampering on the campervan roof when we arrived didn't manage to get inside while we were away (there are "Don't Feed the Kea" signs in the mountain regions - apparently the parrots are very inquisitive and get inside tents and campervans looking for food because tourists keep feeding them which encourages this behaviour). More images of Lake Matheson here.

After breakfast we embarked on a half-day hike up and on to Fox Glacier. Our guide Jorn kept the group together like a good shepherd and put up with my folks interuptions to his explanations with good humour. He & Dad had a good chat about all of the different walks they'd both done and some history of the explorers who'd been the first to wander around & survey the area - which is a bit of a pet subject of Dad's. Stomping around on the ice and having a look in some of the small ice caves was amazing. It was also interesting to see how the glacier was retreating (the terminal face is melting faster than rainfall can produce snow & ice to 'grow' it).

We stopped off at the Franz Josef Glacier for the good part of an hour after we ran into Martin, Ruth & the kids - just hung out in a playground chatting while the kids burnt off some energy on the equipment there. The rest of the day was spent taking a quick walk up a relatively easy track to see the glacier (didn't feel the need to walk on both glaciers) and then driving up the coast to Hokitika and camped just off the highway down by the beach.

Posted by Dean @ 5/20/2003 06:57:00 pm

...Survey says...


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