The helicopter flight and hike on the glacier was truly magnificent. We took the 9.30 flight and the weather was glorious. The glacier is an extremely remarkable phenomenon and it was great to be able to walk on it for a couple of hours and check out the ice caves and other formations.
Following Franz Josef we travelled up the West Coast to Greymouth which is the largest centre on the west coast. It is a more subdued town compared to Queenstown but the scenery is spectacular (a common theme in our travels). We had the best ever Indian meal in one of the local restaurants. It was truly delicious!!! We also checked out the local greenstone/jade galleries before heading up the coast to Westport on our way to Murchison. This included travelling along the coast and visiting Pancake Rocks which look exactly like a pile of pancakes stacked on each other. Before Westport we visited Cape Foulwind (named by Captain Cook for its bad winds, not its smell) where there is a seal colony and this is the time for the young to be born so we saw plenty of small seals. After lunch at Dirty Mary’s in Westport (it was actually rather tasty and clean) we headed east to Murchison. This two hour drive included crossing the Buller Gorge and passing under Hawk’s Crag which is a hand excavated rock overhang only just big enough to allow buses through. We stopped and walked across the Buller River on the longest swingbridge in New Zealand and returned via a 160m flying fox – cool! Murchison is a rather small town but very hot due to the surrounding mountains. Dinner was at Snot Rock Café set on the banks of the Buller River. Snot Rock is the common name for a noxious weed that infests and kills the river – hence the name of the café.
Yesterday we travelled to Hanmer Springs which is famous for its thermal pools. A quaint little town we indulged in a massage in the morning and swam in the thermal pools in the evening with a 30 minute private pool session. The smells weren’t always pleasant (sulphur) but it is supposed to be very good for you.
Today we are in Christchurch to make the most of our final day in New Zealand. We plan on visiting the gallery and art centre before heading to the airport for our 4.00pm departure.