For Brenna

Brenda is a lovely friend of mine who lives in ‘Away’- that’s that country that is anywhere that is not The Coast. The Coast? That’s the narrow strip of land between the Southern Alps and the sea on New Zealand’s South Island. I took a niece and her daughter on a wee trip to ‘The Glaciers’ and I promised Brenda I would show her some perdy pictures of this lovely part of Aotearoa New Zealand. So……

Just south of here is a lovely wee lake, Mahinapua.

It’s just wee thing but is a good illustration of our glacial history. It’s perhaps 30-40 kilometers to the Alps but many thousands of years ago the ice rivers that flowed off them reached the sea, just a couple of hundred meters away.

Down The Coast is Okarito- and this sign is a real warning. Kiwi live in the area in large numbers.


Okarito is a beautiful lagoon where the famous white heron or kotuku rookery is situated. They can’t be seen from the road but the lagoon is very pretty.


The beach here at Okarito is showing how steady erosion is becoming a factor in many places.

WP_20150308_018[1]The black sand is a good source of alluvial gold which is mined in many places on The Coast. Hard work but rewarding.

But our main purpose was to visit the two principal glaciers on this side of The Hill- Fox and Franz Josef. I’ve been visiting these on and off since the late 60s and it is astonishing how far they have receded in that time, but more scarily over the last decade or so!

We went to the settlement of Fox Glacier first, deciding to have a look at one of our iconic NZ lakes- Lake Matheson that has become world famous for its wonderful reflections.

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This pic is from an earlier winter trip. It’s a pretty special place, winter or summer!

We then visited Fox Glacier itself. It’s probably less spectacular than Franz, but it used to be the better one to view- the track to the viewing point climbing along the valley wall so you were able to look down on the lower parts of the ice flow. Not so much nowadays as the glacier has gone so far up the valley it is now difficult to reach it, let alone get to view it from above. (This is possible of course from the air and the buzz of helicopters is constant from 8am until 6pm every day.)

fox glacier
You get an idea of the pace of melting that’s happening given these two photos are separated by no more than 12 months!!!

It is an awesome valley with wonderful cliffs and beautiful waterfalls- even after a long period without rain.




After a very pleasant sojourn in one of the hostelries in Franz Josef, where Chontelle’s steak was awful (the first one and the redo!!) and my braised lamb-shanks were superb!! we slept the sleep of The Just and then headed to Franz Josef Glacier. The day didn’t dawn all that well but breakfast was going to give it a chance to improve!!


Our first visit was a side track to one of my favourite places- Peter’s Pond. What a gorgeous quiet place to gather one’s thoughts and reflect on how lucky we are! This was formed by ice-melt when the glacier broke up hundreds of years ago. It is now some way up that valley in the distance.

peters pond reflection

It is certainly an eye-opener when you see illustrated so clearly how far the glacier has receded over the years!

WP_20150309_009[1]When I first came here the glacier was filling the area at the head of the river. Now the track winds past that for another 4-500 meters. I guess it’s easy to blame global warming but I wonder what the next ice-age will bring?
The glacier itself is still magnificent but best seen from the air. From the valley floor you see just a tiny fraction of the ice flow which starts in earnest at the top of this view then heads back up the valley to the right, almost to the summit of The Alps.
It is majestic country and we are sort of shown our significance somewhat when we wander here. Just to think that just a few hundred years ago all of this valley was covered in a river of ice hundreds of feet thick, so let’s not put ALL of the glacial-melt down to our folly and global warming- they’ve been receding for much longer than we’ve been buggering things up!!

From Franz we headed homeward taking a wee detour just out of Hokitika to view the beautiful Hokitika Gorge, a narrow chasm the beautiful blue river flows through. The river is always this colour (or brighter when the sun is shining brightly) because of the origins in the ice-fields just a few hundred feet up the Alps.
And so a pleasant wee bush walk to end a lovely two days with my niece and grand-niece from the North Island.
They enjoyed the scenery, I enjoyed their company.




There is a local phenomenon in Greymouth that is possibly unique, but is certainly notable. The town of Greymouth is built on the banks of the Grey Riverwhich exits to the sea through a very narrow gap between two impressive uplifts,the Cobden Range to the north and the Omoto Range to the south, behind the town. The Southern Alps are around 50kms to the east and when the katabatic wind flows down from the south and east the alpine effect delivers fog and low cloud and very cold temperatures down the Grey Valley- and the effect is dramatic to say the least- impressive dense cloud rolls over the rangesand also funnels at pace through the gap.The cloud that funnels through the gap at ground level lowers the temperatures in the ‘CBD’ to little more than freezing before it continues merrily on to the harbour!The wonderful thing about the Barber is that the effect of it upon the rest of the township, that further away to the south is minimal, although it does offer some spectacular views!Brrrr!

Oh! And why ‘The Barber’? Opinions vary but the consensus seems to be that it is to do with the ability of the wind to cut through you like a knife, and we all know what barbers used to do, don’t we?

Moa Country

The road from the West Coast to Canterbury (or vice-versa, if you’re feeling a little perverse!) is a rewarding experience, especially if you’re not in too much of a hurry. It’s about 250kms from Greymouth to Christchurch and a large part of that takes you over the backbone of New Zealand, the Southern Alps. From the west the road follows the valleys of the Taramakau, Otira and Waimakariri rivers until it runs through a broad pass to the eastern Porters Pass and drops down to the Canterbury Plains. The scenery is outstanding and although there are a few large sheep stations (farms) on the central plain when you look beyond them the mountains are fantastic.

As you come out of The Bush after Arthur’s Pass and cross the upper Waimakariri River is the Bealey Hotel. Several years ago the then owner, Mr Paddy Freaney was out tramping with a couple of mates when they saw something that most in New Zealand thought was an impossibility- a moa! Naturally this was big news because moa had thought to have become extinct in New Zealand before the arrival of European settlers (at least that’s one of NZ’s problems that we can’t be blamed for!!) BUT LOOK!These pictures were taken by me when I visited The Bealey a couple of weeks ago.Makes you think, doesn’t it?

And this is the magnificent view down the Waimakariri River from the Bealey Hotel.Nice place for a stop to break the trip and perhaps have a snack and a drink.