Got up a little too late for sunrise at pancake rocks in Punakaiki, but the early light was lovely anyway, and it was nice to have peacefulness at the site where before had been swarms of jabbering tourists.
Below left you can see the Blowhole erupting with a spray of sea water from below.
I drove south for a while, and as soon as I did a deep fog/cloud settled over the landscape. I drove by a fantastically bright blue river.. and then turned around and went back to photograph it. What started out as ‘I will just get out and take a photo’ turned into almost an hour of going down a scree rock slope to explore the grey and white stone beach, with fog smothered mountains in the background of the fast flowing blue river.
There were a ton of interesting looking rocks. Black with white streaks all over them, calico ones, dark green stones, and cross hatched grey. I needed to go out into the river for a foreground, so my shoes came off and the flies swooped in, making the ice cold water the better option (VS getting chewed to the bone by sandflies).
During my climb back up the rock wall to the road, I found what I think could be my favorite flower. It is orange, and I have no idea what kind it is, or even if it is a native species or a roadside weed.
I stopped in at Franz Josef glacier and took two short walks to see it. The first walk’s info sign boasted “spectacular glacier views!” (below) but was apparently from 2008 or before, when you could actually see the glacier from the viewing platform. In the last six years the glacier has been reduced so dramatically that the total walking time to the glacier has almost doubled (and you can no longer see it from most paths.)
The best part about the walk to the glacier was the carved valley floor, and the abundance of wild waterfalls coming in on every side, the gorge walls hidden by low cloud, and the riverbed rocks strangely tinted bright red. Eventually I saw the actual glacier and to be completely frank it was super ugly.
After a drive and a 40 minute hike to Lake Matheson, one of my most important must-sees, the cloud cover was still so bad that I couldn’t see the majestic Mt. Cook in the perfect mirror reflection that the kettle lake is famous for. I then drove a further 16 kilometers down a road so narrow, so steep, so twisty, that there is a road sign at the start that says “WARNING DANGEROUS ROAD.. NEXT 12 KM” (which is saying something because that’s how I would have described most roads in NZ). After those 12, there is a sign that is huge and orange that just says “!”. In the wild bush near the campsite, I got to see two live possums, a rare treat after seeing hundreds of roadkilled ones and roadkill possum jewelry at gift stores. (Picture a pendant of a flattened possum with tire treads on it. Sweet as.) And then in the darkness.. live SHEEP in the road, but alas, no kiwis were spotted though I was in prime kiwi country. I went right to bed as I’d leave camp before dawn the next morning to tackle that road again..